Cycle Vietnam and Cambodia
|Cycle Vietnam and Cambodia
Join us on this classic cycle journey through the cities and rural landscapes of Vietnam and Cambodia. Ride past paddy fields and orchards to remote villages where we experience the warm hospitality of local families. Cycle into the jungle to explore the ancient temple city of Angkor and swap bikes for traditional boats to cruise the mighty Mekong River.
Peddle quiet backroads – Get closer to the locals on rides through the Mekong Delta and beyond
Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh – Explore the contrasts of two fascinating cities
Temples of Angkor – Pedal through the jungle and discover the wonderful temple cities
Day 1 Join trip Ho Chi Minh City; afternoon orientation walk
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City. Still unofficially referred to as Saigon, the city is the largest in Vietnam. You will find an eclectic mix of the traditional and the new, where pagodas and markets compete alongside the trappings of Vietnam’s newly discovered entrepreneurial spirit.
Our Tour Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 4pm for the welcome meeting followed by a walking tour. The tour will take in some of the highlights including the Opera House (formerly South Vietnam National Assembly), Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame Cathedral and the impressive French style edifice that is the GPO building.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN), which is 30 minutes from the hotel.
Please note that if you wish to join the afternoon orientation walk today, you must arrive at the hotel by 4pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself 30 minutes to an hour to clear the airport. Therefore the latest your flight can arrive is about 2pm. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information by note left at the front desk.
If arriving earlier we suggest exploring at your leisure, perhaps to visit the Presidential Palace, or the War Crimes Museum, or even just take a walk around this bustling city. In the evening you have the option to see a water puppet show.
Day 2 Visit the Cu Chi tunnels, cycling around the countryside
This morning after a chance to get properly acquainted with our two wheeled transport for the coming journey, we drive out of the city to Cu Chi (2 hrs) where we start our days cycling to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels at Ben Duoc. En-route we will travel through Vietnamese countryside passing local farms and paddy fields. We may see people working in the fields or perhaps driving cattle along the road.
We finish cycling at Cu Chi. Originally started during the French occupation of the country, the tunnels went on to achieve notoriety during the Vietnam War, when they formed an amazing underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops and played a major part of the Tet Offensive. This area was the centre of intense fighting during the war, much of it falling prey to the incessant carpet bombing, napalm and defoliants utilised by the Americans in an attempt to dislodge the Viet Cong from their underground shelters. There is little evidence of any of that now and the landscape has returned to something of its pre war beauty. Be warned, while only short distances, the tunnels are low and narrow and can be claustrophobic, so anyone wishing to opt out may do so.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 33 kilometres.
Day 3 Bike to the Mekong Delta then boat trip to islands
In order to avoid the Saigon city traffic we drive to Tan An this morning (2 hrs), from where we cycle towards My Tho, following a network of less busy roads and narrow riverside dirt tracks. Originally founded in the 17th Century by Chinese immigrants, My Tho is the launching site for our private boat trip out onto the mighty Mekong river. Taking our bikes with us on the boat we cruise to Qui Island where we stop for a lunch of local produce, before returning to our boat and cruising to the other side of the river. We transfer to small sampans to explore up a tributary creek through the mangroves, before visiting a local community centre. Here we should be able to try honey tea and local fruits whilst listening to traditional rural singing and music. We should also have the chance to see local coconut candy production and try out the finished sweets. We then continue by bike through the flat, lush landscape of the Mekong Delta to your accommodation in Ben Tre. The rich soil of the Mekong provides an abundant harvest, including coconut, fruits, rice and of course fish.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 43 kilometres (approx. 27 km in the morning and 16 km in the afternoon).
Day 4 Cycle and drive via Vinh Long to Can Tho
Leaving our hotel after breakfast we cycle, crossing the river and riding along less busy roads via the old church at Cai Mon to Binh Hoa Phuoc Island for lunch. After lunch we cross by local ferry to Vinh Long from where we ride through a beautiful and incredibly fertile region to its largest city, Can Tho. Can Tho province is famous for its abundant rice fields and floating markets, which tend to take place at the intersections of most rivers and canals. Rice is an important cash crop for Vietnam and something like 70% of the population is involved in its production. We will likely see locals working in the rice paddies, or perhaps have the opportunity to visit a small business such as a fish factory or a market en route. Please note, there is the option to complete this last 22km section of the journey by means of the support vehicle.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 60 kilometres of which the last 22 kilometres are optional.
Day 5 Cruise the floating markets and explore villages
This morning we take to our bikes again, to meander our way down narrow lanes following the river, to experience a little more of rural Vietnam. One of the most colourful attractions of the Mekong are the floating markets and this morning we will visit Cai Rang, the biggest in the Mekong Delta. We travel by small private ferry up river to the market and spend some time exploring the floating stalls, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the friendly attentions of the locals, before continuing along the river. Travelling by boat is by far the best way to see the delta, passing villages of stilted houses, abundant rice fields and a variety of cottage industries as we go gives us the opportunity to examine this timeless landscape at a relaxed pace, viewing river life in all its traditional and colourful glory. After the boat trip we will enjoy a cyle ride along narrow footpaths meandering alongside the river bank behind local homes, catching a glimpse of everyday life, perhaps seeing people catching fish from the river, or mending baskets and repairing tools by the river bank. The Vietnamese are renowned for their ingenuity and can create all sorts of new items from recycled products.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 16 kilometres.
Day 6 Drive and cycle to Chau Doc
Today we drive (1.5 hrs) northeast towards Chau Doc on the Cambodian border. Once past Long Xuyen we begin cycling on quieter back roads along a trail that loops around to Chau Doc. With a rich ethnic mix of Chinese, Cham and Khmer communities, Chau Doc is an interesting city, dotted with temples, churches and mosques. On arrival anyone may like to pay for an optional excursion to Sam Mountain, just a few kilometres south-west of the city. This involves travelling by rickshaw and then boat up the Mekong to visit a floating fishery and local Cham village, before continuing on foot to Sam Mountain (actually no more than a hill) riddled with stunning colourful temples and pagodas with a strong Chinese influence and great views from the top on a clear day across into neighbouring Cambodia.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 30 kilometres.
Day 7 Speedboat to Phnom Penh; afternoon city tour
This morning we drive the short way to the Mekong river dock and journey to Phnom Penh by speedboat ferry, crossing the border at Vinh Xuong (Vietnam) and Kaam Samnor (Cambodia) before continuing along the Mekong, as we head for the Cambodian capital. The boat journey will take the whole morning (4 hrs) and allows us a relaxed and fascinating view of riverside life, businesses and countryside as we pass by. On arrival at Phnom Penh we transfer to our hotel and have some time to relax before an afternoon city tour. The capital is a pleasant and fascinating city with many French colonial buildings and plenty to see. Our tour includes the National Museum of Arts with its impressive collection of Angkor sculptures, the Royal Palace where we visit the Silver Pagoda, named because of the 5000 silver tiles that cover its floor and Wat Phnom where we can pray for good luck. According to legend the original pagoda was built on this site in the 14th Century, to house four statues of Buddha that had been washed up on the shores of the Mekong. The legend goes on to say that the statues were then found by a woman named Penh, after whom the city is supposedly named. Phnom means hill in Cambodian. No cycling today.
Day 8 Morning cycle; visit Tuol Sleng and the ‘Killing Fields’
After a short drive up river we cycle to catch a Mekong ferry across to the peaceful Koh Dach Island which we will explore by bike. Our route takes us through weaving villages and past stilted houses. This charming, secluded and sleepy island is small at just 30 square kilometres in size and offers a peaceful contrast to the bustle of Phnom Penh. Known locally as ‘Silk Island’ the ladies here weave silk scarves on wooden looms in their homes, for sale in the markets on the mainland. We will likely hear the clatter of looms and see children and animals by the side of these quiet roads as we cycle. We later return to the capital in time for lunch. Our afternoon excursion is a stark reminder of the horrors endured by the Cambodian people under the tyranny of Pol Pot. The Tuol Sleng genocide museum and the ‘Killing Fields’ of Choeung Ek are a gruesome testament to life under the Khmer Rouge and you should be aware that many people find their visit quite distressing. Tuol Sleng genocide museum was once a high school which became the Khmer Rouge’s main torture and interrogation centre, detaining and processing the unfortunate souls who were to end their days in the ‘Killing Fields’ of Choeung Ek. During the years 1975 to 1978 something in the region of 17,000 men, women and children were murdered here and the memorial stupa is a huge glass tower filled with human skulls – a sombre reminder of the scale of Pol Pot’s atrocities.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 20 kilometres.
Day 9 Cycle along Mekong River then drive to Kampong Thom
Today is a long travelling day, by both bicycle and bus. We leave Phnom Penh this morning, following the highway for 1 hr 30 mins to an interesting insect market. After visiting this, we contunue by bus (45 mins) to Prae Toteung, where we take to the saddle again to follow the river to Kampong Cham (depending upon seasonal conditions we may have to take the highway). Cambodia’s third largest city, Kampong Cham was an important French trading outpost and the colonial influence is still very much in evidence. We finish our cycle ride at Kampong Cham. After lunch we stop first to visit Wat Nokor, an 11th century Mahayana Buddhist shrine, interesting for the fact that it houses a modern working wat inside the Khmer temple ruins, we then continue by bus again (3 hrs with rest break) to Kampong Thom, close to the impressive collection of pre-Ankorian temples at Sambor Prei Kuk.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 40 kilometres.
Day 10 Early cycle to Sambor Prei Kuk temple; drive to Siem Reap
This morning we head off early by bike directly from our hotel to explore the quiet country roads and tracks north of Kampong Thom to Sambor Preikuk. This was the capital during the Chenla period of the early 7th Century. Today the forests of the area are dotted with more than 100 temples, some of the oldest in the country. We finish cycling at a classic ancient temple, which we spend time exploring on foot, before continuing along the road in our trip bus (3 hrs) to Siem Reap. This evening is free to explore the great shops and restaurants of this small, bustling town – the entry point to visit the spectacular temples of Angkor.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 28 kilometres.
Day 11 Sunrise visit to Angkor Wat, cycle to Banteay Srei
The Angkor period covers some 600 years, from the 9th through to the 15th Centuries, although many of its more famous temples date from the Classical Age, from the 11th to 13th Centuries. We start early this morning (c. 5 am) to collect our Temple passes and have a sunrise visit to the awesome spectacle that is Angkor Wat, the best known and most breathtaking of all the sights and a highlight of any visit to Angkor. Originally built as a funerary temple for Suryavarman ll, in honour of Vishnu, the temple is unique as it faces west – symbolically the direction of death. It is an immensely grand and imposing structure with its most stunning features, the extensive and intricately carved bas reliefs that stretch throughout the galleries and inner temples. After exploring the temple we take to our bikes and cycle to Banteay Srei, with its stunningly preserved bas reliefs. We spend time visiting the temple, before having lunch. In the afternoon we drive south to see Ta Phrom, a wonderfully atmospheric collection of towers and courtyards set amidst tangled tree roots and lush jungle. Then drive back to Siem Reap. This evening is free to relax and explore Siem Reap.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 25 kilometres.
Day 12 Cycle to Angkor Thom
We continue our exploration today with a visit to the temples of King Jayavarman Vll, reputedly Angkor’s greatest king. The fortified city of Angkor Thom, built at the end of the 12th Century, is enclosed by a square wall 8 metres high with five 20 metre high monumental gates decorated with stone elephant trunks. Originally the moat surrounding the city was said to be filled with crocodiles and the huge statues of 54 different gods protected each gate. The city itself contains another of Angkor’s true gems – the Bayon. Not nearly as impressive as Angkor Wat from a distance, the Bayon is nevertheless incredible for its maze of corridors, gothic style towers and magical central temples, with 1200 metres of the finest bas reliefs depicting scenes of every day life in 12th Century Cambodia. We take our bus (may be possible to cycle) from our accommodation to a market en-route to Angkor Thom and from here cycle the rest of the way to the temple. After visiting the ruins this morning we drive back to Siem Reap in time for lunch. This afternoon is free time. You may wish to make your own arrangements to take a tuc tuc back to Angkor to spend more time exploring the temples, or have the optional excursion (unguided) to visit Tonle Sap, about 30 mins drive south of Siem Reap.
Please note that from the 1st January 2020 the third tier of the Bayon Temple – the striking centrepiece of the ancient city of Angkor Thom – will be closed until 2022 for extensive restoration. As a result, it will only be possible to view the large stone faces from a distance and it will not be possible to get up close. However, the two lower tiers will remain open and accessible, so it will be possible to view the impressive bas-reliefs and intricate stone carvings around the temple.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 15 kilometres
Day 13 Trip ends Siem Reap
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Siem Reap.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Siem Reap at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you will need to depart from Siem Reap International Airport (REP), which is 20 to 30 minutes from the hotel.