Motorcycle tours open up Cambodia in a way that nothing else can, creating a chance to explore the kingdom’s rural life and culture as well as its countryside and wildlife along roads that can be otherwise inaccessible or uncomfortable.
The vast majority of Cambodia’s population lives in the countryside, in palm-fringed villages along red, dusty roads from where they work the rice fields, raise their families, tend to their livestock and go about daily life in a manner that is not entirely dissimilar to the images engraved on the walls of Angkor Wat, Bayon and Baphuon temples. Hopping onto a motorbike gets you out there, and without the physical and psychological barriers that come from sitting in a comfy, air-conditioned car. And it can be done from Siem Reap, regardless of your experience.
We won’t lie. We’re addicted to motorcycling around Cambodia; aside from the chance to explore a beautiful country, it’s as pure an exercise in overcoming your fears as you can get. Every time we go out and come back alive and intact, we dance a little happy dance in our heads, because Cambodian roads are far from safe. This is something to keep in mind before you consider going on a trip. Your first question should not be, “Do I know how to ride a motorbike?”, but rather, “Do I have insurance?” This is seriously not the place to learn how to drive one, unless you’re already familiar with the vagaries of Southeast Asia traffic “rules”.
If you think that you’re ready to take the bull by the handlebars, but are still feeling a little unsure, then Khmer Ways is a great outfit with a range of Honda Dreams that they will teach you how to ride — if needs be — before taking you on one of their trips into the countryside and beyond. They are one of the few tour operators of any description that will take you into Phnom Kulen to visit the trails and hangouts frequented by a troupe of silvered langurs whose existence on the mountain was only formally recorded two years ago.
The founder of Khmer Ways, like the founders of Kickstart, Hidden Cambodia and Siem Reap Dirt Bike Tours, has been here a long, long time and has made it a mission to explore Cambodia’s highways and backroads. A lot of time and experience has gone into identifying the trails they take you on. They’re good value and huge fun. Tours start at $30 for a half-day tour (including guide, motorscooter, helmet and fuel, snacks and water). You just need to not forget sunscreen. Their signature one-day tour into the countryside, and a secluded lake where you can take a dip before tucking into delicious barbecue, is $75. The Phnom Kulen tour, which includes biking and hiking on a stunning jungle trail, is $105. Discounts are applied for bookings of two people or more. They have plenty more to offer, including multi-day tours into the north of the country.
The newest outfit in town in Kickstart Adventures, but they are by no means inexperienced. David and Mr La, the founders, have been blazing trails around Cambodia for years and there is not much they don’t know about the best ways. They offer a range of half-, full- and multi-day tours on their professionally maintained 250cc dirtbikes, with prices starting at $65 — depending on the number of people taking part. The rate includes guide, bike, petrol, safety gear — helmet, boots, body armour and outer clothing — and drinks. The routes are selected according to your ability. Don’t overstate it, or you’ll end up miserable, or worse, broken; get it right, and you’ll have a blast.
Hidden Cambodia have been running motorcycle tours out of Siem Reap for years. One of their loveliest trips is up to Koh Ker, where they have their own traditional Khmer wooden villa that you overnight in, but there are few trails that they don’t know all about anywhere in Cambodia. Their support systems are top-notch as well. Prices for their one-day tours start at $130, which includes motorbike, guide, all gear, petrol, all meals and water. They also have some smaller dirtbikes, still 250 or 230cc, that might be suitable for shorter-frames.
Similarly, Siem Reap Dirt Bike Tours has tons of experience. You can blaze your way across Cambodia on one of their fleet of powerful KTMs ranging from 250cc up to 525cc. These are powerful, nimble machines, so beginners need not apply. Prices start at $150 for one-day tours, including motorbike (250/400EXC), petrol, guides, gear and maintenance. Discounts are applied for groups of three or more.
Cambodia Vespa Adventures: P64 Borei Prum Prei; T: (063) 765 550, (012) 861 610, (012) 861 620; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.vespaadventures.com.
Khmer Ways: Route 60; T: (089) 946 832; email@example.com; www.khmerways.com.
Kickstart Dirtbike Adventures Cambodia: Psas Krom; T: (012) 703 263, (017) 313 738; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.kickstartcambodia.com.
Hidden Cambodia: Slokram Commune; T: (012) 934 412, (012) 655 201; email@example.com; www.hiddencambodia.com.
Siem Reap Dirt Bike Tours: Speak Chreav; T: (097) 248 7234, (097) 202 0987; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.siemreapdirtbikes.com.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 16th February, 2016.