The thunder of motors made villagers along National Road 5 cease their work for a few minutes on Friday, as they took in the unusual sight of a long procession of big bikes roaring down the provincial highway.
About 320 Thai and Malaysian bikers crossed the Cambodia-Thailand border at Poipet on their way to Phnom Penh to join the first-ever Cambodia Bike Fest, organised by NagaWorld Hotel and Casino.
NagaWorld cost control manager Mazlan Omar, who joined the ride from Bangkok to Cambodia, said Cambodians were by far the most enthusiastic spectators along the route, which began in Malaysia and crossed Thailand.
“When we rode into Cambodia, we were treated like kings,” Omar said. “Residents, students and police joined the security detail from the border to NagaWorld. Students even waved flags to welcome us. Our bikers were so happy.”
The procession was escorted by police and ambulances. A few mechanical breakdowns occurred, but did not slow down the ride.
Inclement weather proved a challenge, with heavy rain accompanying the riders from Pursat to Kampong Chhnang, causing at least four bikes to crash.
Despite the obstacles, no bikers were seriously injured and the ride made a glorious – and loud – entrance to Phnom Penh.
About 7pm, the last group of big bikes reached NagaWorld, where tents were set up and a concert was already under way.
Live music, raffles and a beauty pageant made the festival a success.
Rajesh Kumar Nair said the Malaysian bikers had broken a national record by driving from the southern part of that country to Phnom Penh within 36 hours.
The 21 Malaysians who made the entire journey received awards for their feat.
Organisers hope the visiting bikers will help boost local tourism.
“This is the first time international bikers have come to see Cambodia’s Royal Palace and the riverside. Hopefully, when they go back to their countries, they’ll remember Cambodia and come back in the future,” Nair said. “I’m sure we will attract more bikers next year. We will try to make it better and bigger.”
Meanwhile, in the provinces, the bike ride left an impression on villagers who had never seen anything like it before.
Twelve-year-old Vang Naro ran from his house in Battambang on Friday after hearing a loud noise in the distance and noticing that other villagers had gathered to see the bikers.
“I just saw the bikes were big, but it was hard for me to see them clearly because they were fast,” he said. “The bikes looked scary, but I want to see them again. I’ll wait for them to return this way.”
Unfortunately, Vang Naro wasn’t able to catch the riders on their way back yesterday, as they took a different road through Siem Reap to take a few group photographs in front of Angkor Wat before returning to Thailand through the Poipet border crossing.
To contact the reporter on this story: Roth Meas at firstname.lastname@example.org