Cycling in Cambodia
Cycling in Cambodia is no longer difficult and dangerous as for example in the early 1990's. I have been 4 times now in Cambodia and I loved it all four times. The first time was in 1995, the last time in 2010. In 1995 there was no way you could go cycling (landmines), even a short ride out of Phnom Penh was dangerous and a year later the country was again in turmoil. Fortunately those days are over. Cycling in Cambodia is safe and a lot of fun.
Even after the road to Siem Reap was safe to travel, it was still tricky to cycle. Landmines kept being a problem until the late 1990's. There were not even busses because many bridges had collapsed.
In 1995 the only way to reach Siem Reap and Angkor was by boat over the Ton Le Sap lake.
Nowadays, Cambodia is safe and a pleasure to travel and cycle!
Angkor Photo Gallery, a random set of photos of the Angkor Complex
Quite an experience as on the way back one of the front windows broke in bad weather and "the whole" lake floated the boat.
These days are over, Cambodia is free from landmines, although I was told as recent as 2010, some remote areas might still have mines.
Still, during my trips in Cambodia, I never had any troubles though I saw plenty of victims of landmine explosions.
In 2002 I was back for a second visit, this time I went to do some cycling in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge was effectively disappeared, or this was what the government you wanted to believe. In some areas, the rumor went, they were still in charge running casino's!
Typical landscape and roads in rural Cambodia,
nowadays most of the ongoing roads are in excellent condition but ...
I crossed the Thai Cambodia border at Aranyaphratet, no better place in this part to start cycling in Cambodia. There was no need to buy a visa in Bangkok as you can buy one right at the border, $20, B1000 and you can pass. I found a complete different country, people were smiling, the fear I had seen during my first visit was gone and people started to think about the future which looked much brighter.
The first part to Sisophon was quite bad. The road was basically a pothole road, asphalt with big holes but it was ok to cycle. After Sisophon, a few descent guest houses gave me a stay for the night, I went in one day to Siem Reap.
This was the hard part. There was fortunately not much traffic though this seems to have changed since then. The road is however still in terrible condition. It's no more then a sand path of red and yellow sand.
The good thing is: it's all flat! There are villages on the road and the people were nice and friendly. In Phnum Lieb there was a little guest house but I skipped it. This is actually the junction if you insist to go north and try your luck to cross into Thailand at Osmach.
In fact a better option is Preah Vihar which can be reached easier from Siem Reap through road 67. Mind you, these roads are no more then sand paths and cycling is not much fun on roads like that (as it isn't much fun by bus or motorbike).
Siem Reap had changed since 1995. At the time I cycled to Angkor but it was impossible to visit some of the outer temples as the Khmer Rouge was still active.
Since these days much has changed, cycling in Cambodia is everywhere possible without any danger.
I found a nice small one for a few dollars. Before entering the room I had to wash the sand of my body, clothes and bicycle.
Fortunately there was a hose and because I had found 3 other cyclists on the road, in no time we were cleaning our bikes and each other.
Siem Reap is, the base of where Angkor has to be explored. Of course there had been some changes since the days Henri Mahout's discovery of the Angkor temples in 1860.
Mahout is usually seen as the discoverer of Angkor but it's not completely right, Angkor had been visited in the centuries before by others, including English, Portuguese and Dutch but it had never been taken the attention it deserved. Mahout's discovery was right timed, in the middle of the European Romantic period which fitted well in the thinking of the Europeans.
When I came back for some cycling in Cambodia later, I found that the road to Phnom Penh was now asphalted and in good condition. The bridges were excellent and the closer I got to Phnom Penh, the busier the road became.
Phnom Penh is sometimes seen as the little sister of Bangkok and it does make a little sense. Both cities contain a Royal Palace.
It has to be said, the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh, though very nice, is no match for it's big brother in Bangkok. Here is an extensive description of Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh is nowadays again a busy city. It was different in the Khmer Rouge years. In the period 1975-1979 Phnom Penh was almost completely abandoned, only 20.000 people stayed there.
And the city contained one of the most horrific slaughterhouses of human history: Tuol Sleng. The nearby Killing Fields were the expression of the zero tolerance Khmer Rouge with Pol Pot as Number 1. Here's some more about the Killing fields and Tuol Sleng.
Going north was in 1995 only possible by boat and there was no way you could cycle into Laos. Nowadays this border is open though the Cambodian part of that road is still in poor condition. On the Lao side it's all new and good asphalt. This means you can start cycling in Cambodia and continue to Laos and further to Thailand, Vietnam or China.
These days you can even cycle from Phnom Penh to Battambang, around 300km. Worth? Well, I have to admit, I skipped it. The reports I get are not encouraging me to start thinking about this road. And what about Battambang?
The road is in good condition, all flat and you can get accommodation in Purat and Kampong Chnang. Another option, which is valid in the whole of Cambodia is to ask the temples. usually they are happy to accommodate you, though in the big cities this is more unusual as there are hotels.
The last few years many cyclist take the road from Laos into Cambodia to Stung Treng. The Lao part of the road is good, in Cambodia the road is fine too.
And at the border you can obtain boith a Lao and a Cambodia visa. (Laos US $45 plus US $3 "stamp" money), Cambodia US $25. There is still no bank or official money exchange at the border so mnake sure you have some dollars in small notes with you.
The nearest places to change money in Laos is Don Det or if you want Khong Island (hotels and restaurants give you a resonable fair deal).
On the Cambodian site there is little need to change as long as you have $1 and $5 bills, you will get your change back in Cambodian riels. (in 2013 the official rate US $1 = 4100 Cambodian Riels).
And then there's the road to Vietnam. It's another road I didn't cycle, though it seems to be a reasonable good one. I can't tell anything about that road.
Other pages about Cycling in Cambodia are:
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One of the wonders of the orient, Angkor shows what men have achieved. It's one of the most beautiful ruins you can possibly visit.
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