Guest Blogger on a Khmer New Year Tour

This week writer and blogger Jessica Dean (of took a ride on Soksabike and had something to say about it. Have a look below!

As a tourist, it can be hard to break through that invisible barrier: you are an outsider and you are cocooned as a traveler. How do you get into the groove of a place and really immerse yourself in an experience? Your passport is always the people. Yesterday we took a bike ride into the villages and rice fields surrounding Battambang courtesy of Soksabike.

It was hot – April’s the hottest month here – and we cycled dusty back roads and lanes choked with jungle, passed through villages, dry rice fields waiting for the wet, beautiful pagodas and a memorial to a horrific past. Thanks to Phearon our guide, we got to stop, talk and meet with people who are making their living, raising their families and working within their communities for their communities.

You may ask how truly authentic an experience can be when it is fleeting, guided, easy. Authentic to me was cycling along roads lined with kids out in force water bombing passers by as part of the tail end of Khmer New Year celebrations. It was catching that cheeky kid’s eye as she defied the adult authority of Phearon and his waving arms and threw the water at us anyway. It was hearing that shrieking, joyful, rebellious laughter. It was stopping and sharing a home cooked meal with a family and watching a bizarre TV show where the Khmer Army line danced, fully armed, along with hundreds of their comrades. It was joining everyone for a nap afterwards, swinging gently in our hammocks to escape the height of the afternoon’s heat. It was drinking rice wine that burned my throat and made me sweat buckets and walking through the thick pungent air of fish fermenting in their tons in a dusty shelter. It was sitting quietly sharing palm hearts with a farming family and chatting to their teenage daughters as they texted on their mobiles. And it was talking with Phearon, our guide, and sensing how much he’d suffered but knowing that he along with the rest of this amazing country have a bright future ahead.

It takes years to really know a place, but if you want to break that outsiders bubble, it’s always the people that are happy to show you the way.