Pedals and Pagodas: Exploring Cambodia’s Heritage on Two Wheels

Cambodia, often referred to as the Kingdom of Wonders, offers a captivating mix of ancient marvels, cultural richness, and natural beauty. Its vibrant capital, Phnom Penh, beckons visitors with its mix of colonial architecture, bustling markets, and poignant historical sites. Meanwhile, the magnificent Angkor Wat complex near Siem Reap is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and stands as the largest religious monument in the world, serving as a testament to the architectural prowess of the Khmer Empire.

Join me as I chronicle my adventure cycling from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, and onward to Poi Pet – the border with Thailand, passing through rural landscapes, exploring picturesque villages, traversing verdant rice paddies, and experiencing the tranquility of waterways, while also making stops to visit ancient temples and pagodas along the way.



#1: November 12 – Phnom Penh

Arriving by boat from Chau Doc, Vietnam on the 10th of November, I chose to tour some of the tourist sites by tuktuk the following day. Today, being Sunday, I decided to explore Phnom Penh on a bicycle. With minimal traffic and cool weather, cycling on the large, clean boulevards was a pleasant experience. Along the way, I rode past notable landmarks such as the Royal Palace, the iconic Independence Monument, and a Vietnamese-Cambodian friendship obelisk before venturing into the bustling downtown area, marked by significant development with numerous large commercial and residential properties.

My next destination was Wat Phnom, a 14th-century historic Buddhist temple known as the tallest religious structure in the city. Finally, I concluded my ride with a stop at the post office, where I sent off postcards to friends.

Distance: 23.76 km
Time: 2:53:09
Elev Gain: 64 m
Stay: Le Vincent Hotel, Phnom Penh



#2: November 15 – Silk Island

Silk Island is situated in the middle of the Mekong River, approximately 15 kilometers from Phnom Penh, and is renowned for its traditional silk weaving villages. During my visit to the island, I had the opportunity to witness the process of silk production and observe skilled artisans crafting intricate silk fabrics using traditional methods passed down through generations. Along the way, I met Philipp Johner, a German cyclist who was en route to Siem Reap.

Distance: 35.47 km
Time: 3:57:50
Elev Gain: 130 m



#3: November 17 – Phnom Penh Cycle Market

After hearing about Phnom Penh’s Heng Ly Second-Hand Cycle Market, I decided to go see it. Upon arrival, I was astonished to find warehouses filled with thousands upon thousands of bicycles imported from Japan and other Asian countries. It was fascinating to see these cycles being recycled, repaired, and given a new lease on life.

On my way back, I made stops at the train station, Central Market, and the Olympic Stadium.

Distance: 22.58 km
Time: 1:51:07
Elev Gain: 61 m.



#4: November 17 – Phnom Penh at night

The city gleamed with vibrant lights and decorations, celebrating Cambodia’s 70th Independence Day on December 9th, marking liberation from French occupation and heralding the forthcoming Water Festival and Christmas festivities. Captivated by the festive ambiance, I decided to go on a leisurely ride around the city, reveling in the sight of the diverse array of decorations adorning its streets.

Distance: 22.44 km
Time: 1:48:12
Elev Gain: 72 m



#5: November 19 – Phnom Penh to Batheay

After spending over a week in Phnom Penh, it was time to embark on the journey to Siem Reap, approximately 350 kilometers away. For the initial stretch of about 65 kilometers, the highway ran alongside the Tonle Sap River. When I was about 20 kilometers away from Batheay, I opted to take a road suggested by Google Maps, cutting through a village area. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a big mistake as the road progressively deteriorated, and I had to push my bicycle for around 7 kilometers along the dusty road. Upon finally reaching Batheay, I found that the hotel I had intended to stay in had closed down. Consequently, I had to travel an additional 5 kilometers further ahead to secure accommodation.

Distance: 84.06 km
Time: 7:34:48
Elev Gain: 153 m
Stay: Le Vincent Hotel, Phnom Penh and Soben La Or Guest House, Batheay


#6: November 20 – Batheay to Kampong Thom

After being awakened at sunrise by the incessant crowing of the guesthouse owner’s roosters, I set out for Kampong Thom, sticking to the highway for most of the journey. Along the route, I passed through a village where every residence was engaged in the production of puffed rice. Continuing on, I came across another village with stone sculpting factories and passed an area selling cashew grafts. Kampong Thom is renowned as the largest producer of cashew nuts in Cambodia. I also visited a couple of Buddhist temples situated along the way.

Upon arrival in Kampong Thom, I was greeted by the welcoming statue of Lokta Krahorm Kor, a revered guardian spirit in Khmer folklore believed to safeguard people and ensure safe travels. Upon reaching the city center, I opted to check into a hotel overlooking the Independence Monument, a replica of the one in Phnom Penh.

Distance: 107.45 km
Time: 8:04:35
Elev Gain: 79 m
Stay: Soben La Or Guest House, Batheay and Kampong Thom Palace Hotel



#7: November 22 – Kampong Thom to Kampong Kdie

Leaving the hotel, I first visited a Buddhist temple complex located across the river and then decided to take a detour of about 5 kilometers, winding through picturesque paddy fields, before rejoining the highway for the next 70 kilometers, which primarily traversed through charming villages and lush paddy fields.

I ended the ride after exploring the nearby Kampong Kdei Bridge. This bridge holds the distinction of being the longest corbeled stone-arch bridge in the world. The 21 corbel arches are sustained by 20 pillars made of laterite, spanning 285 feet (87 meters). It is said to have been constructed during the 12th century under the reign of King Jayavarman VII, lying on the historic road from Angkor to Phnom Penh. Remarkably, this bridge is one of the rare surviving structures from the Khmer Empire era, and its significance is such that it is featured on the Cambodian 5,000 riel banknote.

Distance: 95.79 km
Time: 7:22:54
Elev Gain: 87 m
Stay: Kampong Thom Palace Hotel and Heng Heng Guesthouse, Kampong Kdie



#8: November 23 – Kampong Kdie to Siem Reap

With Siem Reap just 70 kilometers away, I passed by 10 smaller laterite bridges that were constructed along the historic road from Angkor to Phnom Penh. Nowadays, a newer road runs parallel to this ancient route. Along the journey, I made stops to visit couple of beautiful Buddhist temples and passed through a village where sticky rice steamed in bamboo was being sold.

As I was nearing Siem Reap, I had the good fortune of meeting Scott Sharick. He was on his motorbike, heading to a nearby pagoda. Upon spotting me, he stopped for a chat over a refreshing cold coffee.

After riding for a few kilometers, a huge replica of the Romduol, the national flower of the Kingdom of Cambodia, greeted me at a roundabout at the entrance of Siem Reap, serving as a welcome sign.

Distance: 69.32 km
Time: 5:03:26
Elev Gain: 29 m
Stay: Heng Heng Guesthouse, Kampong Kdie and Chhouy Vathna Angkor Boutique, Siem Reap

#9: December 1 – Angkor Wat

With a 3-day pass in hand to explore the Angkor Archaeological Park, I had hired a tuk-tuk and completed the Small Circuit, which included iconic landmarks such as Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng, Bayon Temple, South Gate, Baphoun Temple, Terrace of the Elephants, Victory Gate, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Prasat Kravan, and a few other ruins. Today, I decided to cycle to the park and revisit all the major sites at my own pace. I started at the Bayon Temple and ended at Angkor Wat. The ride included visiting all five gates serving as entrances to the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Before heading back to the hotel, I took a ride on the Angkor Balloon. This helium-tethered balloon ascends to approximately 80 meters in the air, offering a breathtaking 360-degree view of the park.

At the park, I met a Swiss family who has been traveling around the world with their two children in a camper truck since May 2019. You can follow their journey on Instagram and YouTube. Along with them, I also met a South Korean cyclist who has been exploring Southeast Asia on his bicycle.

Distance: 53.79 km
Time: 6:57:45
Elev Gain: 220 m



#10: December 2 – Angkor’s Bayon Temple

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Japan, a cultural program was held near the Bayon Temple. Along with Scott Sharick, I decided to attend the event. Unfortunately, heavy rain in the afternoon caused many electrical and sound equipment to malfunction, resulting in a significant delay in starting the program. After waiting for a while, we decided to return.

Distance: 23.26 km
Time: 1:47:00
Elev Gain: 39 m


#11: December 3 – APOPO Herorat Centre

Millions of landmines and explosive devices were activated in Cambodia during the wars of the 1970s, including civil conflicts and the Khmer Rouge regime, as well as bombings during the Vietnam War involving the United States. APOPO (Anti-Personnel Landmines Removal Product) is among several organizations diligently working to clear these unexploded ordnances, making Cambodia safer. In 2015, they introduced their renowned HeroRATS to Cambodia. These African giant pouched rats are specially trained and are a tremendous asset for detecting mines, capable of smelling as little as one trillionth of a gram of TNT buried a meter deep in the ground. The efficiency of these rats is remarkable; just one rat can search up to 200 square meters in a mere 20 minutes.

Founded in 1997 by Belgian Bart Weetjens, APOPO emerged from the quest for a more cost-effective method to clear landmines. Weetjens, who owned pet rats, recognized their intelligence, sociability, and acute sense of smell, theorizing that they could be trained to detect buried landmines, small arms, and unexploded ordnance.

At the APOPO HeroRAT Center in Siem Reap, I had the opportunity to witness these rats in action, watch an educational video about them, and even hold one of these highly trained rodents. To date, the project has returned over 13,719,552 square meters of land to local communities and has disposed of more than 4,500 mines, along with over 36,000 bombs, grenades, and bullets in Cambodia alone.

Distance: 11.15 km
Time: 1:24:55
Elev Gain: 23 m



#12: December 5 – Kanha’s Shadow Puppet Theatre

Shadow puppetry, an ancient Cambodian theatrical tradition with its roots in Siem Reap, is a mesmerizing art form where puppeteers skillfully manipulate intricately hand-cut cowhide figures, casting them both from behind and in front of a screen. I met Kanha and her mother at the stall they had set up during the water festival, selling leather puppets.

Being a collector of frog-shaped memorabilia, I approached them with a request to create a leather frog for my ever-growing collection. A week later, I visited their workshop, to collect the unique piece.

Upon arriving at their workshop, I was warmly welcomed by Kanha’s parents, who graciously invited me to explore their array of puppets used in their captivating theater performances. Their dedication and artistry shone through as they shared the stories behind each puppet, immersing me in the rich cultural tapestry of Cambodian shadow puppetry.

Distance: 4.42 km
Time: 29:15
Elev Gain: 6 m



#13: December 6 – Siem Reap to Sisophon

After spending more than a week in Siem Reap, it was time to head towards Poi Pet for crossing into Thailand. Covering a distance of over 100 kilometers, I decided to stay in Sisophon that night. Much of the route followed the highway, offering scenic views of expansive green paddy fields stretching as far as the eye could see. During the journey, I took breaks to explore a couple of Buddhist temples.

Distance: 109.03 km
Time: 6:51:09
Elev Gain: 109 m
Stay: Chhouy Vathna Angkor Boutique, Siem Reap and



#14: December 7 – Stuck at Thailand border – Sisophon to Poi Pet

Around 10 kilometers after leaving Sisophon, the highway to Poi Pet was been widened to four lanes and was dusty due to ongoing roadwork. Compared to other places in Cambodia, the roads in Poi Pet were in poor condition. Upon reaching the Cambodia border checkpoint, I completed the exit passport stamp formalities and proceeded to the Thailand immigration office where disaster struck. My passport validity, which needed to be a minimum of six months, fell short by two days. Consequently, I was unable to enter Thailand and had to catch a bus back to Phnom Penh that evening.

Distance: 58.88 km
Time: 4:06:20
Elev Gain: 109 m
Stay: Pyramid Hotel, Sisophon



#15: December 8 – Back to Phnom Penh

The journey back to Phnom Penh on the sleeper bus lasted around 10 hours. Once back in the capital, I explored the city in search of a bicycle shop to purchase a box for packing my bike. Eventually, I found a shop where I bought one for $10. After packing my bike, the following day I boarded a Thai Airways flight to India, with an 8-hour layover in Bangkok, bringing my eventful two months of cycling adventure in Vietnam and Cambodia to an end.

Distance: 32.23 km
Time: 3:22:05
Elev Gain: 42 m
Stay: Le Vincent Hotel, Phnom Penh



I trust that this post will prove invaluable to you, my fellow adventurers, serving as a comprehensive guide filled with insights into routes, attractions, and accommodations, all aimed at enriching your own cycling journey.
Feel free to email ( or WhatsApp (+91 9822151419) me if you need further information.
Wishing you safe adventure ahead!


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