“Excuse me, where can I buy…”
“A sim card”
“I mean, yeah… maybe I’ll get a motorbike as well at some point, but I need a sim card now”
“Ok, my friend have motorbike”
“Oh fuck…I give up…what motorbike?”
“He be here in 5 minutes! Good motorbike!”
“…ok…but what about a sim card?”
“You go buy sim card with motorbike”
“Oh FFS…ok ok, let’s have a look at this motorbike”
That was my conversation with the guy running the hostel in Phnom Penh, even before checking in. It was literally an hour after having landed in Cambodia from Singapore.
On the clock, 5 minutes later I hear a loud rumble of a motorbike from outside.
“He’s here, let’s go!”
“Ok, check-in now or later?”
“Later, later, come!”
As I go outside I see it there, in all its vintage splendor. A black Honda Win, with a Vietnam flag on both sides of the tank. Sparkling clean (as I will never see it ever again), shining in the sun.
“Too much, no way…”
“Ok, 380$ and we fix this pedal here…”
“No no no, 350$…”
Eventually I went down to 300$, while he kept turning the accelerator to make it roar….convincing me every single roar a bit more…
“Alright, I’ll take it, but there is a problem. I never rode with gears, I don’t know how it works”
They made me sit on the bike and started explaining in Cambodian…
Whatever…I tried a bit in a relatively not-trafficked street, I didn’t even know on which side to drive in Cambodia. No-clue how that thing was working, made it switch off all the time I was trying to change the gears, I had difficulties to switch it one again (still have them now, it’s fucked up), didn’t know how to break…
“Perfect! You learn.”
“No, I don’t know shit. How the fuck do I change the gear without jumping?”
“You go up…..leave…(some Cambodian again)”
“Ok fine, I’ll figure it out. Here are your 300$”
“Thank you sir”
That was literally how I bought my bike two days ago. Honestly I had thought to buy a motorbike in Vietnam and ride all across Vietnam with it, but in Cambodia…it wasn’t exactly in my plans.
Yesterday I practiced a bit more, I think Phnom Penh is really one of the worst cities in the world to practice any sort of driving. I’ve been told Vietnam’s city are crazy and “I can’t wait to see that”, but this one looks way the worst place I ever driven before (and I had a scooter in Rome for years).
One of my other worries was how to fit my luggage on the bike. I’ve seen people having them in back of their bikes, but would it work? It didn’t look there was much space in the back of my bike to fit all my belongings, I also have laptop and camera, I don’t want to drop them in the middle of the road!
Eventually I went to buy some bungee cords, I had been told that was the way. They looked small and unreliable. Paid for both something like £0.40. I asked for more, but the seller said that one was enough and I had bought two….Alright, enough.
This morning I woke up at 7am with only one thought: let’s try if this shit works, if not I bought the bike for nothing. It was easy to be fair, all the worries for nothing. The backpack fits and it looks pretty stable.
My first stop was Siam Reap, “just 320km” which took me about 7 hours riding. The ride was just amazing, I didn’t get bored for a second. There were so many things to see on the sides of the road, plus that feeling of freedom…I love it. I arrived just after sunset all in one piece. The bike adventure is up and running.
The plan is to go all over Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam with this bike. It should be a few thousands of kilometers. Hope I’ll survive.