Cambodia on Two Wheels

13 days / 12 nights

Cambodia is coming up fast on the inside track as a top cycling destination and this 14-day adventure through the Kingdom covers the highlights on offer from the popular South Coast loop to original rides that reveal the beauty of the Angkor temples. We begin in the bustling and vibrant capital of Phnom Penh, visiting the gracious National Museum, the more sombre Tuol Sleng as well as an island in the middle of the Mekong River. The route through the southern provinces of Takeo, Kep, Kampot and Sihanoukville will provide a real taste of countryside life before we head north. We discover the old capital of Sambor Prei Kuk before a series of rides in Angkor and beyond open up this wonderful location in all its unique beauty, from the glorious temples to village interaction and life on the Great Lake.

In brief

  1. Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh. Visit Royal Palace and National Museum.
  2. Day 2: Tuol Sleng & Killing Fields. Afternoon Visit to Silk Island.
  3. Day 3: Phnom Penh to Takeo.
  4. Day 4: Takeo to Kep.
  5. Day 5: A Day on Rabbit Island.
  6. Day 6: Kep to Kampot.
  7. Day 7: Free Day in Kampot
  8. Day 8: Kampot to Sihanoukville
  9. Day 9: Day at leisure in Sihanoukville
  10. Day 10: Sihanoukville to Siem Reap. Orientation tour of Siem Reap.
  11. Day 11: Cycling to the Jungle Temple Ta Prohm and the walled city of Angkor Thom
  12. Day 12: Roluos Temples and Floating Villages
  13. Day 13: Angkor Wat Sunrise and Departure

In detail

Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh. Visit Royal Palace and National Museum.

On arrival check in to your hotel. In the afternoon, we explore the stunning Royal Palace complex, home to the Cambodian royal family. We begin at the Throne Hall and Napoleon III Pavilion, a gift from the French emperor in the 19th century. We continue to the Silver Pagoda, named after the 5000 silver tiles covering the floor, each weighing 1kg. Inside is a delicate emerald Buddha made of baccarat crystal, which gives the temple its Khmer name of Wat Preah Keo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha).
We leave the Royal Palace and continue to the nearby National Museum, home to the world's finest collection of sculpture from the Angkor period. The exquisite building was completed in 1920 and features collections from the pre-Angkor, Angkor and post-Angkor periods. We concentrate on the incredible sandstone sculpture from Angkor, as well as the intricate bronzes.

Day 2: Tuol Sleng & Killing Fields. Afternoon Visit to Silk Island.

We come face to face with the horrific crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng was a former high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a centre for interrogation, torture and death. Today it is a museum of torture and serves to remind visitors of the terrible atrocities that came to pass in Cambodia. 17,000 people passed through the gates of this prison and only seven lived to tell the tale. The Khmer Rouge were meticulous in their record keeping, photographing all the prisoners and many of these haunting black and white images are on display in the cells. Tuol Sleng is a profoundly moving experience and not everyone will want to visit. However, it is key to understanding the hell into which Cambodia descended and how far it has come in the years since.

We then travel out of town to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Prisoners from Tuol Sleng followed this same route to their fate. An old Chinese cemetery, Choeung Ek was turned into an extermination camp for political prisoners. The remains of 8985 people were exhumed from mass graves and are kept in a memorial stupa here. Despite the horrors of the past, it is a peaceful place to go and a tranquil spot to reflect on the tragic events that engulfed Cambodia and its people.
After lunch we then take a tuk-tuk to the nearby island in the Mekong River called Koh Dach, also known as ‘Silk Island’, where we cycle around the island villages where silk weaving is the main livelihood and where there is a loom under every house. We can see the weaving techniques first-hand and experience a slice of rural Cambodia close to the capital before returning by tuk-tuk.

Day 3: Phnom Penh to Takeo.

Leaving Phnom Penh on NH2, we make a short side trip to the temple of Tonle Bati about 32 km south of Phnom Penh, our first encounter with the glories of Angkor. We continue south to Takeo, our base for the night where we stay in a local hotel.

Day 4: Takeo to Kep.

We head west from Takeo, then veer south on the newly renovated NH31, one of the nicest rides in the country. We take lunch in Kompong Trach and visit the cave pagodas of Phnom Sor nearby. Later we continue on to the old colonial-era beach resort of Kep, our base for two nights.

Day 5: A Day on Rabbit Island.

We travel to the boat pier to board a local boat for the journey to Koh Tonsay or Rabbit Island. We journey across calm waters to this beautiful palm-fringed island, home to a small community of fisherfolk and farmers. We leave some time free to enjoy the white-sand beaches that ring the island. After a lunch of fresh seafood, there is more time to enjoy the sun, sea and sand before we travel back to Kep by boat.

Day 6: Kep to Kampot.

We take a short coastal ride along to Kampot, a charming riverside town under the shadow of Bokor Mountain. Along the way, we stop to visit the impressive cave pagoda of Phnom Chhnork, with a perfectly preserved pre-Angkorian temple inside. Overnight in Kampot.

Day 7: Free Day in Kampot

Today we leave some free time to enjoy the countryside around Kampot. Explore the salt flats, visit a pepper farm or just take some time out of the saddle, our guide is on hand to help you explore the area at your own pace. Overnight in Kampot.

Day 8: Kampot to Sihanoukville

Today we tackle a longer ride to Sihanoukville. We ride along the base of Bokor Mountain, passing some very picturesque fishing villages which make for good photo opportunities. When we get to the bustling junction town of Veal Renh, we switch to the support vehicle to avoid cycling on the busy National Highway 4. Overnight in Sihanoukville.

Day 9: Day at leisure in Sihanoukville

We leave today free in Sihanoukville to enjoy the beaches before our exploration of the majestic temples of Angkor near Siem Reap. Cycle to nearby beaches or take a trip to some of Cambodia's up and coming islands. Overnight in Sihanoukville.

Day 10: Sihanoukville to Siem Reap. Orientation tour of Siem Reap.

This morning we travel to Sihanoukville Airport for a short flight to Siem Reap, gateway to the incredible temples of Angkor. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel in Siem Reap. In the afternoon we enjoy an orientation tour of Siem Reap by bicycle, passing some of the most important temples in the town, like Wat Preah Inkosei and Wat Bo, as well as visiting other popular landmarks such as the Old Market and Pub St, setting the scene for an insightful stay in town.

Day 11: Cycling to the Jungle Temple Ta Prohm and the walled city of Angkor Thom

We explore some of the most impressive temples at Angkor on two wheels, taking advantage of back roads and jungle paths to get off the beaten path and experience Angkor without the crowds.

We explore some of the most impressive temples at Angkor on two wheels, taking advantage of back roads and jungle paths to get off the beaten path and experience Angkor without the crowds.

Leaving SIem Reap early, we use a forest path to avoid the traffic and wind our way past the walls of Banteay Kdei to the North Gate of Ta Prohm. The ‘jungle temple’ has been abandoned to the elements, a reminder that while empires rise and fall, the riotous power of nature marches on, oblivious to the dramas of human history. Left as it was ‘discovered’ by French explorer Henri Mouhot in 1860, the tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones, man first conquering nature to create, nature later conquering man to destroy.

We wind our way past Takeo and turn left into the jungle just after Chao Say Devada temple. This brings us down a beautiful jungle path to the East Gate, or Gate of the Dead. We then ascend the walls of Angkor Thom and ride around the southeast quadrant to stop at atmospheric Prasat Chrung, a seldom-visited temple overlooking the vast moat of Angkor Thom. We then ride from South Gate to the Bayon and explore the main temples of Angkor Thom on foot, including Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Preah Palilay, Terrace of the Leper King and Preah Pithu.

Bayon temple is famous for its enigmatic faces of Lokesvara, the Buddha of Compassion, said to bear an uncanny resemblance to the great King Jayavarman VII himself. Baphuon is nicknamed the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle as the French took it apart stone by stone in the 1960s for restoration, only for all records to be destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. Cycling along the back paths to the lesser known temples of Angkor Thom such as Preah Palilay and Preah Pithu is a rewarding experience. Later we head back to town by motorbike.

Day 12: Roluos Temples and Floating Villages

After breakfast, we depart by tuk tuk and then cycle through paddy fields to the Roluos Group of temples stopping at the pyramid-mountain 9th century Bakong temple and at Prasat Preah Ko. Afterwards, we head towards the floating village of Kompong Pluk and board small wooden boats for the trip to visit the village. Cruising down a narrow waterway, we enter this medieval floating village, where the houses stand atop stilts as much as seven metres above the water. Everything lives on the water, pigs, dogs, crocodiles and people, all jockeying for space in this incredible floating town. We explore the local wat here, before boarding a bigger boat to take us through the flooded forest and across the Great Lake to Chong Kneas and the holy mountain of Phnom Krom. We climb Phnom Krom for a glorious view over the Tonle Sap before heading back to Siem Reap by road.

Day 13: Angkor Wat Sunrise and Departure

Rising at the crack of dawn, we journey out to the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed to be the world's largest religious building, this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is most famous temple at Angkor. We stay at Angkor Wat to enjoy a picnic breakfast. As the crowds return to their hotels, we venture into Angkor Wat to enjoy its magnificence in peace and quiet, beginning at the bas-reliefs that tell of tales from Hindu mythology and of the glories of the Khmer empire. We leave this rest of the day free until departure.