I wasn’t sure where to start my Cambodia adventure, and since I didn’t know where to start and I knew I had some friends in Siem Reap at the moment I decided to start there. I met up with my friend Lucas from Brazil at a guesthouse he was at and recommended. When I got there from a day in a van and crossing the border from the south of Laos to Siem Reap, I understood why he recommended it. It is a big beautiful inexpensive hostel ($3 dollar dorms or $5 rooms) that has an amazing swimming pool, restaurants and bars… and a beach football/volleyball field/court where tournaments take place every afternoon with beer prizes.
When in Siem Reap I wanted to do what most people that come to Cambodia come to do. Go see the world famous Angkor Wat temples. I got myself a 3 day pass and went by bicycle and explored just about every temple in the complex that is around 60km and it was a beautiful experience. Oddly enough, I found that of ALL the maybe 20 temples I saw, Angkor Wat didn’t seem like the most impressive and beautiful. Right now I don’t have the pictures from Angkor Wat and the other temples, but will post later when I reunite with my backpack and big camera.
Here is link to a video I made of the amazing hostel in Siem Reap, the Garden Village Guesthouse:
Even before arriving in Cambodia I started liking the idea of buying a bicycle and traveling Cambodia this way. When I got to Siem Reap I started looking to see if anyone else would be up for it. At the hostel I tried to convince a few people and most of them said I was crazy.
I remembered a Facebook group people write posts about South East Asia, so I posted a notice that I was looking for someone to do the trip with. Surprisingly I got a message from a friend I had met a few days earlier, Leila from England who was also in that Facebook group and saw the post and she said she was interested in joining. She asked me to wait for her a few days while she came back up North. I accepted as Siem Reap and the guesthouse were amazing. While I waited a few more days I enjoyed the swimming pool and beach football and nights out at Pub Street, and started searching for where to buy bicycles for the trip, and preparing a bit.
When Leila arrived we started our journey. We started by going on bicycle from Siem Reap to Ronal (80km) , where we spent the night with an amazing farmer family and our new friend, Titya, after he saved us when it was dark and we were tired and we couldn’t find a place to stay.
We then went to Battambang and spent a day resting and exploring the town before heading to Pursat. We also rested a day and then went to Kampong Chhnang and loved exploring the Tonle Sap lake and floating villages by boat. We then made the ascent to the capital, Phnom Penh. We arrived during rush hour madness and made it to the hostel and swimming pool before dark. It was the first big accomplishment of the trip. It felt amazing.
This was my first time traveling by bicycle and I love it. It is supposed to be the rain season, but it has barely rained and the toughest part is usually the sun and heat while we’re pedaling. We’ve averaged around 100km / 62 miles a day, that depending on how fast we go and how many breaks we take can be around 8-10 hours of pedaling. This time on the bike has been great for thinking and taking in all the amazing views and greetings we get from locals who are amazing.
Cambodian people are the friendliest people I have encountered and are quick to give a smile and greeting to us when we pass them. And when we stop to eat, drink, take a break, etc they usually talk to us and are really friendly. This has made Cambodia one of my favorite countries. Below images of the bicycle adventure.
Some mystery fruit and flowers outside a temple
Recap of the cycling days so far: Day 1. Siem Reap to Ronal: 80km Day 2. Ronal-Sisophon- Battambang: 92km Day 3. Battambang- Pursat: 110km Day 4. Pursat – Kampong Chhnang: 97km Day 5. Kampong Chhnang-Phnom Penh: 94km Break… Koh Kong and Chi Paht without bike Day 6. Phnom Penh – Kampong Cham: 122km Day 7. Kampong Cham-Snuol: 134km Day 8. Snuol- Sen Monoroum*: 100km
*This was 124km, but I only did 100km of them
Total Kilometres cycled: 829 kilometres or 518 miles.
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. Almost every single backpacker I had met before going to Phnom Penh told me they didn’t like it. They described it as shady/grimy, etc… Many people even suggested skipping it altogether. However, as much as I appreciate advice, I prefer to come to my own conclusions.
I liked it. It wasn’t particularly beautiful, but I didn’t think it was ugly. Most people who come to Cambodia ONLY go to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, which is a shame.
Many of us have heard of the Khmer Rouge and/or Pol Pot, but most probably we don’t really know about the heinous genocide that happened in Cambodia during this time and killed up to 3 million people. I was fortunate enough to learn more about this by reading and visiting the main Killing Field (Choeung Ek) and the Tuol Sleng-S21 Prison around Pnom Penh.
Here is the wikipedia description of what happened during this time. It is tragic and incredibly sad to learn about the cruelty that took place, but please give it a read. It is depressing but important to learn about.
While in Phnom Penh we also went to the National Museum, some art galleries, went to a drink and draw session, and walked around a lot.
After a week exploring Phnom Penh a friend I had met in Siem Reap, Laetitia, invited me to join her to go to the Cardamom Mountains I had wanted to go to anyway. I went with her and two friends to go to Koh Kong and Chi Phat. I left the bicycles behind and went spent a few nice days in the mountains and beaches of these beautiful regions. Chi Phat is particularly interesting. “Once notorious for its loggers and poachers, the river village of Chi Phat (population 630 families) is now home to Wildlife Alliance’s pioneering community-based ecotourism project (CBET), offering travellers a unique opportunity to explore the Cardamoms ecosystems while contributing to their protection.”
Funny enough these cute kids display what most people in the Western world would call pijamas. Things you would only wear in the house and not in public. However I have seen in Laos and Cambodia that it is hugely accepted and seen that women wear these as normal outfits. Usually floral prints.