In Cambodia, there is no shortage of tourism gems including cultural, heritage sites and virgin jungle but by far and large, tourists can experience the good nature of Khmer people.
The roots of a childhood spent in the great outdoors eventually became consequential inspiration for Dy Malyneth to embark on her adventure of discovery in Cambodia. As a biker, soon she was aiming for bolder trails off the beaten path in picturesque Cambodia. Much inspiration came from her mother, a medical doctor treating the helpless in remote areas. And Ms Malyneth’s mother never failed to share with her daughter all the beautiful landscapes of the remote areas, the hearth and home of the Khmer people.
In 2017, Malyneth formed a team whose mission was to go around Cambodia and find hidden gems and share these beautiful spots with the adventurous public through photography and videography. Fortunately, she finally secured financial support to produce and direct her own tourism show called ‘Go! Go! Go! Around Cambodia’ on CTV9.
The 30-year-old adventurer said: “After getting support from CTV9, I mustered enough budget to go around Cambodia and show some unseen places through that TV programme. Travelling twice a month, I realised that I truly love the Khmer people with their charming smiles. They are really kind in providing shelter, offering food and giving a helping hand when I have problems — though I never have to ask. They are the reasons behind who I truly am today.”
Inspired by the adventurous Malyneth,
here are some tips from her:
What to do in advance
Road Safety: As Ms Malyneth rides a motorbike on the trip, she or her team members will check the chain, change the oil and check the machine. And when on the road, she advises the uninitiated to be very careful and not to rankle other drivers. Nonetheless, she encountered the unexpected while driving to Koh Kong province.
She apprised: “Though we are really careful, it’s just plain bad luck. My motor’s chain once was broken while driving, I was so fortunate as a driver stopped and helped me fix it. There, I learned to fix and I started to believe in karma.”
Societal pressures: If girls want to go on an adventure, they have to be ready to listen to the grapevine and neighbourly criticism.
Ms Malyneth reflected on her experience: “When I first started riding this men’s motorbike, people say I acted like a tomboy. And I am not seen as a good girl since women are not expected to venture far from the kitchen. A Khmer proverb says ‘Women belong to the stove’, yet I defied it now.”
What to bring: Ms Malyneth said: “Bring insect repellent, lemon and garlic all these things can help. Also not forgetting a hammock, tent, set of fork, spoon and plate, torchlight, raincoat, power bank, walkie talkie and lighter are also helpful.”
Going as a team: Plan in advance if you want to trek or camp in the forest for more than two days. It is always safer to go with a team.
Are there any risks?
Once, Ms Malyneth was riding on the edge of a cliff, she was thrown off the motorbike as she was not aware of the condition of the path.
Though it was really risky to go forward, yet there was always a solution for Ms Maryneth.
She stressed: “As long as we can keep out our confidence intact, everything is going to be okay. Like my personal experience, I made my bike fall (on a wayward path). Lucky enough, my team came to the rescue. So try to collate all information about your route in advance. And no matter what happens, don’t lose control of yourself.”
She added, “Another incident was in Areng Valley. My team and I left the village at 6pm and so it was really dark. The motor’s headlight was not a big help. That time the road was really difficult and we fell into a hole.”
Tricky being a girl on an adventure
Aside from societal pressures, Ms Malyneth said it is not easy for women when it comes to answering the call of nature in the forest. And unsafe to camp alone.
“Women have to be aware about the security of a place to avoid baddies. Also, with menstruation, they may choose to wear loose and thin clothes. To avoid disease and infections, stay hygienic and keep clean.”
During the trip
Taboos, spirits and superstition
Based on Ms Malyneth’s own experience, her advice is for ‘strangers’ when entering the jungle to have a reverence for ‘spirits of the forest’ and pray for happiness regardless of your religion.
She adds: “We cannot talk about bad things when we go into the forest. No matter if you are Christian or Buddhist, please try to say only good things.”
(A common belief about Asian jungles is that if a humanly voice is heard calling out your name, do not answer or even turn around. It is believed that spirits inhabit the jungle and can trap you in their realm. Always apologise before relieving yourself in the forest, before you soil the ground. Taboo areas to avoid are clearings, banana trees, banyan and bamboo groves)
Dos and Don’ts
Water, snacks and chocolate are really important ration for Ms Malyneth’s team before a trip. Going into the forest can be really exhausting, so Ms Malyneth recommends that people eat chocolate instead of energy drinks.
“Water, snack, chocolate and rice are the inevitable ingredients for my trip. I would recommend people not to eat noodles because it makes heat in the body so an adventurer cannot go long distance. Instead, they should prepare dry fish or beef, ahead.”
Ms Malyneth recommended people not to use or throw plastic in the forest. Instead, they should prepare recycled tools to use and bear in mind that the environment must keep clean.
Going on an adventure as a team
Based on Ms Malyneth’s time-tested experience, she said: “We should not walk together at the same time if we want to walk for long distances. We might be non-stop talking and it consumes our time. And walking separately enables us to help each other if there is an incident. And don’t forget to use walkie-talkies!”
From her learned perspective, things can go hard or easy depending on the intelligence and flexibility of the individuals. As a team leader, she has never had any problems with members.
“I used to learn to work as a team leader since I was young. We have to have a clear plan of where to visit), materials to bring, specific roles of a member (cooker, motor checker and videographer). And my role as a leader is to manage and make sure that the trip will be smooth. I have to guarantee the budget and member’s safety. If they commit mistakes, I don’t blame them but we open up with a discussion, share and reflect on our ideas. As a team leader, I cannot put a burden on them. We all must have equal voice and work towards our common goal.”
By Say Tola