Southeast Asia is a mecca for cycle tourists. That means we cross paths with bicycle travelers almost every day.
You may just be wondering the same thing
When our new cycling friends find out how long we’ve been on the road ( 5 years, 9 months and 6 days– not that we’re counting), they invariably ask the same exact question:
“Are you still having fun?”
It’s a hard one to answer.
If we meet early in the day, when I’m fresh and enthusiastic and the road ahead seems full of possibilities and adventure, the answer is probably “yes.”
Catch us at 2PM after we’ve been spinning our wheels under an unforgiving Cambodian sun for the past six hours, you can bet the answer will be an emphatic, “No!”
Being constantly on the move takes a toll. A continuous onslaught of new languages and customs, strange foods and different cultures is taxing in so many ways.
We need time to take it all in, adapt and adjust.
But there’s one thing about bicycle touring that never ceases to delight me: random connections!
We’re in Cambodia at the moment, and I’ll have to admit to something rather shameful: I got tired of visiting temples.
Angkot Wat at sunrise on Day 1 was spectacular; I didn’t even mind sharing the view with the 5,000 other tourists who’d rolled out of bed at 5AM to take in the view.
But by Day 3, I was weary of the Wats. And the Japanese tourists with humungous cameras slung around their necks who got in the way of MY photo taking. And the locals hassling me to “buy water, cheap price, madam, I give you $1.” And the fact that there were actual TRAFFIC JAMS at Angkor Wat owing to the fleets of tourist buses.
On Day 3, I’d reached my jam-packed tourist attraction breaking point and convinced Eric to leave early and pedal back to the guesthouse on some side roads.
And there, biking through some tiny villages not mentioned in any of the guidebooks, we found our magic!
Just regular ole’ life!
Sure, there was nothing special to see, just people going about their daily lives. Women buying and selling things at the market, itinerant salesman hawking their wares, kids heading home from school, a lost toddler wailing on the side of the road, a man hitching up his team of water buffalo, boys working in the fields, old men drinking beer far too early in the day.
But, for just a moment, we were a part of it all. We weren’t treated as tourists, but visitors passing through.
After haggling over some fly-infested pineapple in a dusty market, we were brought chairs and made to feel welcome.
Mothers brought by their babies to check out the strange foreigners with the badly burned skin and I cooed and said “Hello Baby!” which brought peals of laughter.
We stayed but a few minutes, but those moments were magical. And that magic is what keeps me turning the pedals when it’s 2 PM and I’ve been spinning my wheels under an unforgiving Cambodian sun for the past six hours.
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