Karaoke Madness!!!
(Cambodian style!)

Above and left: Ride by day, sing by night!

It's Mr Pumpy's ambition to sing in every karaoke bar in Southeast Asia and he's well on his way to achieving his dream.

For the bashful Westerner, singing karaoke is about as desireable as dropping your bike shorts in front of your girlfriend's mother, but it's Mr Pumpy's strong belief that it's an integral part of the international cyclists' skill set.

"Cyclists are are cut above backpackers and they should rise to the challenge!" says Mr Pumpy forcefully.

Unfortunately, along with the millions of bleeding heart PC Western backpackers, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen doesn't share Mr Pumpy's grand vision, and in 2001 he closed down most of the karaoke bars in Cambodia, sighting them as dens of iniquity. Mr Pumpy thinks Mr Hun Sen should get a bike.

Karaoke bars are not necessarily halls of drugs and prostitution, but often just places where Cambodians go to have a drink and let their hair down. In a conservative society such as Cambodia (and most Southeast Asian cultures), it's the only place you can go to let off steam and express some of your heartfelt longings. Mr Pumpy is full of heartfelt longings.

If you do get up and bash out a tune, the locals will absolutely go ape. You'll get free beer, pats on the back and a "You my friend! Any pob-pem in Cambodia, you come see me!" from the local Police Chief. Mr Pumpy knows a lot of Police Chiefs all over Southeast Asia.

The drill: How to be a karaoke king like Mr Pumpy!
These days in Cambodia it's basically a live performance. To get around the government ban, the locals have dispensed with the TV set and replaced it with a very talented guy and a synthesiser. You simply get up and sing live, reading the lyrics off a sheet of paper, and the synth guy plays along.

It's a little more challenging than the old "singing by numbers", and one wonders what the synth guys were doing during the Kmer Rouge times (playing secretly at night?), but it's the closest thing you'll ever get to being Frank Sinatra, and an experience not to be missed.

If you're really keen, you can take along a lyric sheet print out of your favourite ten songs, and the synth guy is sure to know most of them. It's also perfectly OK for Western women cyclists to join in the fun. (Try maybe Shirley Bassey's Hey, big spender! or Kylie Minogue's I should be so lucky! - sure to go down well!)

For the record, Mr Pumpy likes to do Beatles songs (always a crowd pleaser!) and when the night gets on a bit, he throws in some Frank Sinatra (watch the ladies swoon!)

"Since doing karaoke, I've come to appreciate Frank's vocal range, Feely!" says Mr Pumpy, "Before that, I thought he couldn't sing a note!" Yeah, right, great insight, Mr Pumpy...