Crashing my motorbike in Cambodia

Yesterday we traveled back to Thailand. We had crashed and burned (quite literally, explanation to follow) in Battambang, and had enough signs from the universe that we knew staying in Cambodia was not the path we were meant to follow.

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I debated whether or not to tell this next story publicly, because I think there is too much fear-mongering on the subject of third world countries that gets posted online, and it’s causing young people not to travel and adventure when they should.

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The reason I am posting this below is to communicate that it’s okay to take risks. This isn’t a cautionary tale, it’s a get the hell out and have an adventure tale.

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The short version: we rented motorbikes to explore the Cambodian countryside. We have done this in Thailand, and I have done this in the Philippines, with great success, and no problems.

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We were riding down the road, and I was following perhaps a bit too closely behind Aly. A couple on a moped coming the wrong way down the street swerved out in front of Aly without looking, so she had to brake quickly. I tried to serve to avoid crashing, but I saw over my shoulder that someone was passing me on the left, so I had to break extremely quickly.

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The combination of swerving-breaking laid me down on my left side. There was traffic, but being skilled Cambodian drivers they avoided me just fine as I clambered back on the bike and got the motor started to drive to the side of the street.

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I didn’t hit Aly at all, and she was completely fine, though obviously livid and concerned about me.When I assessed the damage, I was shocked to realize that not a single part of my body was injured.

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My shirt had torn near the elbow, but I always roll my sleeves up anyway, so this was completely inconsequential. My pants had a small permanent brown spot on the left knee where the fabric had slid along the pavement, but we’re otherwise completely intact.

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My elbow hurt a minor amount from the impact of the lightweight bike on top of me, but other than that I WAS COMPLETELY UNHARMED. No open wounds, nothing even close to justifying a tetanus shot.

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The bike seemed to be fine too. It had a cosmetic scrape where it had slid along the pavement, but every bike in Thailand and Cambodia has these, since incidents like this are so commin…..so we kept riding down the road.

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It was a few kilometers later that we realized I had somehow blown the tire in the crash. As Aly was bending to look with me at the tire, her leg brushed up against the still very hot engine, and she got a 3rd degree burn that bubbled and became extremely painful in the beating sun.

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I told you…we crashed…and burned. We went from roadside stand to roadside stand to ask for a mechanic. One family would point to the left, then the next one back toward the right. Eventually, though, a finger pointed us directly across the street, and we were overjoyed to see a makeshift moto shop.

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The family didn’t speak any English, but we showed them the tire, and they set to work replacing it as we waited in the shade and played with the local kids, speaking as much Khmer as we could.

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When the family finished, they charged us the equivalent of $3.75 for the repair. We tried to give them more, as we were so grateful, and they declined. We tried harder to give them more, but they wouldn’t allow it. We tried to put some money down on the table for them, but they gave it back to us.

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We both were nearly in tears, with such full hearts as we said a thousand thank you’s and rode away. This experience, sitting in the dust and heat with this beautiful Cambodian family, Aly pouring water over and over on her burn to ease the pain, was our best experience in Cambodia.

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The universe is pretty tricky guys. We finished the day at the Jirah Cafe, a Korean Cafe hidden behind a pharmacy with incredible air conditioning and mind-blowing Kimchi (I ordered no less than 11 plates of it in total). We sat and planned the next leg of our journey, which we will post about soon.

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They charged us nothing for the damage to the motorbike, and we took a mini-bus yesterday to the border again, crossed over the border in to Thailand without a hitch (we actually danced through, for some reason there was some awesome music playing on both sides), and met some cool Dutch lesbians on the mini-bus in to Bangkok.

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Now we’re in Bangkok for the next 4 days, and life is good. Can’t wait to see what trouble we get in to here ?