Travelling In Cambodia – The Cycling Way

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Find Out Why Travelling In Cambodia Is best Enjoyed By Bicycle

From cycling around the Angkor Wat complex to riding through stunning Cambodian countryside, this now peaceful country has so much to offer.

Cycling across this flat country gives you a different perspective, this way of travelling in Cambodia will be a unique experience.

Cambodians will be happy to see you

Cambodians will be happy to see you

Cycling In Cambodia

Even if you don’t have your own bike, that doesn’t need to stop you.  There are plenty of places that offer bike tours of the major attractions of the cities.

You may think it would be too crazy to cycle in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, yet compared to Vietnam the roads are in better condition and much quieter.  It’s still hot though!

There’s lots to see. I’ve tried to cover the best bits

Top Things To See By Bike Around Siem Reap

Cycling Around Angkor Wat

The standout experience of travelling in Cambodia was cycling around the temples at Angkor Wat.  Even though it’s not possible to cross the moat that surrounds the temple there are lots of other routes to explore.  Roads hug the sides of the temples and off road paths weave around the temple stones.  It was nice not having to rely on or stress about your own driver made for a relaxing time.  You decide everything.

Off road tracks at Angkor Wat

Off road tracks at Angkor Wat

Kbal Spean

An ornately carved riverbed, set deep in the jungle of north east Angkor.   Taking the back roads it’s a 2 to 3 hour bike ride from central Siem Reap.  Bring a bike lock as you’ll need to lock up the bikes in the car park. It’s a further 2 km walk into the jungle to get to the carvings.

The carvings stretch out for 150 meters along the river

The carvings stretch out for 150 meters along the river and are in honor of of the Hindu god Shiva.

Banteay Srei

A perfect spot to cycle on the way to Kbal Spean from Siem Reap.  Siuated 15 miles north of Siem Reap, this temple built in the 10th century played at important role for Khmer in their adoration of the Hindu God Shiva.

This sandstone temple is often called ''A jewel of Khmer art'

This sandstone temple is often called ”A jewel of Khmer art’

 

Here Are Some Siem Reap Hire Bike Shops

Top Things To See By Bike Around Phnom Penh

Cycling along the river front promenade is a scenic route, which takes you past many restaurants and museums.  The roads are wider and quieter than in Siem Reap.   The roads are for the most part in good condition.

Cycling To The Royal Palace

There is along strip around the Royal Palace, which is a nice ride.  The journey shouldn’t take anymore than 10 minutes from the main tourist area.

Wide and relaxing streets of Phnom Penh

Wide streets of Phnom Penh

The Royal Palace serves as the home for the king of Cambodia

The Royal Palace serves as the home for the king of Cambodia

The Riverside Promenade

The riverside gets really hot during the middle part of the day, so best to visit in the late afternoon or early morning.  There are lots interesting temples to weave in and out of as you cycle down.  There are a few rooftop bars where you can stop of along the way.  Most recommended are le Moon which has views of the Wat Ounalom pagoda and the Chinese house; a stylish and spacious bar.

Temples along the river front

Temples along the river front

Places To Rent Bicycle In Phnom Penh

Thinking About Doing A Tour?

If you want a more organised trip, Grasshopper tours offer one or two day excursions in and around Siem Reap (not currently running in Phnom Penh).  These include exploring the surrounding countryside and Angkor Wat temple complex.

The Cambodian Countryside

Waking up early, often starting cycling around 6.30 a.m. we not only avoided the hottest part of the day, we also saw sunrise everyday.

The landscape in Cambodia is flat and looking out over miles of paddy fields was a beautiful sight to start the day.  The sun reflected in the water that covered the rice growing in the fields.

The sun setting between the arches of a temple

Sunrise across the rice paddies

Sunrise across the rice paddies

 

The sun in Cambodia anytime of the year is unbearably strong during the middle of the day.  Between the hours of 11 am to 2 pm, it’s best to find somewhere to avoid the sun’s gaze.

Buddhist temples dominate the landscape in Cambodia

Buddhist temples dominate the landscape in Cambodia

Break time outside a temple

Break time outside a temple

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Seeing School Children On Their Way To School

Children start their studies exceedingly early in Cambodia.  With classes starting at 7 a.m, I would often cycle past large groups of school children.  This was a highlight to see their friendly faces and exchange raucous salutations.

Children taking their own bike rides to school

Children taking their own bike rides to school

Crossing Rivers

With the fragile infrastructure in Cambodia there is little funding to invest in roads.  Consequently they often disintegrate and as a result Cambodians often have to rely on river taxis to get where they need to get to.

Taking a river taxi to get to the next village

Taking a river taxi to get to the next village

Finding Food Along The Way

There are also plenty of restaurants that serve basic food like meat and rice, regularly found as you make your way.

Hotels

Cambodia is a very cheap country to travel in.  Although the places I stayed in were basic, they all had hot showers and comfortable double beds.  I never paid more than $12 US each night.

Best Time Of Year To Ride

It maybe refreshing to cycle through monsoons but you don’t want to make a habit of it.   Avoiding the rainy season which happens between the months of May and August is a must.  The best time to go is in September to October as the dry season is starting to appear but temperatures are not as extreme as in March time.

What I Took With Me

Only having bags on the back pannier gave me the pain of a flat back tire.  It would have been easy to have attached bags on the front in order to spread out the weight better.

My tent and air mattress (a must for the hard ground) was attached with bungee cords.

One bag was only for clothes and the other bag was for maintenance and electronics.

Setting off at the start of the journey

Setting off at the start of the journey

Mechanic putting panniers on the back of the bike

Mechanic putting panniers on the back of the bike

Renting A Bicycle

In the major cities, there are plenty of cycle hire shops.  Siem reap is full of them as it’s popular to cycle around the temples in Angkor Wat.  They are normally only rented for the day, so any long distance it’s wise to bring your own bike.

Is Travelling in Cambodia Safe?

Travelling in Cambodia should be a safe experience.  The biggest problem to watch out for is petty theft, so I always made sure that my bike was close to me.  Camping isn’t legal in Cambodia, so on the rare occasion I camped I made sure I was away from any onlookers.

Friendly locals

Compared with in Vietnam, people are much friendlier.  On many occasions when I needed help, they would use their limited English to do what they could.

What Are The Roads Like In Cambodia?

When travelling in Cambodia the quality of roads throughout the country will vary hugely.  The main roads that interlink the major cities were wide single-lined smooth roads.  Cycling was easy and the abundance of motorbikes, you have safety in numbers.

It’s a different story on the less traveled roads.  The upside is they are very quiet, however they are often dusty and they make for a bumpy ride.

Paradise in Cambodia

Paradise in Cambodia

Standard main road in Cambodia

Standard main road in Cambodia

Muddy tracks were often slippy

Muddy tracks were often slippy

The Route I Took

Cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia was a total distance was 423 km with the majority being very flat terrain.  Roads were mainly good but on occasions roads got very dusty.

The route I took

Day 1 Ho Chi Minh > Krong Bavet

Day 2 Krong Bavet > Krong Svay Vieng

Day 3 Krong Svay VIeng > Kampong Cham

Day 4 Rest day

Day 5 Kampong Cham > Stueng Saen

Day 6 Stueng Saen > Kampong Kdai

Day 7 Kampong Kdai > Siem Reap

Arriving into Cambodia

After a short wait at the border, I was in Cambodia.   Staying at the border town, Bavet, a dust bowl of a town and full of casinos, to say I was looking forward to the next morning was an understatement.  Annoyed at myself at lying in the next morning, as knowing the sun beats down forcibly by 8 a.m, by which point I set off.

Camping in Cambodian Bush

I had my tent so why not use it?  Riding until 4 pm I started looking for a place to stay.  I thought to myself here is the perfect place to stay.  Suddenly people came out of nowhere, and I realised that even though my camp was behind a few bushes, there were a people living nearby.   They came to check my out, and after I thought just for a moment I was going to be in the clear, the police turned up.

Camping skills still have a lot to be desired

Camping skills still have a lot to be desired

 

Being Taken To The Police Station

Camping is illegal in Cambodia.  After being escorted back to a police stations, they warned me its dangerous.  They didn’t ask me for any money, and from then on I only stayed in hotels.

The Body Pain

I was really grateful that I bought a new saddle and padded shorts.  This made those 100 km days bearable. It still hurt but my saddle combined with loads of Vaseline made sure the chaffing was down a minimum.

Feeling exhausted was a constant thing, and as I wasn’t doing my own cooking it was really important that I managed to find enough street food to take in the calories that I would need.  This wasn’t an issue as there were loads of restaurants that offered meat and rice. After a while i must say it became a bit boring but needs must!

Thinking About Doing It

Travelling in Cambodia by bike is certainly not an easy thing to do.  The beating sun was relentless and having to take special over my diet and hydration is something I had never been conscience of before.  Yet the sunrises over the rice paddies and the people you meet along the way, will make it a special experience.

If you are thinking about taking this on yourself, it’s certainly doable.  The ground is flat throughout and as long as you eat up the mileage when the sun is at its least potent, you’ll certainly get the job done.  You don’t need too much money either, as on the nights I didn’t camp, hotels were only $6 – $8 (rooms without a fan) and food never exceeded $2 a meal.

More Pictures From The Trip

 

A typical Cambodian house. Downstairs provides shade during the day.

A typical Cambodian house. Downstairs provides shade during the day.

Buffalo relaxing in the sun

Buffalo relaxing in the sun

Buffalo grazing in the sun

Buffalo grazing in the sun

Eating a duck for eating's meal

Eating a duck for the eating’s meal

The showers were very basic!

The showers were very basic!

 

 

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