Sitting on the airplane on my way back to Hong Kong after an extremely intense two day visit to Siem Reip, Cambodia to prepare for my fundraiser. But even though it was only two days it was still an unforgettable trip and honestly, I don’t even like to travel on my own. I don’t like having dinner by myself in a restaurant. How the trip was and the SOS Childrens Village and all that will be in a separate blog.
This little blog is about the motorcycle. The motorcycle we rarely talk about in our part of the world, the rich part. Here the motorcycle is a hobby, something we bring out of the garage when the weather allows it and have fun with. Yes, of course, there are people who use their bikes a lot more than that like all the people driving their three wheeled Piaggios to work every day in Paris, but I do think you understand what I’m trying to say.
In Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh etc etc the motorbike is an absolute necessity and probably the single most important technical piece of equipment in order to obtain economic development, even more so than the cell phone or the computer. Public transportation is limited and people need to get themselves, on bad roads, to work, to school, to hospital when needed, to see relatives, shop for food, go find a partner or whatever. In this part of the world the motorcycle transports people not only from one place to another but even more importantly helps taking them from poverty to a more secure life with better work, food on the table and school for the kids.
Even though the roads in these countries outside the cities towards the villages a lot of the times more resembles chocolate mousse than tarmac, it is not enduro bikes they are driving. Usually it is 100 – 125cc scooters, often automatic or semi-automatic. Honda and Yamaha are quite frequent and can be bought locally for around USD 1.000-1.300 brand new. Not too bad with western eyes but of course huge for a family that makes USD 150-200 per month. I have owned a 100cc Honda Click myself for 8 years now. Cant say I ride it on a daily basis but that bike is extremely reliable and dirt cheap to repair. Honestly I dont think I have spent over USD 150 in repairs in all 8 years combined. The only thing that is a problem is the quality of the innertubes which brakes just looking at them. Only comfort is that they are ridiculously cheap around USD 1.5 a piece, including the job to switch. My Honda have also been badly tortured by all the members in my family who wants to learn how to drive a bike (which is basically everybody). The bike has gone through these painful sessions without any complaints, always ready to serve. Its like a dog which, when you dont really have time for it and it doesn’t get to go out as much as it should, it still loves you.
So when the western image of freedom motorcycles, especially a Harley from Easy Rider becomes the symbol. I must protest and say that the real freedom machine is a Honda Click.