500km from Saigon to Siem Reap on a unicycle

My photos are up:
OXFAM Vietnam to Cambodia Cyclle challenge

I spent the last two weeks cycling 500km across Vietnam and Cambodia in order to raise money for the OXFAM charity.
OXFAM NZ
There was a group of about 36 undertaking this challenge. I was the only unicyclist on the trip.

Our group got together in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). It was a mostly New Zealand group, with a handful of Australians, as well as a UK and a Hong Kong rider. It was also a fairly mixed group- I think we ranged in ages from 18 to 60, from the super fit athletes to your average unicyclist.

We had a day to explore Saigon- mostly on pedal driven cabs called cyclos- these are so much fun! (I want one :stuck_out_tongue: ). I had a quick spin around Saigon on my unicycle, but it was pretty freaky as the traffic was on the wrong side of the road for me. I kept ending up riding towards oncoming traffic every time I took a corner!

We visited all the major landmarks around Saigon- the Reunification Palace, the War Memorial museum (interesting but depressing), City hall, Post Office, American embassy etc.

The next day we were bused out to the Cu Chi Tunnels where our ride was to start. We explored some of the network of tunnels- I’m pretty small and even I found it difficult to crawl through! The North Vietnamese dug over 250km of these tunnels by hand during the Vietnam War.

We set off towards Tay Ninh- a town near the Vietnam/Cambodia border. It was really hot (up to 44 degrees on that first day). At the end of the day there were all these salt crystals precipitating over my helmet straps and camelbak. The ride was well worth it though- some very pretty rice fields and villages.

And the reaction of the people! Let me repeat that…

The reaction of the local people! The kids would run out to see these funny foreigners suffering their way across Vietnam and later Cambodia on Mountainbikes. And that one guy on a unicycle! It was such an awesome journey- kids literally lining streets as we cycled past- it was a mini Tour De France! The kids would say ‘hallo, hallo’ when we cycled past, and then burst into apoplectic fits when I went past. Everyone, young or old, would cheer as we went past. The were constant beeps from passing trucks, stares and laughter everywhere we went. At one stage I had no less than 5 motorcycles following me for about 3km. One army vehicle with important looking people in uniform drove past, screeched to a halt, spun around and followed me for about 2km, before giving a big thumbs up and turning back in the direction they were heading. Everytime we stopped (usually about 20km for the group to get back together) we were mobbed by the local villagers. I won’t bore you with anymore of this- but this was the usual reaction all the way to Siem Reap. I left Cambodia with a permanent grin on my face.

The next day saw us riding to the Moc Bai Vietnam/Cambodia border. After shuffling around lot’s of paper and passports, we managed to get across the border. If the first day was hot, this felt even worse- I drained my 2 L camelbak every 20km. ARgh!!! It was so hot. We crawled into the town of Svey Rieng in Cambodia to a nice cold shower. Mmmm. I was too tired to do much, so I just hung around in our hotel.

Our next ride was to Prey Veng- it got up to about 40 degrees again but this time it was bearable- there was a gentle breeze blowing our way. I must have been getting used to the heat, the ride was great. I even went out with the fast group of cyclists- we were doing about 25-28km/h for 2hrs, before I had decided I had enough and sat with the middle group. You miss out on seeing a lot of the countryside when you’re spinning your legs off! Luckily we were going a wee bit slower when I decided to take the peloton down with a UPD.

The next day went from Prey Veng to Kampong Cham on the banks of the Mekong River. I knew the Mekong was big, but I didn’t realise it was so huge! Lot’s of stilt houses along the Mekong river.

The following day was a ride towards Phnom Pehn. This had to be the most awesome ride so far. A lot of the roads on our trip had recently been sealed, but we took a dusty backroad that was 100% unsealed and had big potholes. It was an awesome 60km of fun alongside beautiful villages. Just imagine what it’s like to cycle through one of the least travelled routes on a unicycle- with kids giggling behind you all the way!

We had a couple of rest days to explore Phnom Penh. It’s a big city and fairly touristy. It was nice to relax after riding for about 400km.

Our group visited Toul Sleng prison- a high school that Pol Pot had converted into a torture and detention centre when the Khmer Rouge were in power. It’s worthwhile seeing as a sobering reminder of human cruelty. It is certainly the most shocking place I’ve seen. Choung Ek, the killing field where Toul Sleng prisoners were taken, had skulls (many with nasty fractures) piled metres high. The ground outside had bones and teeth poking through.

On a much brighter note, we also visited one of the OXFAM projects. It’s is a joint OXFAM/UNICEF project, whereby village/poorer children are sponsored to go to school. It’s amazing how far a few dollars go- most of these kids just need about $5 to keep them in school for a year- for uniforms, books, pens, etc. Our group raised a total of over $70,000 for OXFAM.

The next day we caught a very noisy, very cramped ferry up the Tonle Sap river to get to Siem Reap. My ears are still ringing from the experience. It had the most interesting toilet I’d ever seen- four feet in the air. 6hrs later we were taken off on smaller boats and taken to what must be the smelliest port you can imagine- rubbish everywhere. I was very happy when we finally arrived in Siem Reap.

We were able to get to Angkor Wat to watch the sunset. It was just amazing! THE Angkor Wat- and I was walking on it :p. I climb up the towers which just about scared me silly (it’s very steep- they let tourists climb up there).

We went back the next day to catch the sunrise. I became the first unicyclist in Angkor Wat. I also became the first unicylist to be thrown out of Angkor Wat. Well kind of. The security guards at the gate let me take my unicycle in to watch the Sunrise (people are supposed to leave bikes at the gate). Unfortunately another security guard in the temple told me to take it outside :frowning: . Oh well.

In between getting attacked by monkeys, we went about and explored the other main temples- Bayan, and various other Angkor Thom temples, before heading to Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm was left just as it had been discovered- with the jungle overgrowing inside it. Just like something from an Indiana Jones movie. Very cool.

I donated blood at the local Childrens Hospital blood bank (it’s in our guidebook of things to do!). Hmmm- big needle (I hate needles, although I don’t mind sticking them in other people).

We went clubbing that night before flying home with a bad hangover. Too many Tombraider cocktails (Lara Croft was here).

If you are interested at all, the trip will be run again next year- same route, same travel company (Intrepid- who were fantastic). They organised our accomodation, food, and delivered our luggage to our destination before we got there. Same deal- you have to raise NZ $5500 for OXFAM- half goes as donation and the other half towards trip costs.
Check out http://www.oxfam.org.nz for details.

Jason our tour leader is also very keen to get a unicycle-only tour together next year. I think the reaction from the local people when I unicycled through Vietnam and Cambdodia has convinced him that unicycling is the way to travel! Jason has cycled extensively throughout Asia, and has many travel links in Asia. We are thinking of getting a group of a dozen or so unitourists to tackle a supported Asian Unitour (?Laos or Northern Vietnam), so watch this space!

Re: 500km from Saigon to Siem Reap on a unicycle

Thanks for the extensive writeup. Sounds like it has been a truly
excellent tour!

On Sun, 22 Feb 2004 10:10:40 -0600, GizmoDuck wrote:

>On a much brighter note, we also visited one of the OXFAM projects.
>It’s is a joint OXFAM/UNICEF project, whereby village/poorer children
>are sponsored to go to school. It’s amazing how far a few dollars go-
>most of these kids just need about $5 to keep them in school for a year-
>for uniforms, books, pens, etc. Our group raised a total of over
>$70,000 for OXFAM.
Wow! That sounds like you (plural) provided over 10,000 kids with a
year of schooling. Now that is substantial!

>We went clubbing that night before flying home with a bad hangover. Too
>many Tombraider cocktails (Lara Croft was here).
Maybe the blood donation had also an effect on the badness of the
hangover?

>We are thinking of
>getting a group of a dozen or so unitourists to tackle a supported Asian
>Unitour (?Laos or Northern Vietnam), so watch this space!
I’m not much of a distance unicyclist but it sounds like an awesome
opportunity.

Thanks again for the writeup and kudos to you.

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“Heck, even my toes were aching from trying to grip the soles of my shoes! - Tommy Thompson”

Thailand

Wow! I am impressed with your unicycle feat.
I currently am the Director of a circus program at the largest orphanage in Bangkok Thailand. (I have also ran programs in Laos and Vietnam…with the help of Saigon Children’s Charity)
I would be interested in joining you on the next unicycle adventure. Please e-mail me at exhighdiver@hotmail.com.
By the way, any unicyclists who find themselfs in Bangkok, you are more than welcome to come to the orphanage and play.

Cheers for posting that, it sounds like a great experience :slight_smile:

The image of unicycling in the sun with loads of smiling people seeing a onewheeler for the first time is a dream.

I was wondering what kind of uni you used i.e. wheel size etc?

You did something really important and good for the people of that area. You should be very proud of that, and of the riding. I am interested in doing it next year, as are others. I am curious. Was there a supply of clean drinking water for you? How many miles per day? Any big hills? Did you need a brake?

Did you encounter any serious difficulties? Was that unpaved road part of the original plan, or did they throw you a curve ball?

In Saigon, the war museum–isn’t that called the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes? Quite a place.

Thanks for your replies guys. Another Unitour is certainly on the cards for next year. We’ll make an announcement later this year once we have a better idea of where we’re going.

Dangerboy, that’s sounds like a great programme you’re running. One of the really nice things about our Vietnam to Cambodia cycle challenge was the fact that we were doing something worthwhile for charity. Do you have any suggestions for a unitour next year?

Dave: I was using a stock Deluxe Coker with 125mm cranks and KH saddle for the trip. I would have liked to have an extension of some sort to take my weight as the saddle got pretty uncomfortable towards the end of the day. I also lost one of me nuts so it was rather wobbly. I swapped over to 150mm cranks when I got to Siem Reap, in anticipation of doing some Coker trials around the temples- but it wasn’t not worth it. It would have been nice to have a smaller uni on hand. I had to give a unicycle demo to the locals everywhere I stopped- and Cokers are not the easiest to do tricks on.

Billy: We had a water fountain magically appear everywhere we went (it was a supported trip, so they carted our water around for us). It was weird seeing it appear in the middle of paddocks and in the middle of villages etc. It was even weirder because we had this guy set up a table with clean China and tea/coffee each time we stopped (every 20km or so). We did between 60-96km/day but it was pretty flat. The only hill was the bridge over the Mekong. Most of the roads were recently sealed, so it was quite nice to take a backroad that wasn’t. The Saigon War memorial museum used to be called the American War Crimes museum; and it shows the war from the North Vietnamese perspective. They changed the name because a lot of American tourists visit the museum.

Klaas- they don’t take as much blood in Cambodia as they do in NZ- something like 350mL’s instead of 600mL’s. I still felt a bit lightheaded when I unicycled back to our hotel. It would be great if you could join us in a unitour next year. We probably would look at reducing the daily distances- this trip was designed for the two wheeled cyclists in mind.

Regards,

Ken :stuck_out_tongue:

GizmoDuck
Adventure unicyclist

Registered: Apr 2002
Location: Wellington, New Zealand

Dave: I was using a stock Deluxe Coker with 125mm cranks and KH saddle for the trip. I would have liked to have an extension of some sort to take my weight as the saddle got pretty uncomfortable towards the end of the day. I also lost one of me nuts so it was rather wobbly.

That’s the last place I would want to lose one of my nuts!!
:slight_smile:

Thanks for all the info!