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Week Seven Chapter - 15 ~ 21 Oct 2007 - Cambodia/Thailand

Starting Location for This Week: Siem Reap, Cambodia (Asian Continent)
Ending Location for This Week: Loei, Thailand (Asian Continent)
Planned Mileage for this Week: 936 miles (1,506 kilometers)

Welcome to Week Seven of The IndoChina Expedition

We rushed to get out to the ruins at Angkor, just outside of Siem Reap.  The race was, as so many times, a race for capturing video and photos in the best light of the day.  Twenty dollars for entrance tickets for each of us to ride through the gate, and we had arrived at this world reknown ruin just in time to enjoy perfect light for photography. A wonderful sky highlighted the Angkor ruins as they reflected in the canal surrounding the city. If you look at the banner picture at the top of this page, you will understand what I am talking about.  It was a wonderful experience that made us very excited to see more of this beautiful place.

The following day, we had more time to enjoy the ruins, and as the sun once again prepared to set over western Cambodia, we had made it to a floating city just a few miles south of Siem Reap.  We had a front seat view of the life in the village as our hired boat made its way through narrow canals lined with houseboats on each side.  Sterling and I had a field day capturing life in the village as we saw it this beautiful evening.  To us, the lifestyle appeared to be very romantic and colorful.  Dogs and chickens restricted to their small places looked as comfortable as the kid paddling across the channel in a small washing-tub borrowed from his mother.  Others were preparing dinner or taking a bath using a bucket to pour water over their bodies. The water comes from the canal where they live.  At this time of year there is plenty of water, but this will change as the river that feeds the lake will change direction in the dry season and start to empty the lake.

Our guide told us that he had done a study of this village through the local university and among other facts, found that 95% of the people in the village would rather live on solid ground if they had the chance. Having to moor their homes as the water resided and other issues has made this a tough place to raise a family.

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia had a lot in common s seen from a traveler’s viewpoint. 

Thailand, on the other hand, was like another world and immediately, I did not like the change. Everything was so modern and fast, too many 7/11 stores, not to mention the two and tree laned highways we traveled on. Huge double-decker buses zoomed by us filled with partygoers. I must admit that the paint job on some of these buses was quite impressive, with their cartoon-story graphics painted on all sides.

Bangkok was another hassle for a biker, since we cannot ride our bikes on the expressways.  So, we took the secondary roads and they were filled with all kinds of traffic, so much that I did see my oil warning lamp light up due to low oil pressure caused by high temperatures come on a couple of times.  But with the bikes parked safely at the hotel, we actually did enjoy the big city.  Our favorite, at least mine, were the reclining Buddha followed by the Flower Market.

Cooler weather and less rain made the following days of riding north from Bangkok quite pleasant. We forced ourselves to take back roads and that way made the day's ride much more interesting.

Well this is all for now, we have more places to ride and stuff to see on this incredible journey of IndoChina.

Until next time, take care.


Helge Pedersen


Heading across the border from Cambodia into Thailand was fairly easy although the bikes were not allowed to enter the country without the proper insurance.  So my first assignment was to ride with Ken, our new guide, into the nearest city to get motorcycle insurance for the BMWs.  Luckily, it was not that hard and after about an hour we were able to get hold of a policy for about $5.00.  We returned to the border and managed to get Chris and Helge into the country with their motorcycles.

My initial impressions of Thailand were formed at 70mph in an air-conditioned van cruising down some very smooth asphalt.  In contrast to Cambodia, there was an abundance of billboards on the side of the Thai highway, all of them featuring textbook examples of bad graphic design; too many fonts, garish colors, etc.  It was as if the local Art Institute gave all of its first year students permission to go crazy and create the entire urban landscape. And they didn’t stop with the billboards either. All of the trucks and large tourist buses are painted with every color under the rainbow and feature an abundance of airbrush artwork design. Compared to Cambodia, the entire country seems to be filled with tourists slogging back and forth to one destination or another with 7-11s at every corner in between. My entrance in Thailand was thus an overwhelming sensation of speed, advertising, convenience and color compared to the more subdued hues of neighboring Cambodia.

Even more staggering than the abundance of brightly colored billboards were the unending images of the king and his royal family, but mostly just the king. They are everywhere in Thailand, including major intersections, public buildings and just about every highway overpass.  All of them feature scenes of His Royal Highness from different periods in his life, and they are all garish, gaudy wrecks to look at.  I particularly enjoy the ones that feature him in the earlier years of his life, posing with a camera as if he were a normal person taking pictures of something.   Bright colors, 7-11s and too many imagers of the royal family formed my initial impression of this country.  I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next, and whether or not there is another reality beyond the immediate surface of things, because it really feels like I’ve come back home to the USA in a lot of ways compared to where we have been so far.


Sterling Noren

Oh Yeah,

The adventure continues. Angkor is spectacular and we have our first view at sunset. We wake up before sunrise the next day and are again amazed by Angkor. From Angkor, we search out a land mine museum run by a former Khymer boy-soldier. He has vowed to rid Cambodia of land mines by 2010, a daunting task. We are so impressed by the spirit of the Cambodian people, the have endured so much hardship, but they still can smile.

We head for the Thai border via the "Dancing Road" as the locals refer to it. It is a 150km dirt road full of potholes, mud and construction. The lore has it the the airlines pay bribes to keep the road from ever being finished. Anyway, after five hours and 130km, the shock absorber on my bike blows a seal and turns my bike into a bouncing animal. It's only another 20km to Thailand and excellent sealed roads. Thanks to Aaron and South Sound BMW in Tacoma for getting me a replacement shock shipped to Bangkok!

We pass the border from Cambodia into Laos without too much problem - our only delay was having to purchase insurance for the bikes. Our first extreme adventure in Thailand is being greeted by two elephants blocking the road in Khao Yai National Park. We finally make our way past them, a bit dicey when you are riding a motorbike. In Loei we happen on "Bike Week" and arrive on a Saturday night. There is a stage with a band and lots of food and festivities, so of course we join in. The music is good and it is always neat to meet other bikers. Sterling is thrilled for the video opportunities and I think he was OK with having to film the four Thai go-go dancers on stage.

It's time to work in a tire change and look the bikes over. The bikes have been doing well. My rear shock has been our biggest problem so far. I really like my bike, but it will be outfitted with Ohlins shocks for its next adventure.

Thailand is a country that has something to see around every corner. From a flower market in Bangkok, to a totally tacky cobra snake village. We have many Buddhas to see and temples to visit, so no rest for us. We have been able to find some dirt roads to keep Helge and me happy and on the pegs, so life is good.

Ciao for now.


An IndoChina Slideshow



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Helge Pedersen Images from Cambodia and Thailand, IndoChina Expedition 2007

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