Siem Reap has taken a great leap forward, becoming the first urban centre in the Kingdom to introduce “madhopping”, a relatively new extreme sport that apparently originated in Germany.
Now this new-wave youth sport has been launched in the Kingdom, thanks to an ardent adherent, 40-year-old former Bangkok hotel manager Gerald Hougardy, who directs a hospitality school in Temple Town.
The sport was officially launched last Friday as part of the graduation ceremony festivities at the Paul Dubrule Hotel and Tourism School, when two Chinese exponents from a Bangkok-based commercial madhop troupe went through their paces at the school’s assembly hall.
The troupe also presented the students with gift packs of four sets of madhop “legs” that they brought with them from Bangkok. And getting these gift packs through customs at the Thai-Cambodia border was no mean feat.
Much talk was required before customs was assured that they weren’t letting through some lethal form of hi-tech martial art weaponry.
The Paul Dubrule Hotel and Tourism School’s Hougardy said, “Yes, indeed there were problems at customs. It’s pretty weird equipment that looks like it comes from outer space. A very long explanation was required.”
The introductory madhop demonstration last Friday came about because of Hougardy’s until-recently secret obsession with madhopping.
It also explained reports during the past year of strange behaviour by a crazy barang in the better suburbs of Siem Reap, the result obviously of Hougardy practising his newfound obsession by leaping about in the parking lot of his home, and then on the badminton court belonging to his Khmer neighbours.
“A few of my Khmer neighbours were very surprised to see me madhopping, but they reacted with smiles and laughter,” Hougardy said, adding that he first became aware of the sport while working as the general manager of the Bangkok Novotel hotel on Siam Square.
“There was a trendy youth-oriented shop near the hotel and that’s where I first saw madhopping. Straight away I thought it was pretty amazing.”
When he announced his imminent departure from the Novotel for the job in Siem Reap, his team at the hotel gave him a gift of a set of madhoppers.
“I was very surprised, and very moved by such a gift, and I went to the shop to be trained in madhopping for a few weeks,” Hougardy remembers.
Of course when he arrived in Siem Reap to begin working at the Paul Dubrule School on August 31 of last year, he brought his beloved madhoppers with him and kept practising in the suburbs.
Then, during a New Year’s party for the school, Hougardy brought out his madhoppers and gave a quick demo.
“That was very successful,” he said. “I then decided to organise the professional demonstration at the school’s graduation ceremony this year.”
Following the demonstration, the challenge was thrown to staff and students to be the first to try the art of madhopping, and 61-year-old teacher Les Stott, the founder of Kampuchea House orphanage, took up the call at the instigation of Hougardy who told him it was a case of “carpe diem”.
Stott’s reaction on seizing the day? “It was, ah, quite interesting. It took me back to the days of the pogo stick, and it’s sort of like having a high-tech pogo stick on stilts. It’s great way go get fit.”