Tuk Tuk Diaries

We were sleeping somewhere deep in the northern jungles of Cambodia when I was suddenly awoken by Shawn, who was in a panic. "DUDE there's something out there!" At first I thought it was one of his usual jokes, but then I heard it. It sounded like some kind of pterodactyl, and it wasn't happy with our presence. It was just out of sight and it wouldn't stop screaming. Out there hidden in dense jungle, in the pitch black of night, was some kind of beast ready to devour us. All we could do was sit there trembling in each other's arms waiting for death. This wasn't what any of us had in mind when we decided to come to Cambodia.

My name is Mitch St.Pierre and I have osteogenesis imperfecta. Put simply, my bones are like glass. Add in the fact that I use a wheelchair, and you would probably think I'd be the last person to be trekking through the jungles of Cambodia. Regardless, I was there in the Cambodian jungle, hundreds of miles away from civilization, with my long-time friend from Canada, Shawn, and our new friend Max who had been also working at my hotel.

After making a documentary film about Cambodia back in 2011 with Shawn, I ended up purchasing a small resort hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The hotel was fully equipped with swimming pool, bar, and restaurant which I had been running for the past three years. Home to the world's largest religious monument and temple complex, Angkor Wat, the floating and flooded villages, as well as many other exotic experiences, it's fair to say my time in Siem Reap so far has been pretty epic. But none of that compared to touring the open countryside of Cambodia and visiting places tourists never get to see.

Phnom Penh to Siem Reap Via Tuk Tuk

It was the fourth night of our tuk tuk journey which started in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city. The goal was to travel across the country, ending in Siem Reap. I had just purchased a tuk tuk, which is basically a motorbike-driven carriage, and we figured we would make an adventure out of getting it home. So the three of us decided to embark on an adventure and drive it back ourselves.

After leaving Phnom Penh we made our way north along the Mekong River. By dark we found a monastery and spent the night there. After being awoken by monks we then continued onward to a small town called Stung Treng. After half a day going the wrong way toward the Laos border, we had to come all the back to Stung Treng before finally crossing the mighty Mekong River by ferry. Once on the other side we turned west and spent our days chasing the sunset across the mostly untouched northern half of Cambodia.

Mitch St.Pierre riding in the back of the tuk tuk in Cambodia

The trip was made up of long days of driving, and it was as bumpy, hot, and dusty as you can imagine Cambodian jungle roads to be. Having three of us confined to a tuk tuk for 16 hours a day was a challenge in itself, but navigating the unmarked roads was a wholly different story. How we ever made it out is beyond me.

An Appetite for Adventure

As challenging as the heat and driving were, the food was even more testing. Strange foods like boiled piranha heads and eggs with half-formed chicken embryos; the list goes on. It was everything you would dream an exotic Cambodian trek to be. Yet as much as I was loving it, it goes without saying we didn't eat too much. I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new diet plan.

As tough as the days were, the cool nights made it all worthwhile. Each evening, Shawn, Max, and I would park in a random spot, have a few drinks, and reminisce about the day's wild events. It's hard to believe that Shawn and I had in only 10 years already explored a large portion of the globe, and racked up many crazy stories. It was getting hard to keep track of them all.

The tuk tuk parked for the night at camp

I had met Shawn 13 years earlier while in college, and after realizing we had the same obsession for adventure and new experiences, we became fast friends. But it wasn't until our first adventure through Latin America that our wanderlust truly took hold. We traveled for four months (in the same Quickie wheelchair I'm still using now in Cambodia over 10 years later), and experienced all sorts of amazing events. From being held up at gunpoint to getting stranded on deserted islands, you name it and we've experienced it. For most people those are the experiences that would cause PTSD and send them home forever. For us, it was a call to go even further.

Mysteries of the Jungle

As for that thing that went 'screech' in the night? Well, to make a long story short we didn't get devoured by the beast, nor did we ever find out what it was. Despite having an audio recording, no one to date has been able to identify that animal. We did, however, wake up with a new appreciation for life, the kind only one who has been so close to death's door would understand.

By the time we reached Siem Reap none of us could even stand our own stench. For a guy to go from showering two or three times a day, to not showering once in seven days, I couldn't have been happier to finally be home.

It was crazy to think back on not only this adventure, but all the other ones that led me to this point in my life. With each journey I stepped through a doorway never to return the same. I remember how every time I would be nervous about what might happen along the way. But every time, no matter what, I not only always pulled through, but also came out stronger as a person.

If there is one thing that years of traveling has taught me, it's that it's okay to be afraid to go into the unknown. But it's important to know that regardless of what happens, everything will be okay. In the past 10 years alone I've been around the world and have experienced a lot. I am living proof that anything is achievable, and there is no place one can't go.

I hope you'll come back from time to time to hear more about some of my adventures. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a favorite quote of mine whose origin is as mysterious as life itself. It goes: "A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."

About the Author

Mitch St.Pierre

Mitch St.Pierre is an international businessperson, filmmaker, political adviser, world traveler, and former candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada. Traveling to over 40 countries in his Quickie wheelchair thus far has given him a broad view of the world. From the jungles of Cambodia and the mega-cities of Asia, to his involvement in Canada's International Trade Committee, Mitch has experienced it all. Mitch has been involved in several businesses in Asia including a hotel, restaurant, and currently, a tourism business. Mitch's first film aired nationwide on the Canadian Broadcasting Coporation (CBC) and Current TV in the United States.

With an international focus, Mitch has filmed in the most remote regions of the world. Mitch has also been a strong advocate for conflict regions which is what inspired him to get involved in politics, allowing him the opportunity to meet world leaders such as former American President Barack Obama, former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, prime ministers, and many influential policymakers.

Mitch's ride is a Quickie 2

Most of the stories here on Live Quickie were submitted by readers. Do you have a story to tell? We'd love to hear it. Submit your story here.

Date: 2/21/2017 12:00:00 AM

Ayron King
Thanks for sharing! And yes, I'll come back to here about the other adventures. #RideQuickie
2/23/2017 6:24:49 PM

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