Cambodia Like The Locals Do – On A Scooter!

Scootering the Cambodian Coutryside

It is a few years since I was last time in Cambodia. During my previous visit, I did all the main tourist sites in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Now this time I wanted to venture a bit closer to the regular Cambodian and tour the countryside.

My verdict on the scooter I had for this ride, can be found at the end of this post!

I took this trip without much preparations, as my idea was just to “go for a ride”. Now after Covid-19, it turned out that many bike rentals no longer existed and getting a decent off-road bike was not as easy as before.

Somehow, I thought that it would be a nice idea to do my tour on a scooter “like the locals do”.  Bike rentals in Phnom Penh were not very eager to rent a bike for taking it outside PP but I found Victory motorcycle rental (nothing to do with Victory motorcycles!), who were happy to give me a bike – a scooter rather.

Furthermore, I had crossed roads with my old friend Arto, who was touring Asia and had some time available and was keen join me for the ride. Great, now we were two on the road! As a seasoned traveler he was not too bothered with my lack of plans and was happy to go with the flow, deciding next steps based on what we would find ahead.

Well deserved pint in Battambang

First thing one notices, as without exception anywhere in Asia, is the rapid development mainly in the cities and key artery roads. This is the case really everywhere, but obviously in a different scale outside the main cities and growth centres.

Heading north, out of Phnom Penh, the new dual lane highway was being finalized. Driving to Battambang (presumably further to Siem Reap as well) will be very quick in the near future. Even now it was quick with only some unfathomable sections where traffic was guided from one side of the road to the other, at times without any visible reason.  The obvious outcome was that all vehicles rode on both sides to both directions. Motorbikes usually picking the side with less cars and trucks. Locals also saw the opportunity to dry rice on the closed sun bathing sections of the road.

New road from Phnom Penh to Battambang with rice being dried

Our first destination was Kampong Chhnang with the idea of crossing the rivers and to ride the east side of Tonle Sap -lake. That turned out impossible just now – or rather – possible only around February when the marsh and wetlands dry on the other side. Now we would not be able to ride there. Continue reading Cambodia Like The Locals Do – On A Scooter!

Video: To Pakistan – China border

Khunjerab Pass

The Pakistan – China border station in Khunjerab pass on Karakoram highway leads from Pakistan to China, on Karakoram Highway. Depending on the source and measurement point, it lies at around 4700 – 5000 meters altitude. From November to March the border is closed due to snow.

The border itself is an attraction and interesting as such. For us however, it was not the border but the ROAD leading there. Now it was truly the ride, not the destination!

The scenery on Karakoram Highway leading to the border from Hunza Nagar / Passu is just magnificent. Absolutely mesmerizing, as you will see on the video. Some scenes on the video look unreal and like they were put together from at least two clips, but it is all real as much as a video can be.

Never have I seen such sharp peaks, nor so many high mountains. Approaching the high peaks leaves one filled with awe from the first minutes on the road.

While we are on Karakoram proper, this is also the region where the the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountain ranges come together with the highest peaks in the world.

  • Himalayas  range over India, China, Tibet Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan
  • Karakoram ranges over China, India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan
  • Hindu Kush ranges over Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan

Karakoram Mountains and Northern Pakistan


The BIG day finally arrived and we were in Islamabad, Pakistan. Ready for our adventure ride in the Karakoram mountains and Northern Pakistan.

Our local contact Salman was at the airport to meet us and presented us the customary Pakistani flower leis, much like in Hawaii. Although I get the sense that this is where the similarities end.

Islamabad may not look like the most welcoming city in the intense heat of the summer and remembering its violent history, but the people we meet are extremely kind and ready to help us in all possible ways. We are now in an Islamic country and although we have two women in the group, the people we meet are virtually all men.

Notable exception to this is the quite amazing mosque, which we visited the first night. 

After settling into our hotel, it was time to give a closer look at our bikes. We saw them briefly on the arrival and with a closer inspection, they turned out even more challenging than originally thought. Knacked Suzuki 250’s, although clean and apparently serviced for the trip, held together partly with wire and duct tape – Well, we all know that wire and duct tape often do the job!

These were really not the kind of bikes we would choose  for the kind of trip we were about to embark. The bikes  may be great for commuting but are not designed for off-roading or long distance riding. None of the gauges on my bike worked and turn signals had a mind of their own. It was going to be a very Pakistani experience, also in respect of the bikes. A mechanic followed us along the route and his skills were needed on daily basis.

At this point it is also worth mentioning that  Salman received new bikes soon after our departure, better suited for off road riding as well. To my understanding, acquiring bikes of one’s desire is not easy in Pakistan and the Suzukis were the industry standard. On the other hand, the Suzukis were familiar to Salman and his mechanic. They knew the bikes inside-out and would be able to fix anything on the road.

Heading north: Islamabad – Naran – Gilgit

Riding buddies

A chaotic first day riding, heading out of Islamabad in intense heat towards cooler air and the town of Naran, some 300 km north. A 12 hour day on the bikes getting used to the Pakistani road culture and the bikes with a temper of their own.

Most bikes had disc brakes in the front, some had only worn drums that were very difficult to control. Drum brakes slowed down the bike very little just before locking the wheel with a screeching sound. The result was two riders down the first day, luckily without any major injuries. Continue reading Karakoram Mountains and Northern Pakistan

The Beautiful Faces of Pakistan

Faces from a motorcycling trip from Islamabad to Karakoram mountains

The Pakistanis are the friendliest people and take a lot of photographs where ever they go. We were filmed continuously and must now be in thousands of selfies.

The Pakistani are also happy to pose for any photo opportunity they get. Just see the video!

… that elusive day we keep putting good things off to…