Cycle the beautiful green backwaters of the Mekong Delta, explore pepper farms, salt lakes fresh crab markets and discover the ancient history of these two fascinating (and evolving) Southeast Asian countries. Meet local activists, dig deeper and learn about the Khmer ‘fast fashion’ industry. Get educated, get fit and get inspired.
12 Day Itinerary: Cambodia to Vietnam
Day 1: Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s Capital City)
We arrive and stay in the heart of the cosmopolitan lifestyle that has been thrust on Phnom Penh since the country has opened up to the outside world. If you land in Phnom Penh on this day, we’ll pick you up from the airport and take you straight to the hotel to give you a chance to relax and unwind. Your host will always be in the city to get any travel advice from should you want to go exploring. In the evening, we’ll get together with the whole the group for dinner and a relaxing, fun journey with local Khmer cuisine. For dinner, it’s a feast of tarantula’s and silk works at the famous Romdeng restaurant, a social enterprise restaurant from the Friends International Team.
Day 2: Phnom Penh
Friends International, S-21 genocide museum and Khmer BBQ
We’ll start the day by meeting the incredible people behind Friends International and learning about all the wonderful work they do within the community and how they’re spreading their strategies across the world. This is a great insight into REAL local everyday issues, from real local everyday heroes. From the office, we venture towards the Russian market and then move to Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21 Genocide Museum. This devastating chapter of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian history is emotionally challenging but strongly recommended to get an insight into the country in which we have chosen to travel. There is some free time in the afternoon to process your day, then we’ll meet again, as a group, for a local Khmer BBQ dinner.
Day 3: Phnom Penh to Kampot
Chisaur Temple: Our first cycle day (86km)
Our first major day cycling will take us to Chisaur Mountain Temple in rural Cambodia, south of Phnom Penh. (Don’t worry – it’s not really much of a mountain at 130 metres and the route is perfectly flat.) We’ll casually cycle through remote villages and waterways, via narrow dirt tracks, saying “Susaday” (hello) to local people along the way. Chisaur Temple is where we’ll stop for lunch. Here, we’ll have plenty of time to explore the ancient ruins – which are 200 years older than Angkor Wat! (And a lot less crowded) From here, we’ll take the van down to the Cambodian coastal town of Kampot to enjoy the culinary delights on offer.
Day 4: Kampot
The Bokor Mountain Cycle Challenge (optional 80km)
Start the day with an (optional) mammoth Bokor Mountain cycle challenge! It’s 40km to get to the top. The first 10km is flat, then it just keeps on going up, and up, and up! If cycling uphill doesn’t rock your world, we can bring your bike in the van and you can cycle down! Whilst at the top, we’ll take some time to explore the French ghost town of Bokor Hill Station in Preah Monivong National Park. For dinner, we’ll head to the Rusty Keyhole for the best BBQ ribs in the world (that is not an oversell!).
Day 5: Kampot:
Salt fields, ethical fashion and fireflies
In the morning, we’ll visit Chumkriel Language School (no children will be in attendance at the time of visiting). This is a wonderful NGO, led by the inspirational Mr Suthy, who has set up a grassroots local school to give access to education for children of the salt field community. In the afternoon, just sit and relax by the pool, take a wander through the market or just take some time for yourself. If you like, we can take a cruise down the river at sunset and watch the fireflies come to life (if we’re lucky!).
Day 6: Cycling into Vietnam
Live crab markets, salt lakes, pepper farms and white sandy beaches!
Today we cross the border into Vietnam, but not before we discover the wonderful province of Kep. Located just before the border, this town is famous for its fresh seafood, in particular, crab. We’ll spend a couple of hours exploring the famous pepper plantations and salt lakes on the way. Navigating through the back roads, we’ll make our way around the National Park and to the border crossing into Ha Tien Vietnam. From Ha Tien, we’ll jump in the van and head to Rach Gia for a feast of local seafood and Banh Xeo (seafood pancakes!).
Day 7: Rach Gia to Can Tho
Cycling the Mekong Delta (82km)
Can Tho is where the Mekong Delta really comes into its own! To reach here we cut through the back roads of rice paddies and farmland, arriving in the city by late afternoon. With a population of over a million and a thriving tourist trade, Can Tho has a vibrancy about it like no other. Relax and explore this amazing city. For dinner, we’ll jump on a patch of grass at the night market and treat ourselves to a degustation of delightful street food!
Day 8: Can Tho
Floating markets, cocoa farms and noodle-making!
We’ll catch the floating markets for sunrise and have your breakfast brought to you on the water! The vibrancy and atmosphere at the break of dawn is incredible! This is no tourist performance, this is real life for the local people where they trade, sell and buy every day. Afterwards, just before lunch, we pay a visit cocoa farm, as well as the noodle factory where you’ll have a chance to make your own noodles!
Day 9: Can Tho to Ben Tre
More Mekong cycling and a coconut candy farm
We’ll take a day to casually explore the oasis that is the Mekong Delta. From the coconut candy factories of Ben Tre to the canals and floating markets of My Tho, this is a place to relax and unwind. We’ll avoid the hordes of tourists in My Tho by using Ben Tre as a base to explore the region. It’s still a full day cycling from Can Tho and we’ll enjoy getting amongst the maze that is the Mekong Delta. We should get into Ben Tre for 5 pm, just in time to rest, relax and explore the local market for dinner. Tonight we stay at a local homestay.
Day 10: Ben Tre to Saigon
Cycling into Saigon (89km)
We’ll start early to beat the heat and what we can of the traffic. Cycling into Saigon for the last cycle day of the tour is an incredible experience. Ho Chi Minh is what the world would look like if cars weren’t invented. With whole lanes and roads dedicated to two wheels, it is the city of the future as the population grows.
The last 12 km will be where we rest up and transit into the city centre itself via the support van. Our boutique hotel is in the heart of the city, just a short stroll from the Street Food Market for dinner along with a live band.
Day 11: Saigon
Saigon, Mekong Quilts and KOTO
We’ll visit our third and final NGO of the trip in Mekong Plus. With a presence in Cambodia and Vietnam, this grassroots local NGO focus on a hand up, not hand out policy. The social enterprise part of this NGO trains beneficiaries to make quilts, handicrafts and bamboo bicycles. The holistic approach from Mekong Plus includes education scholarships, vocational training, micro-finance programs and social enterprise businesses. Use the day to explore at your leisure. There is a feast of local markets, grand shopping centres, museums and attractions in Ho Chi Minh. For the evening we’ll meet up for dinner, swap stories, photos and decide where you’d like the donation money to go to.
Day 12: Saigon
Congratulations! You’ve covered nearly 500km on two wheels, cycled across two countries and more than scratched the surface into some of the social issues affecting these incredible countries as they continue to grow and develop! We’ll enjoy one last breakfast together before we drop you off at the airport to board your flight home.
About Social Cycles
We believe in two things…
1. Working with local experts to create a positive impact in the world by supporting transparent, ethical, sustainable, community-based projects.
2. Adventure travel.
Social Cycles host small group cycle adventures for travellers with a social conscience. Along the way, we will meet local experts (NGOs) and learn about social issues, challenges and strategies so that we can gain the knowledge to make a positive difference. We will test your physical boundaries, challenge your perception of charity and completely open your mind.
One of the main aims of this Social Cycles ride is to group together like-minded people who are interested to learn how to make a difference, to #ridewithpurpose if you will. Therefore, we ask you to consider a minimum donation amount to the value of US$150.
Please do NOT pay Social Cycles this money. Instead, we ask that you simply bear it in mind. Keep it to yourself for now. It is our goal that we combine as a group to provide a sufficient amount of money that makes a significant difference to a community, via one of the NGOs we visit along the way. Which one is a matter for you and the group to decide!