Cycle Trip: 16-Day Itinerary – Siem Reap to Saigon
Day 1: Siem Reap
Arrival day and welcome dinner
We arrive in the heart of the cosmopolitan lifestyle that has been thrust on Siem Reap since the country has opened up to the outside world. Tourism is opening new markets, opportunities, revenue streams and, of course, challenges for the local area. We’ll pick you up from the airport and take you to your hotel, then take some time to relax or wander around the city before we meet for a delicious welcome dinner with the rest of the group. Dinner is at one of Siem Reap’s best restaurants, Marum. It’s a fantastic restaurant that’s part of the Friends International social enterprise projects, providing vocational training for marginalized youth.
Day 2: Siem Reap
Sunrise cycling around the temples of Angkor
We’ll rise before the sun rises at 4.30am, jump on the bikes and head for the temples. It’s an early start, but you won’t regret it! Sunrise over Angkor Wat is a bucket list achievement for good reason! From here we’ll venture on to other, and arguably more impressive, temples in the area for the remainder of the morning. In the early afternoon, we’ll have the chance to visit our first NGO of the trip. We will spend time with some incredibly inspirational people that have dedicated their lives to helping others. We’ll hear their stories and start to find out what the real issues are that the country is facing.
Day 3: Siem Reap to Battambang
River riding, local villages and coffee stops
Travelling across the wetlands and navigating our way around the Tonle Sap river is an experience to remember. The road soon turns to single track as we get more and more remote into the Cambodian countryside. We’ll say goodbye to our support van for a while and venture on into the rural and barren lands of Cambodia.
Few villages exist out here, supporting themselves through sustainable fishing methods via the river. The track can only go so far… then, we’ll arrange a long tail boat ride for you and take the bikes a further 16km into the wetlands. When we come out the other side, we cross another 18km of dirt road before eventually arriving into Battambang.
Battambang is a common favourite on the trip. Packed with cafes proudly displaying local art, the town is considered an emergence of young talent in a field that was virtually wiped out by the Khmer Rouge during the 1980s. Battambang is also a great spot for shopping, with colonial style streets and hidden secrets where bric-a-brac abounds. We’ll dine at another social enterprise based restaurant that produces amazing dishes!
Day 4: Battambang to Pursat
Adventure cycling, red dirt & Sustainable Cambodia
After an early breakfast, we’ll continue our cycling along the dusty red back roads. We’ll get to the town of Pursat by early afternoon and into our hotel to enjoy the swimming pool and on-site spa. (Enjoy the massage!) We’ll then meet with the amazing NGO, Sustainable Cambodia. We’ll enjoy a full presentation by the executives in their office and a tour of their facilities. Shortly after we will be taken to see their projects in action where you can witness the difference that the NGO makes first hand.
Day 5: Pursat to Phnom Penh
Cycling into Phnom Penh, riverside villages and Tonle Sap
We start cycling 75km towards Phnom Penh and will ride all the way up to the front door of the hotel! The back roads bring in some of the most spectacular scenery as we pass through villages living on Tonle Sap lake. The ride takes in great coffee stops, endless photo opportunities and a couple of ferries. It’s almost entirely on back streets with minimal traffic. The final 2km within the heart of the city can be transferred via van as an option.
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 6: Phnom Penh
Friends International, S-21 genocide museum and Khmer BBQ
We’ll start the day by meeting the incredible people at 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 understand the country within which we travel. There’s some free time in the afternoon to process your day, whilst we’ll meet again for a local Khmer BBQ dinner.
Day 7: Phnom Penh to Kampot
Chisaur Temple: Our first cycle day (86km)
We’ll then head south of Phnom Penh to Chisaur Mountain Temple in rural Cambodia. (Don’t worry -it’s not really much of a mountain at 130m and the route is perfectly flat.) We casually cycle through remote villages and waterways, via narrow dirt tracks. Chisaur Temple is where we’ll stop for lunch and have plenty of time to explore these ancient ruins which are 200 years older than Angkor Wat! From here, we’ll hop in the van and head down along the road to the Cambodian coastal town of Kampot to enjoy some seafood delights!
Day 8: Kampot
The Bokor Mountain Cycle Challenge (optional 80km)
Start the day with a mammoth Bokor Mountain cycle challenge! (Optional) – 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 enjoy cycling down! Whilst at the top, we can 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 9: Kampot:
Salt Fields community, ethical fashion and slow coffee
In the morning, we’ll visit Chumkriel Language School (no children will be in attendance at the time of visiting). A fantastic NGO and inspirational human being, Mr Suthy has set up a very 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, you can take a cruise down the river at sunset and watch the fireflies come to life (if we’re lucky!).
Day 10: Cycling into Vietnam
Pepper farms, salt lakes, live crab markets and beaches
Today we’ll 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, particularly 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.
Day 11: Rach Gia to Can Tho
Cycling the Mekong Delta (82km)
Can Tho is where the Mekong Delta really comes into its own! To get there, 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 that’s magnetic! Relax and explore the sights and sounds of this amazing city. For dinner, we’ll pull up a patch of grass at the night market and treat ourselves to a feast of delightful street food!
Day 12: Can Tho
Floating markets, noodle factories and cocoa farms
We’ll catch the floating markets for sunrise and have breakfast 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. Following that, we’ll visit the noodle factory where you’ll have a chance to make your own noodles and head to the cocoa farms just before lunch.
Day 13: Can Tho to Ben Tre
More Mekong cycling and a coconut candy farm
We’ll take a day to casually explore 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 14: Ben Tre to Saigon
Cycling into Saigon (89km)
We’ll start early to beat the heat and as much of the traffic as we can. Cycling into Saigon, Vietnam’s biggest city, on the last cycle day of the tour is an incredible experience… Ho Chi Minh City (formerly called Saigon) 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 and a live band.
Day 15: 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, microfinance programs and social enterprise businesses. Use the day to explore at your leisure. There’s an abundance 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 16: Saigon
Congratulations! You’ve cycled across two countries, covered almost 700km in the saddle and more than scratched the surface as to what these fantastic countries are about. We’ll enjoy a final breakfast together before we get you off to the airport and on your way home.