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bicycle touring Cambodia

cycling the backroads of Takeo province

This is the second part of a detailed description of our Cambodia bike tour. Coming from Thailand in August 2016 we crossed this beautiful country, heading to the only border with Laos. Here’s the description of the 172km, from Kampot to Phnom Penh. Some people ride this in one day, we rode in 4, taking our time to explore the rural areas around.

more about Cambodia

For the first part of the itinerary, from the Thai border near Koh Khong to Kampot, click here.
For part3: from Phnom Penh to Lao border, through Kampong Cham, Kreatie and Stung Treng, here.
At the bottom of the article is the map of the whole Cambodian tour, click on the track to get the elevation profile.
For general hints and tricks to keep your budget extremely low when traveling Cambodia, here’s another article.

stage 1

Kampot to Takeo – 92 km

There are several ways to reach Phnom Penh from Kampot (check our Kampot article here), the longest one being heading to Kep along route 33 and then joining National Highway 2 to Takeo; the shortest ones are instead national road 41 or Highway 3.

We chose a mix of Highway 3 and 2, with some detours on dirty tracks when possible, which meant when the road where marked on OpenStreetMap.
This stretch is not the most beautiful, whatever road you chose, being mostly plains with monotonous rice paddies and ugly little towns. The more you can detour from the highway the nicer it can become.

traditional Khmer house

traditional Khmer houses

However National Highway 3, despite its name, is not busy at all, with good pavement and usually a wide enough side roadway where to stick not to be bored by the few trucks.

As usual along Cambodian main roads there are accommodation more-less every 40/50km, we overnight at Chhuk, where there’s a beautiful and cheap (7USD) guesthouse just at the beginning of the unpaved road 133A, going south-east. Take the room on the pond with a huge terrace, one of the best ever seen in Cambodia.

33 more km along Highway 3, before taking the cut the brings us to the provincial capital of Takeo on Highway 2, after 12km. Takeo is big for Cambodian standards, and we found it pretty ugly and giving a sensation of unsafety (just a sensation), it’s sadly famous for prostitution, indeed we found some fake eyelashes in our hotel room.

Most of the guesthouses are on the road coming into town from west, the city canter really has nothing to offer but a night market where we eat and got sick, so we advise to get a room before coming downtown in order to have more choice.

cycling Cambodia

life in the rice fields near Takeo

stage 2

Takeo to Phnom Penh – 80km

There are several Angkorian temples near Takeo area, most require an entry fee and all are off the main roads, for a full list with location visit this page.

We decide to visit Phnom Chisor, which is not far from Highway 2 on the way to Phnom Penh. We found a side road to get there from Takeo and this made one of the best cycling days of our Cambodian bicycle tour. Head north from the city center, across the shallow lake full of lotus flowers, then follow the track on the map below.

A beautiful 32 unpaved kilometers, crossing traditional Khmer villages and rice paddies (literally inside the fields). A marvelous glance into Cambodian traditional life, beautiful houses on pillars, some even 5m from the ground, this area is certainly not the poorest in Cambodia, but the lifestyle is tied to the old times.

We did this road during the wet season and it was ok, maybe after a big downpour some stretch could be tricky, your choice if you want to take the risk. In dry season the mud bacomes dust and breathing can be hard if meeting many cars.
Phnom Chisor what to see Takeo province

the temple of Phnom Chisor in Takeo province

Angkorian interlude

Phnom Chisor

coordinates N 11° 11′ 15.5″ E 104° 49′ 20.7″
Phnom Chisor (or Phnom Chiso)
is an 11th-century Angkorian temple set on a hilltop with a cool view. It used to be a pretty big temple but now lays in ruin, being bombed by the American Air Force during the Vietnam War.The site is, however, worth a visit. Most likely you’ll be the only tourist around and the atmosphere is magnetic, the central altar is still used for religious purposes and we met a monk praying inside.To reach it, however, a staircase of around 400 steps must be climbed, I have been here around noon, and feeling sick from a food poisoning in Takeo night market, so when I went down I almost fainted, having to lay under a shed for about 30min, it’s damn hot in Cambodia.

On the foothill there’s a box for offers, no official ticket seems to be necessary, although people may ask you money, I easily walked away.
On the hilltop there’s also a modern Buddhist temple, with a reclining Buddha, some frescoes and dorms for the monk, leave the money to them if you want to leave any.

There are two guesthouses nearby, one on the wetland before the temple and another right at the feet of the hill, on the west side. Carrying on is 6 more km to get on Highway 2, where there’s another guesthouse 5km after the junction.

the view from Phnom Chiso - bicycle trip cambodia

the view from Phnom Chiso

nearby Phnom Penh

Back on Highway 2 the road gets more and more busy and less and less interesting. Maybe Highway 3 could’ve been slightly better, but due to the proximity with Phnom Penh I won’t bet on this.

Leaving Highway 2 for Choeung Ek road at Krang Svay, we pass beside the biggest and most infamous of the Khmer Rouge killing fields, 10km before Phnom Penh.

Cycling in Phnom Penh is a nightmare, one of the worst cities in South East Asia and thus in the whole world. Drivers are crazy, rules non-existent, temperatures near the boiling point and roads narrow and full of potholes. Luckily is a small city, so you won’t have to suffer for so long. We’ll spend a few days here and decide if to go up north into Laos or cross the border with Vietnam.

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