One of my favorite activities during my trip to Asia was a sunset rice paddy ATV tour in Cambodia. Surprisingly, it wasn’t something I was particularly looking forward to before the trip started. I’d never driven an ATV or been to a rice paddy, and therefore my brain couldn’t compute this information and just stashed it in a corner until further notice.
I didn’t start processing what was about to happen until my friend Kate and I were filling out paperwork, in what I will call a “multi-purpose” room. While we were signing our lives away, a naked toddler romped around with questionably feral cats. It didn’t even occur to me that I’d be driving the ATV, until half way through our instructor’s rapid-fire explanation of which controls I should NEVER touch. Up until this point, I had pictured myself latched onto someone’s back like a baby koala, riding peacefully into the sunset.
I think it’s probably good that I came to the realization that I’d be driving so late, because my crippling anxiety didn’t have much time to work its magic. On the bright side, we were given some dank helmets that made us look like power rangers (I love helmets because I need them to survive). We were also given surgical face masks against dust. I would have preferred a cool bandana to cap off my look, so if you are going for style points, I recommend to BYOBandana. The surgical masks were effective but generally gave off more of an “Outbreak” vibe than “Motocrossed” (I have a very inclusive taste in movies). I was also relieved to learn that we were going to be given a “test” drive with an instructor sitting behind us. If we failed this test miserably enough, we would be allowed to use the aforementioned baby koala procedure.
Even though both Kate and I drove like scared turtle babies, we “passed.” After just one more tip, we were ready to set off behind our fearless motorbiking leader. This tip was to not drive over cow patties. Foreshadowing.
The best part of this excursion was definitely the culture we were able to see on our ride. We drove through fully functional rice paddies, with farmers working away, and smiling children waving as we drove by. It was really really real.
I was grinning from ear to ear because the children were so precious and the scenery was so idyllic. In an awkward twist, I was too scared to take my hands off the handlebars to wave back, so I tried to just smile really hard. Given that half my face was covered by a surgical mask, I tried to “smile with my eyes” or as Tyra says “smize“. I almost certainly creeped out multiple children by leering at them.
Also, I drove right over a cow patty. As predicted, my wheels kicked the poo bits right up onto my legs and feet. I did try to avoid it, but since there was one consistent line-o-poo right across the road, I had to make a brave sacrifice. My only consolation is that Kate, who was apparently behind me laughing, suffered the same fate ten seconds later.
We eventually made it to our sunset spectating point and were naturally given the opportunity to take a photo with a water buffalo. Because no good sunset is complete without a giant scary cow. I declined, mostly because on Animal Planet’s “10 Most Dangerous Animals” countdown, water buffalos are #1. I wasn’t going to take any chances, and I’m left to believe that the child in charge of said buffalo is the bravest child in the world.
All in all, I would highly recommend this activity. 10/10 would do again. It’s something different from the normal sightseeing, you actually get a peek at the non-tourist lifestyle, and you might be proud of yourself for sticking a toe outside your comfort zone. Even if said toe gets poo on it.