Cycling in Cambodia is on the rise and is a great way to learn about the country and the Khmer people. If you cycle around Phnom Penh in the early morning, you will see many groups of cyclists hitting the road and enjoying the early day with their other friends. Cycling has advanced from a simple and cheap form of transport into a popular sport and there are plenty of cycling destinations you can try.
Road Trip to Kampong Cham
One such ride is along the Mekong Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham. When cycling in Cambodia, it is best to head out early. You want to finish the ride before midday as the weather will start to get extremely hot and humid for long-distance cycling. I hit the road about 5am and plan to finish where I want to go between 11am and midday.
The Way to Kampong Cham
Cycling in Cambodia is relatively safe, and the ride to Kampong Cham is straightforward. You head up Monivong to the Chroy Changvar bridge, also known as the Japanese bridge, but the Chinese have built a bridge next to it which causes confusion at times. Ensure that you have visited our essential travel items and purchased a detailed Cambodian map. Once you cross over and cut across the Prohm Bayan Circle head to the Mekong. You need to cross the Mekong at some stage. There are a couple of ways to do this. But, there are two convenient ways to cross the river. At the circle, turn right down Keo Chenda St. This will take you to a ferry terminal and across the Mekong you go. Another way is to cycle up highway 6 until you get to the Prek Tamak Bridge, cross over and on the other side turn left and head north.
One thing you will notice about cycling in Cambodia is you draw attention. The road to Kampong Cham is dotted with villages, and the road is a mixture of asphalt, concrete, crushed rock and sand, and lots of curious onlookers. And drink plenty of water as you start to perspire a lot and can get dehydrated, especially as the sun comes up. Don’t worry, there are plenty of shops and roadside stalls selling bottles of water.
Cycling in Cambodia is Mostly Flat Roads
Many of the roads are flat and easy to cycle in Cambodia and this road is no different. Keep an eye out for potholes. If you run low on water, just drop into a local shop. One place I stopped at was a family affair. When I pulled up there, there were a lot of stares and funny looks. I asked for some water and drank about two litres and stuffed my bag with additional bottles of water. Remember to keep well hydrated. A young man in the shop, a son I believe, looked at me and asked, “Phnom Penh.” I nodded then he asked, “Kampong Cham.” I nodded again, and he broke into laughter, as did some of his relatives. They thought I was mad to want to ride a bicycle in the heat all that way.
The road continues until a T-intersection. Turn left and a dirt road takes you to a ferry pier. It takes a bit of searching to find, just look for people by the river waiting for something. I tried to ask a bewildered farmer who was with his son. Waving and gesticulating what I thought would clearly mean ferry, well, he just smiled at me and made some comment to his son. Then I saw the ferry on the river. The ferry pulled into is a simple concrete ramp leading into the water. Again, locals stared.
Mixing with the locals
The ferry doesn’t leave until it’s full. While I was waiting a group of Cambodians started a cockfight. Some Cambodian men tried to find out how much my bike was worth, which made me slightly apprehensive, and a young Cambodian girl leaned on my leg and stared at me with a stern look on her face. Some children were swimming in the Mekong when the ferry captain sounded the departure horn. Everyone piled on board and off we went.
The ferry goes to Kang Meas on the other side of the river, and it is about twenty kilometres from Kampong Cham. However, the afternoon had crept in while I had waited for the ferry to depart, so it was a hot ride into town.
The way back to Phnom Penh
Getting back to Phnom Penh, you can simply go back the way you came. However, there is also the inland route, which is like riding across a hot iron plate. The first stage is the 50 kilometres or so to Skun. Cycling that section is in the early morning. Further up the road, you hit highway 6. A ways down this road is a Y-intersection: one road, highway 6, leads back to the Mekong and eventually past the Prek Tamak Bridge and onto Phnom Penh; the other road is highway 61 and takes you to the bridge near Oudong, the former Cambodian capital, and over the Ton Le Sap. However, you can also throw you bike on a bus and return that way.
I tried the Oudong direction and was exhausted by the time I had crossed the bridge. There was still more than 30 kilometres to go. I rode into a service station, much to the surprise of the family who owned it. I needed water and sat down on a Cambodian deckchair. A man, the owner, brought over a fan and let it cool me down. His daughter, who spoke quite good English, started the questions: “What’s your name?”, “Where are you from?”, Where are you going?”, and of course, “It’s too hot to ride.”
Exhausted I fell asleep.
Cycling in Cambodia can be tiring and eventually I fell asleep. I woke up and the afternoon had moved on. I jumped on the bike and humped it to Phnom Penh, arriving just before dark. Keep some power bars in your bag.
What an awesome ride with a lot of fun and interesting encounters with the locals along the way. Try it and you won’t regret it.
If you decide to cycle in Cambodia, two bike shops for all your bike needs are
Giant Bicycle shop
169 Czech Republic Blvd
(Across the road from Bak Touk High School)
+855 67 770 446
- Huge range of Giant bicycles. You will find friendly English-speaking staff. They have a extensive range of parts and accessories.
No.131 BEO Street 51
Sangkat Psar Thmey 3
+855 12 727 717
- Lots of Cannondale bikes. Extensive range of parts and accessories. English-speaking staff. Great location.
There is also a huge selection of new and second-hand bicycles and repair shops near the Oreussey market.
If you need additional information about cycling in Cambodia; Warwick is our expert.