Cambodia - "Angkor and the Khmer Empire"

Cycling in Cambodia takes you back to a time when the Khmer Empire was site of the most impressive complex on earth.  Almost a thousand years ago, when there were only 50,000 inhabitants in London, there were some 3,000,000 million in and around the temples of Angkor..  It is so large and impressive that it is hard to wrap your mind around its scale.  It is also hard to wrap your mind around the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime that took over shortly after the Vietnam War.  We visit the The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison.  Uncomfortable as it may be, a visit to these sites is something that everyone on the planet would be well-served to make.

Unlike our other tours, there is not much climbing in Cambodia.  Most of it is flat, flat, flat.  As much as possible, we stick to the back roads where you contend with carts pulled by water buffaloes and bikes loaded with coconuts more than any fast moving vehicles  It is the real Cambodia.  Accommodations are very good in larger towns and resorts of Cambodia.  The popularity of Angkor Wat has seen to that.  In the smaller towns, there are more basic, but clean guesthouses.

Day 1 Phnom Penh

We'll meet in Phnom Penh and spend the night there.  We will have an orientation meeting in the evening, but otherwise you are free to explore,  Visit the Royal Museum or the Russian Market.

Day 2 Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville

After breakfast, we will take a 4 hour transfer to Sihanoukville where we can sort our our bikes and take a short shake down ride.  After that, you are free to visit the beaches and absorb the ambiance of this popular destination.

Day 3 Sihanoukville to Kampot

We take back roads out of Sihanoukville for the first 15k.  There are three small hills which provide nice views.  After 43k, at Veal Rinh, we turn East towards Kampot and the remainder of the ride is flat.  We'll pass several fishing villages and the Muslim Mosque.  As we approach Kampot we ride in front of Bokor Hill Station which is in Preah Monivong National Park.  The Hill Station, at 3500 feet high and built by the French as a resort in 1921, was one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge.  If finally fell to the Vietnamese in 1979.  Kampot is a nice riverside town with much of its colonial architecture still intact.   Its a terrific place to watch the sunset.  105k.

Day 4 Kampot to Kep

It is a short 25k ride from Kampot to Kep.  Kep is less visited, mini version of Sihanoukville.  In the afternoon we'll board a boat for the short trip out to Koh Tonsay, aka Rabbit Island, where there are a couple great beaches, to swim and relax.

Day 5 Kampot to Takeo

We continue on, away from the coast to Takeo.  Takeo is considered the cradle of pre-Angkorian civilization in Cambodia.  It was known as Funan or Nokor Phnom, "The Kingdom of the Hill".  We will enjoy a packed lunch in the countryside before cycling past Ta Mok's house (general commander of the Khmer Rouge).  We have time to board a boat and visit Phom Da, the hilltop temple of the Khmer Empire which preceded Angkor Wat.   85k.

Day 6 Takeo to to Phnom Penh

The first 12km is on a paved road, we then turn off the main road and bike past small villages and Tonli Bati lake.  We'll stop to visit the 11th century Chisor Temple. After lunch we can also take in Ta Phrom and Yeay Pox temples as we make our way closer to Phnom Penh on back roads.  Once we get within 15k of Phnom Penh, you have the option of taking a lift into town or riding your bike all the way to our hotel.  Phnom Penh has lots of traffic.  It's not especially fast moving though.  Riding all the way in is, let's say, interesting.  Once you understand the method to the madness, it is not quite as crazy as it looks, but it is completely optional.  If you want to do it, I will do it with you.  90k

Day 7 Rest Day -Phnom Penh

It's a rest day in Phom Penh, but we will arrange for visits to Tuol Sleng Prison and the Killing fields for those interested.  Otherwise, it's no problem doing your own thing.  It is easy and inexpensive to get around town using the cyclo's that patrol all parts of the city.  A visit to the National Palace is an option as is The Russian Market (so named because of its popularity with Russians)  Also, the foreign Correspondents Bar, overlooking the Mekong is a nice stop at dusk.   The shops and wine bars along 240 Street are very nice.  I would highly recommend a stop in the Firebird for something to eat.  There also is the highly rated Romdeng, where young Cambodians are trained in the restaurant business.  The food/service/atmosphere is great there.  If you are an adventurous eater, it is also THE spot to indulge in fried tarantulas (don't worry, they have other stuff) for which they are well known

Day 8 Phnom Phen to Kampong Chang

After breakfast, we will take a short transfer of 15km in order to avoid riding in rush hour Phnom Peng.   We will head off road at Preak Pnov and visit the Udong hill top temples. Udong preceded Phnom Penh as the capital up until the 18th century.  We then cycling about 15 kilometers on a sealed road before heading off the main road onto the dirt to Romeas. We have lunch in this little district town where we plan for a ride on the "bamboo train".  The bamboo train is a uniquely Cambodian thing.  There are no passenger trains in Cambodia.  So, the locals built their own little conveyances out of bamboo.  They are powered by what look to be lawnmower engines.  If a real train comes along.  No worries.  The real trains move so slow, there is plenty of time to pick up the bamboo train and move it out of the way.   The experience may make you appreciate Amtrak more.  We have a further 30k on back roads to Kampong Chang.  90k

Day 9 Kampong Chang to Pursat

After breakfast we will make a quick stop at the local pottery making facility. A clay pot is the symbol of Kampong Chang.  We then take a dirt road past old abandoned railway cars (the new railway line is now with a plan for it to run all the way from Singapore to Kunming, China).  We will stop for a picnic lunch before moving on to Krokor  with a stop at the floating village called Kampong Luong. We take transfer on the last bit of main road to arrive at our hotel in Pursat.  75K

Day 10 Pursat to Battambang

We begin our cycling right away from the hotel. After 4km we turn left off road to cycle to one of the longest man built canal in Cambodia. It was built with forced labor by the Khmer Rouge for agriculture purposes. We will have a picnic lunch by the canal and continue on to Kos Krolar.  and the main road at Svay Doun Keo. When we reach to the main road, we transfer to our hotel in Battambang. Battambang is the second largest city in Cambodia. It is #1 in terms of  rice production.  It retains some some charming colonial architecture and is situated on Sangke River.

Day 11 Battambang to Siem Reap

We bike for 15 minutes and then board a boat to cruise across the Sangker River and Tonle Sap Lake.  The boat ride will take most of the day (6 to 7 hours).  Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake and is an ecological hotspot designated as a Unesco bioshere in 1997.   Twice a year, during the wet seasons, the Tonle Sap River which drains the lake, reverses direction.  This is because the Mekong River, into which the Tonle Sap drains, rises in level.  At the time, the lake increases in size from 2,700 square kilometers to 16,000 square kilometers, flooding the surrounding fields and forests and supporting a wide variety of wildlife.  The boat passes Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, home and breeding area for thousands of water birds.  The area is home to many ethnic Vietnamese, Muslim and Cham communities, which constantly adjust to the water level.  Without the Tonle Sap, much of downstream Cambodia would be flooded by the Mekong River.

After crossing the Tonle Sap, we disembark at Chong Kneas floating village and bike the final 15km to our hotel.

Day 12 Siem Reap to Angkor Complex

We have 4 nights in Angkor..  It is THE destination in Southeast Asia and it makes no sense not to take the time to see it all.  The roads here are paved and great compared to the rest of Cambodia.  The hotels are top notch and so are the restaurants.

As part of the tour,, we will buy 3 day passes to Angkor.  The best way to see things is actually by bike.  All you need is a small lock to make sure your bike doesn't disappear while you are exploring the temples.

If you are not familiar with Angkor, it is big; 400 square miles.  That is plenty of space to roam.  Our plan is to bike to different spots within Angkor each day.  They are optional, of course, it is easy to do either more or less.  We will stay in a nice place with a pool.  There are no constraints.  Take in as much or little as you care to.

On Day 1 at Angkor, we will bike up the main entrance road and secure our 3 day passes at the check point. We will then take a well worn track and visit Kravan temple, Banteay Kdei, and stop at the famous Ta Phrom, embraced by the roots of enormous fig trees and gigantic creepers. From there it is on to Ta Phrom. It was built in 12th century King Jayavarvan VII who dedicated it to his mother.  Archaeologists decided to leave the vegetation of Ta Phrom in place to serve as a reminder of how the original discoverers found it and the other Angkor temples.

We continue on with the "petite circuit" passing Ta Keo temple, Chao Say Tevoda, Tommanon before reaching Angkor Thom city. There you will see, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of Elephants, Baphoun, Phimean Akas and Bayon temple.

Day 13 Siem Reap to Bantei Srei and Thousand Lingas

We depart from the hotel on the main road and enter Angkor Wat (don't forget your 3 day pass), turn left to the west and then continue 2km before turn right on the rural road.  We are able to avoid the busy traffic and bike past rice fields, villages,  and pagodas.  We will arrive in Banteay Srei before lunch. Banteay Srei temple is known as the women's citadel (built in 967 A.D dedicated to Brahma). Rather than being known for its size, Bantrei Srei is is known for its intricate and well preserved carving which is done primarily in pink sandstone.

After lunch, we will continue cycling to visit Kbal Spean, the River of Thousands Lingas, lying under the river bed, people believe it brings fertility and blessings to the Angkor area as the river flows to Siem Reap. We walk 1,200meters to visit the Lingas and enjoy lunch and the water fall. On the way back, we stop at the Landmine Museum of Mr. Akira. Mr. Akira, who once laid mines as a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge, has been credited with removing some 50,000 landmines in Cambodia.

Day 14 Siem Reap to Beng Malea and back

Today, we cycle on the back roads through the countryside and the village to visit Beng Mealea temple. Beng Melea is further out, less visited and largley un-restored.  After cycling 20 to 25km on mixed of back road and dirt road, we arrive at the foot of Phnom Bok for water stop. Then, continue to abandoned temple of Chay Srey Vibol temple built around 1100A.D. 

After the break, we cycle to Beng Mealea via Wat Preah Bat 4 Than. The last part of the road is sealed but fairly quiet. Beng Mealea temple, partially hidden in the jungle is surrounded by a moat 900 meters by 1,200 meters long.  Beng Melea is a beautiful, charming temple. It has it own character and can seem particularly peaceful away.  We can either bike back of catch a lift.

The tour ends in Siem Reap.  The next morning your options are several:  spend more time at Angkor Wat; transfer back to Phnom Penh by boat, plane or bus; or make your way to direct to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City or other destinations.

 

 

Included:
14 nites accommodations at hotels and guesthouses.
Meals excluding Lunch and Dinners in Phnom Penh and 2 of 4 dinners in Siem Reap
Transport of baggage
Stocked support vehicle w/Driver
Transfer to Sihanoukville
English Speaking Cambodian guide(s)
Bamboo train in Battambang
Tonle Sap boat transfer to Siem Reap
Entrance fee to Angkor Wat Complex (3-day pass)

Excluded:
Airfares - round-trip Bangkok and to/from Phnom Penh
Visa - $20
Beer, wine
Certain meals, see above
Immunizations from your doctor or travel clinic
Airport transfers (we give specific instructions)
Bike rental is optional (mountain bikes @ $10 per day)
Any entrance fees other than Angkor pass (generally not much)
Gratuities for local help