Lonley Planet, Trip Advisor, Rough Guides, CNN, BBC and National Geographic have all listed Angkor Wat as one of the top, “must see” destinations on the planet, and for good reason. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, surpassing even the pyramids of Giza in size and stature.

Cambodia now sees more than 1 million visitors per year. Most visitors to the Kingdom of Cambodia, arrive in Siem Reap (the gateway to Angkor), and stay for  just 2 or 3 days, but there is a lot more to Cambodia than just Angkor Wat. The good news (or the bad news, depending on your perspective) is that Cambodia’s infrastructure is fairly under-developed, thus keeping many of the countries hidden treasures; hidden.

Living in Cambodia has given me the opportunity to go beyond the most popular and most visited sites, and to explore some of the hidden treasures of this fascinating country. Previously, I blogged about remote, seldom-visited Bantaey Chhmar, a temple that rivals Angkor Wat, yet due to it’s somewhat distant and difficult-to-access location, sees only a handful of visitors every month.

Last week, my good friend, photographer Scott Sharick; a past participant of several of my photo tours and a student at my annual Angkor Photo Workshop, and I, embarked upon a one-day exploratory trip, in search of an ancient Angkorian ruins site about 70km from Siem Reap. Scott, who has been spending a lot of time in Cambodia, has been tirelessly researching and photographing off-the-beaten-track locations in and around Siem Reap; planned out the route we would follow.

To date, Scott has visited more than 120 Khmer temples and pagodas. Many of his exploits can be seen on his blog: “Adventures of a Regular Guy“, which is full of great stories and insights. I’ve also created a new FaceBook page  to chronicle the motorcycle trips we’ve been taking to visit these ancient sites.

Although Scott and I initially made our forays into the hinterlands on small Honda scooters, we soon realized that the farther off-road we ventured, the more difficult it was to make our way using scooters designed for on-road travel. So, about a month ago, I researched the available motorcycles to see if a more capable, reasonably priced, full-sized bike was available. We both ultimately decided upon the Yamaha XTZ 125, a dirt bike well suited for the kind of off-road conditions that we expect to encounter in remote areas of Cambodia. With little more than a change of tires and a few other tweaks, the bikes were ready for the task at hand.

So, after several “shake down trips” and the initial “engine break-in period”, we decided on the long, 10 hour round trip from Siem Reap to Phnom Kulen, in search of a remote site that we’d been wanting to find; the Stone Elephant of Srah Damrie. With full fuel tanks, GPS maps on our iPhones, cameras and helmet mounted video cameras, we set off eastward from Siem Reap, on what turned out to be an exhausting, yet amazing adventure.

The following is a 3 minute video showing the trip to find the Stone Elephant of Srah Damrie. I hope to post more trip videos in the coming months, perhaps even a return trip to Srah Damrie, during the rainy season, when it will likely be covered in green moss and surrounded by ferns. Off course, a rainy sesaon visit  up the mountain and through the forest, depends upon road conditions and the capabilities of rider and motorcycle.

Indeed, there are few places left in this world that offer the freedom to explore and experience fascinating, untouched wonders. What a privilege it is to be here in Cambodia at this time in history and how fitting that Cambodia’s tourism department uses the tag line, “Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonder”. Enjoy…

The above video shot using a helmet-mounted $150 Sony HDR AZ1 Action Cam, a 2.2 ounce, 3 inch long, video camera, with built in image stabilization. This diminutive HD video camera is a great alternative to the more popular, more expensive, non-image stabilized GoPro series. I edited down and blended over 1 hour of clips to create this 3 minute video using Apple’s iMovie.

The lead photo for this blog post made with my iPhone 6S, courtesy of Scott Sharick, was edited using SnapSeed.


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