Into the Madness

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“You’ve fallen head first into the madness; mate”. Those were Zed’s first words to me after 36 hours of travel. I had just landed in Cambodia, a land of paradox and mystery by anyone’s measure. It had been a long journey from my home in rural New Hampshire, but I had done this trip before and had some idea of the adventures that would await. When I got on my first flight in Hartford it was about 10 degrees at 6 am; now almost 2 days later it was still morning but a bright sun was high in the sky and the temps were already in the low 90’s. However; that was not the only thing that was different. I was on the other side of the world in a place very few people are lucky enough to see.

Being in Cambodia for me, really must be like how Alice must have felt when she fell down the rabbit hole in “Alice in Wonderland”. You get the feeling that everything is happening in this sort of slow motion dance and just by coincidence this day follows the last in a hazy, lazy freeform life that never seems to change very much. Nothing is as it seems, nor is it otherwise. Like I said?.land of paradox. If it seems things aren’t going your way today, have a few drinks, burn a fat one, take a nap and see what tomorrow brings. Everything here seems to happen on “Cambodia time”.

This was my second trip to “the ‘Bodge” as Zed called it. The term is derived from the French who spent a fair amount of time colonizing this strange corner of the world. I was here in 2000 with a friend who deals in Asian antiques and met Zed (aka : Zeman) the man behind Cambodia Expeditions www.cambodiaexpeditions.com at Martini’s bar in Phnom Penh. We were eight white guys in the same place at the same time, something you just didn’t see often at that time. The game plan had been to hire a boat and captain to take us all up the Tonle Sap river to the city of Seam Reap and spend a day or two exploring the ruins at Angkor Wat. However no captain was interested in the job. “Pirates and bandits” was the problem. No captain was willing to risk his boat for some “farangs” or white guys from some country on the other side of the world.

The basic game plan in Cambodia when something “goes south” is to hit the bar for refreshments and figure things out. This makes for a lot of great plans, but not a lot of great action. Somewhere between the planning stage and the implementation stage are a few beers, and then a few more, and I guess you get the picture. I generally don’t drink much anymore, I’m really a poor drunk, however when I am in the ‘Bodge for some unexplainable reason my taste for alcohol comes back. I believe we were on our third round when this broad chested guy with a smile as big as all out doors walks into the bar. Being a friendly sort he walks over and introduces himself. “The names Zeman” he says in a thick Welsh accent “I take folks out into the countryside on dirt bikes, little Honda 250’s. Give em a taste of what the real Cambodia is all about”. I liked his style immediately; confident, outgoing and with more raw charisma than should be permitted in one person. He told us that he had been “in country” for over 10 years after exploring India, China and most all of Asia including time in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I don’t know if you have ever met someone who ya just “clicked” with, but I knew this guy was a brother. True, he rode a Honda, but what the hell, I wasn’t born on a Harley either, and lets face it brotherhood is not about what kind of bike ya ride. Hell; I’ll be the first to admit that as I was coming up I rode all sorts of bikes. Anything to get two wheels under my butt.

That was the start of a friendship which has so far spanned 5 years and half of the globe. The following eight days of hard riding and hard partying with Zed turned out to be some of the best times of my life and the basis for this return trip to Cambo five years later. We rode hard and saw some incredible things. We stayed in rural villages and saw how the people really live. We saw vestiges of the sad and terrible history of this beautiful country. We met the people of Cambodia in a way that not many people do, up close and personal.

Cambodia was, for a long time, on the governments list of places with a “travel advisory”. Even into the early 90’s there was widespread unrest and travel into the countryside was considered “risky”. As capitalism has begun to take hold the people realize that with no product to export, tourism is the best way to help the economy Tourists bring cash, and cash is what the Khmers want. Therefore an effort has been made to provide a safer environment for foreigners. The countryside is secure for travelers and the people are friendly and very helpful. In many of the places that I have visited the people have treated us as special guests. I have had some amazing meals in remote villages with people who rarely, if ever see white people.

So, for the last 20 or so years I’ve been a Harley guy and had not been on a dirt bike since I was a teenager. But after two days in the Cambodian countryside it all came back to me. That first trip with Zed was like an awakening. I remembered how much fun I had those many years ago rippin’ through turns spraying dirt into the wind, jumping off logs and generally living my mother’s nightmare. I knew right then that I would be back, it may take me a while but this is some wild shit… …

The second bike trip was actually planned around a core group of seven guys. It was to be called the “Rock & Roll Wrestler Tour”. All good friends and brothers, I won’t travel with people that I don’t know on a trip like this. Way too much asshole potential. As time went on all of them found reasons to drop out, money; family commitments; some of them were good reasons, some I expected. All but one, the only guy whose commitment never wavered from the very beginning was my ‘ol buddy Billy. We had known each other since high school when he dated my little sister. Over the years we had lost contact for a while but I would always hear a little news through sister Leslie as they stayed in touch. Billy and I had seen each other a few times in Laconia and had swapped war stories. I had told him about my adventures in Asia and he said if I wanted a travel partner he would be interested. When the potential for this trip started to materialize I called around to some friends and Bill decided right then and there “get psyched mother fucker, we’re going to Cambodia”!

As riding partners go I really couldn’t ask for a better one than Billy. We both have a lot of years and a lot of miles under our belts. He and I have similar riding styles and most all of the time I knew where he would be, because that’s where I would be. We both understand the true meaning of brotherhood and the rules of the road as lived by the American biker. Bill has chosen to ride with a club, and is the current President of the Queensboro Motorcycle Club, while I am an independent. He is a single dad of a 19 year old, I have a young sweetie and a 2 1/2 year old son. Two guys from the same place who have taken very different roads to arrive at the same destination. So now from a group of seven we were a group of two. I had been in touch with Zed from the beginning of this process and had to break the news to him that my “pumped up group of seven American bikers” had fizzled to two. His response was pure Zed; “fuck ’em they will be missing the trip of a lifetime and that just means more fun for us”! Sounds good to me, give me a couple good friends, a couple of motorcycles and the open road. What more could a man need?

The airport was almost completely different from my last visit. I remember a little brown guy in flip-flops with two long sticks painted fluorescent orange guide our plane into the small one terminal airport. The security consisted of a lot of soldiers with automatic weapons. Now, five years later there was a new modern airport, although there was still only one gate. Computers checked passports and everything was very orderly; “how unusual” I thought “for Cambodia”. Zeman was almost on time, I guess in “Cambodia time” he actually was on time but it was just long enough to make me begin to wonder if I gave him my correct flight information. I was so excited to finally be “in country” and off an airplane that I was ready for just about anything. I had the opposite of jetlag, let’s call it jet speed. The adrenalin level in my body was so high that I was buzzing.

Zed had an afternoon of errands planned and I tagged along for a while. I had been looking forward to a massage since I left home and while my buddy ran around Phnom Penh I decided to pamper myself a little. My afternoon included a massage at a place called Seeing Hands. There are a few of these places in the city, small storefront operations run by, and for blind people. These people have learned massage to support themselves rather than begging on the street. Great concept; and I have had some very relaxing excellent massage at these places. They are very popular with travelers and very reasonable at $8 for two hours. The tip I have for ya here, if ya ever go, ask for the “number one guy”. Even if there is a wait, go to the bar for a beer but always get the best guy. The next stop on my rehab tour was the local barber. For a buck I got a haircut and a shave in an air conditioned salon, nice. Now that I was feeling more like myself it was off to meet Zed’s partner and better half, Miss Debs.

Debs is a proper Welsh woman, adaptable and unflappable. She seems to be at home in virtually any situation and she filled many roles on our tour. She has the unique ability to make a person whom she has just met feel like an old friend, and is just a pleasure to be around. Sure doesn’t hurt that she is very easy on the eyes. I could see why my buddy fell for this woman, she was beautiful both inside and out and knows how to ride. The day that I arrived happened to be her birthday and we went out that night to the best restaurant in Phnom Penh to celebrate.

Fast forward two days, Billy arrives in Cambo with no major problems. His trip has been a long one, but he is finally here and ready to have some fun. Also arriving today was Marie, a last minute addition to our group. She contacted Zed through his website and will be spending a few days with us. I was a little concerned about taking a woman rider with us , but Marie was an experienced rider and a very cool woman as well.
Of Norwegian and Egyptian decent, raised in Israel, and living in Indonesia she was on holiday from her job. We spend the evening getting to know each other on the roof of Flamingos Hotel, our personal “headquarters”, watching the sunset and putting on a good buzz. They have a bar there and brought up food from their restaurant. The evening had a very unique feel to it; tomorrow would be the first day of our adventure. The feelings of anticipation were compounded by the fact that we were all very far from home. I had a good feeling about this, we were all excited and ready to get on the road.

An early morning wake up call and a quick breakfast and we are ready to go. The bikes had been picked up yesterday; Honda 250’s, indestructible beasts well suited to this kind of adventure, and were gassed up and ready to roll, the support vehicle was packed and last minute details had been taken care of. However; before we leave the city there is one more last item of business to attend to. No, I had already scored some weed. We cross the Japanese Friendship Bridge and ride to a small Wat (temple) in Preak Leap and get a blessing from a Buddhist monk. He chants prayers as he splashes water on our heads. He also blesses the bikes, cell phones, watches and the support vehicle. This was very cool and lets face it, a little extra luck couldn’t hurt. Zed lived down the road from this place for a while and the old monk is a friend of his.

Day one lunch is in the town of Kom Pong Tong, or Big Town. The ride has been easy, mostly blacktop. Like in most places, as soon as one leaves the city, the real adventure begins. Cambodia is no exception and the big town has a surprise for us. The food in Asia can range from ordinary to exotic, and we were just about to hit the far end of exotic. As soon as we parked our bikes and took off our helmets there were people all around us. This happened everywhere we went, and the first time I was in Cambo it kinda freaked me out. There really is no sense of “personal space” as we have here, and it is not unusual for people to crowd around us, sometimes a little closer than you would like. Everyone is either trying to sell us something, or just check out the big, strange white people. One woman approaches with a tray piled high with deep fried spiders. Oh shit, no thank you; however my buddy had other ideas. Billy; intent on experiencing everything Cambodia has to offer happily buys a big, hairy spider and begins to have his lunch. He said it tasted like chicken, but I just don’t know. Something about eating insects just doesn’t appeal to me. Billy drifts off into the endless street market and the rest of us find an open air caf? to have a bite to eat.

In a place like this you are never very far from your food sources. I have had chicken for dinner that I saw running around at lunch. It is important to eat only fresh meats and veggies and to take along a good supply of Imodium. It usually takes my system a few days to get used to all the new and exciting bacteria floating around. Billy finds his way back to us and shows off his new watch, a bargain at only $10.

Back on the road we ride north through small towns and get off the pavement in a town called Stoung. Here the roads are mostly hardpack with lots of bumps. At this point we begin to get off the grid and into the bush. Zed’s plan is to ride for a few hours into the countryside and find a place to camp. We ride to the village of Sakram, and are lucky enough to stop in front of the the community “boss’s” house. His wife comes to the road to see what we want and after talking with Zed for a minute or two gives us permission to camp behind their house. The fact that our guide speaks Khmer (Cambodian) is impressive to people out in the country. Once again, as soon as we stop people begin to gather around. In this village, miles from a main road, it is very rare to see visitors, and it is unheard of to have a group of “farangs” on loud motorcycles camping in your back field.

As we begin to set up our camp the crowd grows. Within fifteen minutes there were about 50 people watching us. Mostly children, they form a group of very interested bystanders. They don’t say anything, they just stand with stern faces and watch. As the tents go up they laugh, “these silly people sleep in cloth houses.” This actually is the moment I have been waiting for. Before I left home I went to the “dollar store” and bought a bunch of little toys and strings of beads to give to the kids. It has been my experience that small gifts like this are a great icebreaker and a quick way to make friends. Although it may seem trivial to an American kid, a string of beads is a treasure to a kid living in rural Asia who may only have a pair of flip-flops to play with. I break out the beads and toys, start to give them away and it’s like magic, smiles appear on faces that just a moment ago were cautious and laughter fills the air. I give away beads, super balls, squirting watches and plastic lizards but the best is yet to come. The atmosphere is relaxed and the few adults in the crowd realize that we are just travelers on big noisy bikes staying the night and nothing more. There is a feeling of excitement, and for these people the circus had come to town. Camp set, it’s time for some dinner.

Debs, along with Zed’s Khmer helpers, Vuth and Chia bar-b-que up an awesome meal of steaks and the Anchor beer was flowing like water. After dinner by candlelight Bill and I were hanging around near the front of the big man’s house . Night had fallen and most of the crowd had gone home, not much to do after dark here. There were still ten or so kids hanging around and now was the time to break out my last gifts for these kids whose parents and grandparents had shown us their hospitality. As I reached into my pack the kids came closer to see what else the big guy had for them. Fluorescent glow sticks; the kind ya snap and they light up for a few hours. There kids had never seen anything like this and were truly amazed. They gathered around and luckily I had enough for every kid there. I gave away my gifts, and in the dark we could see these small glowing shapes dancing up and down the road to the soundtrack of children’s laughter and a cow in the distance. It was just one of those moments that I will remember the rest of my life. Everything was perfect.

A little while later, Billy was looking through the open doorway of our host’s house and was intrigued by the pictures on the wall and the alter honoring the dead relatives. I said “if you’re interested just go on up and say hello”. “Can I , do you think it’s ok?” He asked. “Be respectful, polite and I’m sure everything will be fine” I added. Like a kid in a toy store his eyes lit up as he moved towards the door. In the light of the battery run bulb from inside the house I watched as Bill, the big tattooed biker, lived a moment that many of us dream about. He was a modern explorer meeting native people he had only read about. It was like something out of National Geographic. Very fuckin’ cool. This is the Cambodia I wanted him to see. I love sharing these experiences with people and, having had them myself, watching the soul of a person come alive. A while later the rest of our group joined the party.

Vuth and Zed interpreted for us and we had some interesting conversation. The bosses wife asked if any of us were married and Bill happens to be single. No sooner had she gotten this info than she brought one of her daughters to sit beside him. There was a lot of laughing and we’re not sure, but Billy just may be engaged.

Back at camp a while later the men of the village show up to say hello. By that time we had gotten seriously into the bottle. Zed and Bill were pretty drunk and I was well on my way. I had spent the last hour with a huge joint and a few beers watching large fruit bats circle overhead creating silhouettes in the moonlit sky. The six or seven guys who wandered into our camp had obviously been drinking also, and we toasted each other many times over.

It should be said here that the Khmers are a wonderful and kind people. Unless you piss them off. Then look out, you’re in for a shitstorm. It’s all about keeping or losing “face”. What this means is looking good or right, if you cause someone to look stupid or weak you may be in for trouble. Put a bunch of drunk guys in one place and sooner or later someone has to arm wrestle. Please realize that we are not small guys and these Khmers really are no bigger than my buddy’s teenager. The smallest guy in the bunch looks at Billy and lets him know he wants a match. Bill at six foot plus and about 250, covered in tattoos is not one to bow down and gets into position. For a moment he looks at Zed and asks; “do I win or loose?!” Obviously concerned about the outcome and not offending anyone. FUCK IT MATE, PUT ‘EM DOWN!! Screams Zeman. And he did, as did I with the next guy and as did Zeman with his match. More drinking and loud laughter, chest pounding and howling. “This is where it all starts” says Bill. I can tell he is a bit uneasy, Zed had passed out and he and I are left to entertain the half dozen drunk Khmers that we just whipped at arm wrestling. We begin obvious yawns and preparations to close up and crash and our new friends disappear into the warm night. “Quite a day” I think to myself. Just before we hit the sack, out of the darkness my old friend says two words to me “thanks, man”. I know exactly what he means.

Another early morning start, today’s destination is Prassat Bakkar, an ancient Angkorian era temple in Preah Vihear province. Here the riding got tough, mostly deep sand. The “road” really is nothing but an oxcart trail, and as a matter of fact other than the occasional 10 wheeled Russian army trucks all we see are ox or cattle drawn carts. As we ride through the rural villages the people hear the bikes and come to the road to see what’s going on. It’s not often that these people see outsiders, the kids wave and smile while the adults watch us with looks of stern wonder. The kids can’t stop smiling and the adults don’t want to start. We ride hard for a few hours through the sand and come upon a small swift running river near the temple site. The fine red earth of Cambodia is embedded deep in the pores of my skin and this seems like a great place to wash some of it out. Zed and I strip down and get wet while Bill and Marie watch, the water feels great and is nice and cool. Just what the doctor ordered.

Late in the day we arrive at Preh Vihear temple, it is something right out of an Indiana Jones flick. This place is just amazing and Zed has gotten permission to camp inside the temple. Even here, seemingly in the middle of nowhere there are people watching us. The temple and the jungle here seem to be in a constant battle and the jungle is winning. This amazing temple is being slowly swallowed by the trees. Having planted themselves centuries ago the serpentine roots pry apart the ancient stones Exotic birds fill the treetops and I knew this was holy ground. We all pitch in to set up camp and cook a meal, after we finish I sit down to roll one. There had been some loud explosions in the jungle while we were setting up, and now through the trees come a bunch of guys wearing blue shirts and carrying metal detectors. This is the local de-mining team “CMAT” or Cambodian Mine Action Team. They had been exploding ordinances that they had found on the other side of the hill. On my first trip here I was told DO NOT WALK OFF THE TRAILS. In the last five years things had gotten a lot better, but it’s good to be cautious where land mines are concerned. The guys stop and let us check out their equipment and assure us the area we are camping is safe. Vuth, one of Zed’s helpers gets Bill and I a couple of the skull and crossbones “danger mines” warning signs as souvenirs. I bet nobody at home has any of those, maybe I’ll make some copies and post my land that way.

Later that evening we are treated to a big full moon that illuminated the ruins with an eary glow. What a trip, walking through the temple under that moon was. No one spoke a word, the silence was perfect. The experience was almost holy. Lucky us; I thought to myself. Two big ugly Harley boys in Cambodia…God, I love this shit.

The next morning as we rode out of the countryside Bill and I came to the conclusion that riding in sand just SUCKS. That all there is to the matter and I won’t hear anymore. I must have thrown that bike down 3 or 4 times and I saw my buddy do the same. An hour of that, then back on to hardpack then on to paved road. Today we will ride to Seam Reap and see the temples at Angkor Wat. The last time I had been in country I was unable to travel to this amazing complex due to time constraints, this time however we had 2 days to explore.

With over 100 temples in Angkor there is no shortage of things to see and do. Most of the structures are the surviving remains of a grand religious and social metropolis that was built by the Khmers between 800 and 1200 AD. The lost city of Angkor was the stuff of legends until it was discovered in the vast jungles by French explorer Henri Mouhot in 1860. Khmer legends told of a city deep in the dense jungles built by the gods in ancient times. Very few Europeans or westerners had seen these ruins and the legend of a lost city was thought to be a myth. Zed had been here more than a few times and was to be our tour guide.

It was a pretty easy ride of just a few hours to the town of Seam Reap where we checked into the Ivy guest house. After stashing our shit we got back on the bikes for the short ride out of town to the temple sites. To say that Angkor Wat was anything less than spectacular would be an understatement. The main temple is surrounded by a 575 foot moat, and remember this was all built by hand. I recall hearing that the estimate was that it took 35,000 people twenty five years to build this place. Every inch of the stone walls is covered in relief carvings, there are carvings of apsara dancers, of battles, monkeys, elephants and the kings face on all the towers. Built by king Survavaram II Angkor has the distinction of being the worlds largest religious monument and we spent the rest of the day wandering around and snapping photos. The steps to climb up to the main temple were very steep, and there were no safety rails of any sort.

I remember thinking, “if ya fall, yer fucked”. I guess that keeps the faint at heart on the ground where they belong. The view from the top was worth the climb, and at the top there was an old monk giving blessings. I wondered how in the world this old guy got up here while people half his age were afraid to make the climb. For a small contribution the monk blessed me and my friends and family. That evening we watched the sunset from the western corner of the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom. As the warm sun went down and the sky turned from pink to orange to a deep purple I thought again about how lucky we were to be here.

Back in town we settle in for some drinks and dinner. There is a street in Seam Reap called “Bar Street”, bet ya can’t guess why. The cops close down the traffic until 10 pm and people walk from bar to bar, drinks in hand. The place is crawling with tourists from all over the world. There are also a great many street kids and beggars in the crowd. Beers are a buck and are usually buy one, get one free. Bill and I ended up at a place called the Blue Wave and had a blast with the locals. We stumbled back to the Ivy late that night, and I’m amazed we found our way.

Mornings with a hangover are rough, a few iced coffees later I was beginning to come back to normal. The day was to be a rest day of sorts, some sight seeing, some shopping. Zed had an interview for some magazine or another, the guy has a lot of shit going on, and and easy day without having to be on a hard dirt bike seat for hours was ok with me. The markets in Cambo can hold some very cool shit. I got some t-shirts for my brothers and my kid, they were $2 each. Billy scored an antique opium pipe, and we had a blast walking through the endless lines of stalls. Everyone was trying to sell us something and the call of “good price for you ” was everywhere. Some people even had “special morning price”, I don’t know which is the better price, but with the American dollar so strong everything in the Bodge is very inexpensive. We rode out to the temples later and wandered around again, rode around the area in a tuk-tuk. For those of ya who are saying “a what?” A tuk-tuk is an Asian taxi, it’s half motorscooter and half cart with seats and a roof. A very cool way to get around and many of the drivers speak a little English. Later that evening, after a great dinner with Zed’s old friend “Aussie Jo” a hot shit Australian chic who lives in Seam Reap, Zed had another surprise in store. I don’t know how this guy hooks this shit up, but like I told ya, he has charisma. We ride to some beautiful hotel and go upstairs to their bar, Zed has set up a private screening, including dinner, of the Matt Dillon film “City of Ghosts”. Seems he and Matt are friends and while the film was being made in Phnom Penh, Zed was a techincal advisor. Many of the extras and smaller parts are played by locals whom I had met a few days before. The film really is very good and if ya ever have a chance it should be seen. Somehow, later in the evening Billy and ended up back at the Blue Wave for a nightcap, thankfully we left before things got out of hand, again.

A good four hour ride back into Phnom Penh, the last stretch along the mighty Mekong River through small towns, and back over the Friendship Bridge into the city. A note here about the chaos that passes for traffic in Cambodia. This is like a big video game, on the roads you will find everything from motoscooters, cars, tuk-tuks, bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, dogs, chickens, pigs, and cattle, to people, water buffalo and even an elephant or two. Anything hit or killed must be paid for and you don’t get to keep it afterward. Nobody pays any attention to traffic signs or lights and nobody looks or stops at intersections. The only reason there is not mass carnage on the roads is that traffic tends to flow at about 15 mph. Everyone is relaxed, there is no such thing as road rage, but don’t make the mistake of becoming aggressive. Flippin’ the bird is a bad idea. Think of it more that everyone has just learned to drive that morning and they’re having a great time. Just stay out of the way. This is the only place in the world where it is illegal to ride in the daytime with your lights on, but legal to ride at night with them off. Expect people to do unpredictable things and you won’t be disappointed. And lastly, the biggest has the right of way. That puts dirtbikes a long way down the food chain.

We stayed the night at our old “HQ”, Flamingos hotel and had drinks on the roof at sunset again. Then off to one of Phnom Pen’s oldest and most legendary drinking establishments “Sharky Bar”. Recently renovated Sharky now has a huge menu with Everything from burgers to tex-mex to Khmer food. The meal was great and the large number of beautiful women walking around the bar wasn’t bad either. Sharky has a sign on the wall as you enter, it reads NO DRUGS/ NO GUNS. I guess in Cambodia ya gotta be specific. Later in the evening Billy and I end up at Shanghai Bar which is just across the road from Flamingos and hang with the locals. They like to meet Americans and have a million questions for us. Everyone that we have met, from the city to the countryside has been very friendly. Tomorrow we head south for a little “beach action”.

At this point in the tour we returned the rented bikes and Zed arranged for a more comfortable vehicle to travel in, a Toyota Land Cruiser. Marie left us and Debs stayed in P.P. to take care of business, and that left the three of us Billy, Zed and me. About 2 hours south of Phnom Penh is the town of Sihanoukville, when I was here in 2000 I met a French/Vietnamese guy named Claude who has a guest house on the hill in town overlooking the ocean. He has a restaurant as well with the most awesome view of the ocean. Chez Claude is the name of the place, and as luck would have it Zed and Claude are old friends. Claude also owns part of a dive boat and has been exploring the islands off the coast in the Gulf of Thailand for years. The plan was to load up the boat with provisions, a cook and helper and do some island time. We ended up on a small isolated island 18 miles off the coast and dropped anchor. The water was cobalt blue and crystal clear. Claude had also brought scuba and snorkel gear as well as hammocks, blankets and mosquito nets. We swam and snorkeled that afternoon, did some drinkin’ and smokin’ as I recall as well. That evenings sunset was the best of the trip, as we watched the sun sink into the ocean I felt a sense of serenity inside. I slept like a rock that night on the beach, awakening with the sun before any of my friends. The sunrise was almost as incredible as the sunset and in the distance I could see fishing boats heading out to their days work.

I think camping with Claude has spoiled me. For breakfast we had eggs and pork, all kinds of fresh fruit, coffee and orange juice. Hell, when I go camping breakfast is Pringles. I guess the next time I’ll bring along a cook and a guy who owns a restaurant. Let’s see how I fit them in my saddlebags. A leisurely morning laying around on the beach, and then back to Chez Claude for a good meal before we hit the road again. This was a great way to end this tour and as tomorrow is Billy’s last day here we want to get back to Phnom Penh and whoop it up a bit. We say goodbye to our friends in Sihanoukville and head north back to our “HQ” and check in for the evening.
We ended up at Sharky Bar for dinner again, as it was very good the first time. And then back to the scene of the original crime, Martini’s Bar. Bill wanted to make this an early night because he had an early flight, “c’mon man it’s yer last night here” I said. We ended up at the “Walkabout” bar and had some drinks to finish the evening.

Early the next morning Billy was awake to do some last minute shopping at the Russian market. Ya gotta love a city where the sound of roosters greeting the dawn is your wake up call. The old market is a trip to walk through, stalls selling everything one could imagine from silks, clothing, antiques, jewelry and watches to meats and veggies or prepared foods. The smells and tastes will boggle the mind, and then there is the larger and newer Central market. Both places are bustling early in the morning and bargaining is expected. Usually, everything can be purchased for about 50% of the original asking price. It’s a game for the Khmer merchants and they love tourists with cash. The Khmers are also a very tactile people; it isn’t unusual to see everyone, boys, girls, men and women, holding hands or with their arms around each other. The family is very important here.

Then, it was time to wish our good friend Billy bon voyage. We got a lift from the folks at the hotel to the airport and said our goodbyes. Zed and Bill really seemed to enjoy each others company on this tour and I predict Bill will return to the ‘Bodge in the future. Zed and I watch as our brother walks into the small airport and Zed says to me “excellent tour, eh mate?” I agree with him, “it certainly was” I’m in country for another few days just to bum around and give Zed a hand after the tour. It’s been almost 3 weeks now that I have been away from home and I really do miss my family. I’ve been able to get in touch every few days, and my son keeps asking “come our house soon, daddy?” Certainly pulls on my heart. I have found traveling is fantastic, however coming home is sometimes even better.

The only other thing I want to tell ya about is “Happy Herb Pizza” in Phnom Penh. There is a pizza place on the waterfront with a rather strange name. It is a laid back place, an Italian restaurant in Asia is sort of odd anyway. I had heard about this place before, was hungry, and had nothing much to do that afternoon, so what the fuck. I went in and ordered a “happy, happy pizza”. The waiter smiled at me, he knew exactly what I was talking about. They will make, on special request, a pizza with pot on it. That’s a “happy” pizza, if ya want it with a lot of weed order a “happy, happy pizza”. Ten minutes later my pie arrived and I must say for Asian pizza it was pretty damn good. I gobbled it down and went down the road to Seeing Hands for a massage. An hour later, after my massage I was not as buzzed as I had expected, so I decided to walk around the city and take some photos. An hour after that I was wrecked. I ended up back at Flamingos on the balcony with an Anchor beer watching the world go by and reflecting on what a great tour we had.

An article written by one of our very own Rock and Roll Wrestlers and printed in the states.

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