Cambodia Cycling Map & Highlights
Anyone that has ventured beyond Angkor Wat will know there is far more to Cambodia than just its temples, spectacular as they may be. Cycling through remote countryside strung with bamboo huts, paddy fields and sugar palms allows you to experience a country and a culture that remain refreshingly unblemished by tourism. Fingers crossed it stays that way. Travellers are often struck by the smiles they receive everywhere – all the more remarkable given the trauma endured by Khmer people just decades ago. This is starkest in Phnom Penh, where the Killing Fields offer a powerful reminder of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime. Cycling tours will usually begin either in the capital, finishing in Siem Reap, or vice versa. The easygoing pace of most itineraries really allows you to get a feel for these cities and their elegant French colonial heritage, but it’s what you’ll see, and feel, as you ride between them that will really have an impact.
1. Angkor Wat
The biggest visitor attraction in Cambodia, the ancient ruins of Angkor lie just outside of Siem Reap. Cycling between key sites such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, Angkor Thom and the iconic Ta Phrom, almost entirely consumed by jungle, saves a lot of time and lets you get off the beaten path and away from the tuk tuks to discover areas that are far less crowded.
Cambodia’s relaxed second city is known for its many restaurants serving excellent French-Khmer cuisine. It has a scenic riverside setting, and a walkable centre full of charmingly faded colonial architecture, while the outskirts are fantastic for cycling along winding lanes. The bamboo train, where you perch on a squat wooden platform as it propels you at up to 40km/h through the jungle, is a must-do experience.
A sleepy, unassuming town with streets filled with dilapidated French colonial architecture, Kampot occupies a sublime riverside location at the foot of the Elephant Mountains. There isn’t a great deal to do in the town itself, but it’s a superb base for roaming the nearby Bokor National Park by bike, or the surrounding countryside, its rice paddies threaded with dirt roads and lines of bamboo shacks.
4. Killing Fields
The ‘Killing Fields’ are a number of sites around Cambodia, the best-known of which is Choeung Ek near Phnom Penh. More than one million men, women and children are thought to have perished between 1975 and 1979 at these locations. A Buddhist memorial now stands in Choeung Ek, while a glass stupa containing around 5000 skulls makes a chilling memorial to these tragic event.
5. Phnom Penh
Its handsome French Colonial architecture lends Cambodia’s cosmopolitan capital plenty of glamour, yet there is also an underlying sombre atmosphere. The population was entirely evacuated to the countryside by the Khmer Rouge, and countless people were executed. Two essential sites here are the harrowing Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly a high school and then a notorious prison, and Choeung Ek, where so many died.
6. Siem Reap
It took less than a century for Siem Reap to grow from village to booming city, and the reason of course is that this is the gateway to Angkor Wat, the world’s largest and most renowned temple complex. The traffic means you’ll be doing little cycling in Siem Reap itself, but the city has more than enough to keep you entertained. Innovative restaurants, street markets, a bohemian cultural scene and the magnificent Tonlé Sap just a few miles to the south.
During the Khmer Rouge years, faced with the prospect of starvation, many Cambodians survived by eating bugs. In Skuon, a popular rest spot as you ride to Tonlé Sap, this diet had legs – eight, to be precise. Here you can try an unusual Cambodian specialty: fried tarantulas. They’re big, they’re black, they’re hairy and, they’re surprisingly tasty. Room for dessert? Why not try a bowl of silkworm pupae?
8. Tonlé Sap
If you eat fish in Cambodia, chances are it was caught in Tonlé Sap. This huge lake once supported the entire Angkorean civilisation, and today around three million people make a living from fishing or agriculture on its shores. Riding through small village communities provides myriad photo opportunities. The lake is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and home to giant catfish as well as the endangered Siamese crocodile. Boat trips let you explore the lake’s floating villages and markets.
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