All posts by Reijo

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: Shimshal Valley Road

Shimshal Valley Road

Shimshal Valley Road in Gilgit-Baltistan, northern Pakistan truly is one of the most spectacular and dangerous balcony roads in the world. The road leads to Shimshal Valley located at some 3100 meters altitude. The road starts from Passu (2500m) and was completed as a jeep-able road only 2003 after eighteen years of more-or-less manual handwork carving the road in the mountain side.

Until then the route to Shimshal valley was a 3-day trip crossing three high (5000m) passes. The new mountain balcony road leads from Shimshal valley to Karakoram Highway, which connects Pakistan with China and in large part made this road feasible.

Even now the road is snow-covered most of the year, seven to eight months. The Shimshal valley road runs relatively near the Khunjerab pass Pakistan – China border station, which also is closed for the winter.

The road is a true balcony gravel road and is very high indeed in sections. It is also so narrow, that usually only one car can fit on the road and does not leave much room on either side.

At the bottom of high gorges runs Shimshal river. Scary wooden bridges are a given, but also some stretches of moon-like scenery. Rocks have rolled down the mountains and are now decorating the valley areas on the road.

I was told that earlier, instead of prison, the authorities in Hunza sent people who had committed a crime to Shimshal as punishment.

The mountains hide the actual Shimshal Valley, a miraculous green oasis in the middle of the barren landscape. While the valley seems that time has forgotten it, new, more modern houses are being built.

The Shimshal Valley Road will stay in my mind forever. An unbelievable ride and something to cherish.

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