I woke up this morning with a sore butt after going on my first bike ride in about a week yesterday. Thinking, “enough is enough,” I decided to bite the bullet and order a new seat from Australia, since my Chinese replacement seat was such a literal pain-in-the-ass. Fortunately, after breakfast at Douceur du Cambodge, I went across the street to my bike shop to see if he had any better quality seats than the one I’d purchased 2 years before. He pulled out a gel seat that would have set me back over $100 if I’d had it shipped over from Australia and sold it to me for $7. I was going to write about our wonderful short vacation in Koh Kong this week, but that and some queries here and on Travelfish made me change my mind.
In Exploring the back roads of Sihanoukville, I argued that the “real Sihanoukville is a collection of villages often separated by wide expanses of undeveloped land. The only way you’ll see this Sihanoukville is by exploring the back roads and tracks that criss-cross the town.” I went on to emphasise that exploring them by bike is a better way to see them than on the back of a motorbike.
Shortly after that blog was posted, someone asked for safe route suggestions. I replied that in 6 years, I’d never had a bad experience riding my bike in Sihanoukville, but that I’d had a 2 year old mountain bike stolen in Australia and was regularly harassed by passing motorists in that country. The deeper moral to the story is that danger is largely a matter of perception. You would do things in your home country that you wouldn’t dream of doing in a strange country. I hesitated at first to get off the beaten track in Sihanoukville, but curiosity got the best of me and I haven’t looked back since.
I took the photo above yesterday. The first time I took that route, I was a little nervous. It looked like it might be a dead end and I didn’t know the territory. I took it anyway and now it’s part of one of my favourite routes to Serendipity Beach. After reaching the end of the empty field, you pass through a village and then turn up to a paved road. There are some variations from there, but they all lead to the Golden Lions eventually. Thinking some readers might be interested, I mapped the route on my GPS. Here’s a screen shot or you can see the route on my MapMyRide page.
I could have gotten to Serendipity Beach much faster on Ekareach Street and that’s the road the vast majority of visitors to Sihanoukville take through town. Unfortunately, that’s about all they see of Sihanoukville and they draw their conclusions about the town from their observations between the Hill and Ochheuteal Beach. You can’t draw conclusions about any town from the main drag or tourist centres. I learned that lesson again in Koh Kong last week. Downtown Koh Kong doesn’t look like much, but the surrounding area is magic, as this Instagram photo of our boat ride up the Tatai River proves.
I wish I’d taken my mountain bike to Koh Kong. I saw one guy riding there and he was grinning from ear to ear. For that matter, the other tourists we saw outside of town and those who, like us, had spent the day exploring the outskirts of the town, all looked happy as well. In contrast, the backpackers just passing through town all looked miserable. So I guess the secret isn’t in bike riding, but in getting a little off the beaten track and exploring.
Anyway, I’ve just added the location of my Sihanoukville bike shop to my Sihanoukville map, so if you need parts, repairs or even a new bike (he has a few decent new and used mountain bikes in the back of the shop), you now know where to go.