cycling in cambodia during corona virus

Your Remarkable RoadTrip From Pailin to Battambang

cycling in cambodia during corona virus

The Road From Pailin To Battambang

If you want to attempt some adventure cycling, then take a look at Pailin. It is not far from Battambang and only about 15 kilometres from the Thai-Cambodia border. So, you can enter from Thailand or make a side trip from Battambang, or vice versa. Either way, the ride from Pailin to Battambang is an adventure you won’t forget.

I decided that I wanted to spend most of my time cycling around the province, so to get to Pailin I bundled the bike into a taxi in Battambang – no easy task, as it’s a 29er – with the aim of cycling from Pailin to Battambang.

pailin to battambang

Pailin is a small town and has some decent places to stay, such as the Ruby Guesthouse. It comes across as quite safe, odd when you consider it is a former Khmer Rouge stronghold and racketeering centre. However, I erred on the side of caution and found a guesthouse that let me park my bike inside at night time. Having said that, most places were accommodating with this request.

Another convenience the locals offer is that they will accept Baht, Riels and US dollars; the preference is dollars. And always remember that in Cambodia, the wise bring small denominations.

The first day I was there I decided to check out the sites in town. Very easy to cycle to all these places. The real hump would be the trips to the tourist attractions out of town.

Wats and More Wats

 In town there are a couple temples to visit. You can cycle to all of them, in fact you can take your bike to the top of the hills and right into the temple grounds.

There is the famous Wat Gohng-Kahng where the official Pailin reintegration ceremony occurred in 1996, after the Ieng Sary faction of the Khmer Rouge worked out surrender and semi-autonomy deals with the Cambodian government. It is also the gate that faces you as you enter the town from Battambang. These days it is the centre of holiday festivities.

Wat Phnom Yat

Another place to visit is Wat Phnom Yat, which was built by Shan migrants from Burma. This Wat is a cultural and historical site and is not a holy place This hilltop temple is in the heart of Pailin and next to Wat Gohng-kahng. It includes an old pagoda, similar to the Kola pagoda.

There is a beautiful new decorative stairway leading to the hilltop temple area, where a new temple is under construction and the monks openly teach the faith. Before you climb, don’t forget to visit the statue of Phnom Yat or “Mountain of Grandma Yat”.

There are many ancient structures on Phnom Yat, including the big and small stupas and Asroms – hermitages for meditating. Many small cottages are available for visitors to relax in on the mountaintop and enjoy the fantastic views of the Pailin area and the beautiful sunsets over the mountains.

Another Pagoda, about 50 meters from the foot of Wat Yat, is Wat Rattanak Sopoan. On the walls surrounding the pagoda is a bas-relief depicting the Hindu story of Churning of the Ocean of Milk. Wat Rattanak Sophoan is a Burmese style pagoda more than 570 years old.

Cambodian Food

All that cycling around town would have built an enormous hunger. The local dishes are distinct to the area. You can try Mee Kola, a vegetarian noodle dish made from thin rice stick noodles, steamed and cooked with soy sauce and garlic chive, sometimes mixed with some meats and small lobster. Another dish is Mon banana. Of course, there is Thai food such as Tom yum.

Out of Pailin Town

Cycling around this part of world during the rainy season would be tough going. It would be wet, muddy, slipping here and there, maybe a tumble, and the ups and downs of the roads would be a challenge. My advice, if cycling then visit during the late wet season or dry season.

Another word of warning is mines. A gift from decades of fighting is the enormous number of landmines that were planted in the province. So, if you’re planning a visit to the countryside around Pailin City ask a local about the current de-mining efforts. Also, point out where you are planning to go, and they will let you know about the current situation. That, and staying on marked roads, will keep you out of trouble.

Most of the rides from the city are easy day trips. Here a some you can attempt.

There’re a couple of short trips that a cyclist can attempt to get a taste of the conditions. The first is to Kbal O’Chra, which is located O’Chra village, and is about a 5-kilometre ride. There you’ll find a nature & wildlife reserve. Another 5-kilometre ride is to a small wooden bridge going over the Oh-chah-rah River. The water coming down from the mountains is cool and clean, so just right for a swim after a hot ride. You also pass by a tank’s bombed-out shell. Tanks have just remained where they were destroyed in Cambodia and have simply become another part of the landscape. One final short ride you could try is to O’Tavao, which is about 5 kilometres from town. It is a place rich in beautiful scenery and clean water, which flows from Phnom Khieu.

Probably one of the most interesting places to visit is Bah Hoi Village. There you will pass through an internal refugee camp with people from different parts of the country that were formerly under Khmer Rouge control and are now in the hands of the government. The people are quite friendly and don’t mind a chat.

Pailin Provence

There are many waterfalls in Pailin Provence and the best time to visit is during the rainy season. However, there are still pools to cool off in during the dry season and the heavily forested hills provide pleasant scenery. Locals from Battambang visit them on weekends. They are a great destination for cycling. One waterfall you can visit is O’Eb and is about 10 kilometres northwest of town along the road to Bo Yakha and Bo Tang Sour.

A few other places to consider cycling to are Phnom Koy, which is about 20 kilometres north of town. Phnom Koy is an area rich in forest and big lianas. A natural stream flows down the mountain.

Another is Goh-Ay Mountain that has a river which is great for swimming. Stay on the worn paths by the river area as there are landmines around.

You can also cycle to the border that is a vibrant place. It is only 15 kilometres. At the border there is a flash casino called the Flamingo which has a rather good bar attached to it. Maybe that is reason enough. The border crossing and casino area is called Pbrohm by the locals.  So, if you want to throw a few dollars, there a several choices to achieve that end.

As for using Pailin as a border crossing to and from Thailand, the Thais have no problem with it and will issue you a Thai visa or stamp. However, the problem is on the Cambodian side as the immigration police say that it’s not an official crossing: maybe.

A Memory of Pailin

Before you leave Pailin, a souvenir to remember the place could be a gemstone. Unfortunately, all you can find these days is hand-faceted, low-quality and cheap gemstones at the market in downtown Pailin. Nonetheless, even a cheap gemstone can hold good memories.

Pailin To Battambang

A five-in-the-morning start will get you on the road for a pleasantly cool ride through the foothills of the Cardamom Mountains: it is also pitch black. Once you go beyond the city limits, street lights are far and few between. Another hassle are farm dogs. At that time of the morning, dogs seem to like chasing invisible cyclists. As you pass farms, snarling, barking dogs set off in hot pursuit. Luckily, they are easily out-paced and a loud snarl from the rider finishes the dog’s pursuit. Apart from that, the road is in good condition and a good bike light will set you straight until it starts to get light.

And what a sight the sunrise is: the sky lightens, and a ribbon of dark blue appears on the horizon; the air fills with the smell of hay. You cycle through rice farms, piggeries and quite an assortment of farming activity. Remember this part of Cambodia is the bread basket of the country. The sun is up, the humidity rises, and it is daytime. You are halfway to your destination.

The ride from Pailin to Battambang is only 90 kilometres. If you leave at 5am, you can be in Battambang before 10am. See you in Pailin.

Prek Toal Sanctuary

The Best Eco Tourism At Prek Toal Sanctuary Cambodia

Prek Toal Sanctuary

Prek Toal Sanctuary

Cambodia has some extraordinary wildlife reserves; Prek Toal Sanctuary is one such place. Located in Battambang province in Cambodia’s Northwest, it is a wildlife sanctuary located within the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere, one of three areas around the Tonlé Sap lake, is dedicated to the preservation of fauna and flora of Cambodia’s rich and diverse environment in this stunning sanctuary.

The Prek Toal Sanctuary consists of seasonally inundated freshwater swamp forest with high botanical diversity. Short tree shrub makes up most of the landscape. Forming a dense under story with scattered large trees, which form the vital nesting ground for large water birds.

It is unmatched throughout Southeast Asia for the diversity of populations of endangered water birds it supports through the dry season. Access to the sanctuary is by boat.

The numbers of birds and fish have risen due to authorities clamping down on poaching such as stopping the theft of eggs and illegal fishing. These initiatives as well as other moves by authorities and locals are benefitting other fauna and flora as well. The locals are also beginning to reap the benefits of protecting their environment.

Director of Battambang’s Department of Environment Kort Boran said that this is due to tightening of laws on wildlife protection and a change in people’s behaviour. For example; nest monitoring revealed that 20 percent more foul have been hatched and 10 percent more birds are nesting in the wildlife sanctuary.

This is an area where not so long ago local communities didn’t particularly pay much attention to the environment, now it is a different story. Another indicator of the success of preservation programs has seen a 30 percent increase in its bird population alone in recent times.

You can virtually visit the sanctuary if you want to experience a guided tour.

Conservation Areas

This and other conservation areas are drawing an increasing number of visitors who want to experience Cambodia’s natural environment. In particular, the enormous variety of birds, mammals, and other wildlife and plants.

Kort also said that the authorities often tell the people to help protect Cambodia’s endangered birds by not killing them.  By no longer poaching they will make the area more attractive for visitors and locals can earn money from tourism.  They seem to embrace the conservation of birds now that they know of its importance.

The area has rare birds like Spot-billed Pelican, Black-headed Ibis, Heron and Masked Finfoot. And, that’s not all. Visit the Chong Khneas crocodile farm, cruise across Tonle Sap and spot ibis, storks, and pelicans including the huge lesser and greater adjutant storks, the milky stork and the spot-billed pelican. Even the uninitiated will be impressed, as these birds have huge wingspans and build enormous nests. There are also Cormorants and Egrets nesting, socialising and feeding. In all, more than 150 species of birds have been sighted here.

Flood Water

The flooded freshwater forest environment of the sanctuary is a precious natural habitat for a number of endangered birds and is considered the most significant breeding ground for threatened waterbird species in all of Southeast Asia.

Large flocks of cormorants, storks and pelicans are almost guaranteed from January to May, along with herons, egrets and terns. The world-famous sanctuary harbours seven species of water birds of global significance: Spot billed Pelican, Milky Stork, Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Greater Adjutant, Black headed Ibis, and Oriental Darter. There is a globally significant population of Grey-headed Fish Eagles and the secretive Masked Finfoot. Other highlights include three different types of Kingfisher, Bitterns and at least four fish eagles. Some of these birds are also endangered.

A visit to the sanctuary can include a Cambodian-style lunch at a floating restaurant. Trips to the sanctuary also bring you up close and personal with the fascinating floating village of Prek Toal, a much more rewarding destination. While exploring the sanctuary and surrounds, the unique opportunity to see authentic floating fishing villages and watch the friendly fishing families go about their day.

Cambodian Wildlife

There are also crocodiles, snakes, and catfish at the Chong Khneas Crocodile and Fish farm. Travel by boat and pass stilted houses, flooded forests, and floating markets.

The best time to visit is during the peak season between December to early February when the concentration of birds is highest. As water starts to dry up elsewhere, the birds congregate here. The birds remain beyond February, but the sanctuary becomes virtually inaccessible due to low water levels. It is also possible to visit from September, but the bird numbers may be lower. The best time to see birds is early morning or late afternoon and this means an early start or an overnighter at Prek Toal’s environment office, where there is very basic accommodation.

Getting to the sanctuary under your own steam requires a 20-minute motorcycle or taxi ride to the floating village of Chong Kneas then a boat to the environment office. From here, a small boat will take you into the sanctuary, which takes about one hour. A boat trip to Prek Toal takes about two hours from Chong Kneas boat dock.

An overnight stay can also be arranged in a floating house in the village allowing the visitor to be in the core reserve for dawn.

You can also be part of this exciting experience by becoming an eco-volunteer.


Try your hand at some environmentally friendly projects.

Asian Elephant Projects

Sustainable Cambodia

Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Osoam Cardamom Community Centre

tonle sap lake

Tonle Sap Lake The Largest Freshwater Lake in Asia

tonle sap lake

Tonle Sap Lake

As a traveler to Cambodia you are going to visit either the Tonle Sap lake or the Tonle Sap river. This blog is no academic thesis – this has useful and interesting information for all types of traveler. There is also the Tonle Bati to visit.

Many visitors to Cambodia think it is all about Angor Wat and the killing fields. The Tonle Sap Lake brings you into contact with Cambodian nature and local culture.

Tonle Sap lake is to Cambodia what the Lake District is to England or the Great Lakes are to North America.  

However, the Tonle Sap Lake is often overlooked for the simple reason it is fishermen living a subsistence lifestyle. It gives no apparent kudos for visiting. However, we know you will be glad you visited the biggest freshwater lake in Asia. If your visiting pub street in Siem Reap you are only a hop, skip, and a jump from the lake.

Lake (Not fake) Facts

Hopefully we can make the Tonle Sap Lake Facts a bit more than a list of figures. We want you get an idea of the awesomeness of must see destination in Cambodia.

Tonle Sap Facts

  1. In the dry season it is approximately 2,500 square kilometers. However, in the rainy season this increase to a whopping 16,000 square kilometers. 
  2. The lake has about 1 cubic kilometer of water in dry season which rises to 80 cubic kilometers in the Cambodian wet season.
  3. Its probably not suitable for you swim in it. Even if you see the locals splashing about – stick to your swimming pool. The lake might just have a Siamese croc close by.
  4. There are more than 300 species of freshwater fish; however, a fishing holiday is probably not worth the bait. Although there are some truly huge catfish hiding in this vast lake.
  5. If you are a twitcher you will find over 100 local birds. November to April concentrates birds into a smaller area making them easier to spot.
  6. There are no bars or restaurants of worth on the Tonle Sap Lake. Take sustenance with you.

If you are looking for more Tonle Sap facts then head over to wiki

Floating Village

The biggest Tonle Sap Fishing Village is Chong Khneas. If you want a taste of village life this is where to head for. Most of the villagers are living a subsistence lifestyle so don’t expect too much in the way of luxuries.

Watch out for scams. Poor people will take desperate measure and there are con artists. You might be asked to buy milk or rice for an orphanage or school. Generally, this is sold back to the shop so that the “seller” can use the cash for other purposes.

The Floating Village Siem Reap is only 15 km or a dusty hour’s ride from the main city. There is not much to see on the road to the Tonle; however, fun can be had. Take a picnic and a few drinks and stop along the way. It’s a great way to meet some locals. Sharing food and drinks with locals is much appreciated.

Generally, it is better to book a Tonle Sap Floating Village tour from a respectable Siem Reap tour agency. This will ensure a great day out with some pertinent advice.

Tonle Sap Fishing Village

If you want to visit somewhere with less of a tourist feel. A more authentic visit would be Kompong Khleang. This is the Tonle Sap fishing village, where the adventurous traveller will head for. It is less travelled as it has less to offer a visitor.

Tonle Sap Lake Siem Reap

The main city connected to the Tonle Sap Lake is Siem Reap.  As opposed to the Tonle Sap River which is connected to the Capital. You can make your way to Siem Reap via boat from Phnom Penh or Battambang – or vice versa.

You should become aware of Siem Reap as it is your jump off point for temple hopping around the Angkor complex. Many people are only aware of Phnom Penh, The Killing Fields and Angkor Wat. Make this a destination for your Cambodian experience.

Tonle Sap Fish

Fishing in the Tonle Sap is becoming increasingly difficult. With fish stocks reducing and fish becoming smaller it is almost impossible for fishermen to make a decent living. Much of the fish reduction is due to overfishing to feed tourists – YOU.

A visit to a Siem Reap night market or restaurant will confirm this by the size of the fish.

Our charity aims to help subsistence farmers in Krong Battambang with fish farming. Bringing in useful revenue, feeding their families and giving some relief to the Tonle Sap Lake

Tonle Sap River Boat

What a great way to spend a day or go to Phnom Penh. The boats obviously got on the Tonle Sap River. An unusual river as it flows both ways depending on the season.

Some tour boats plying the trade between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh will transport you by vehicle to more suitable landing areas. This is to avoid long and tiresome journeys on the Tonle Sap Lake with little to see.

Siem Reap to Battambang

In addition to Phnom Penh, you can head to Battambang by boat. It’s a long journey – be prepared. Book your tickets via a recognized tour operator. An alternative is driving to Battambang which can be completed in a few hours. By boat, you should put aside 5-6 hours. Indeed, set aside a whole day.

Volunteering on the Lake

There are many ways that you can volunteer on the lake. Teaching, medical and conservation to name a few.

You can help our charity in Battambang and give the fish on the Tonle Sap some relief.

tonle sap lake

How To Travel From Phnom Penh To Poipet Very Cheaply

How To Travel From Phnom Penh To Poipet Very Cheaply

Phnom Penh to Poipet

If you fancy a different mode of travel between Phnom Penh to Poipet on the Cambodian-Thai border, then you might consider the train. The route’s passenger service has reopened and offers an alternative to buses and taxis.

You will need to plan your travel-by-train from Phnom Penh to Poipet experience carefully. The service runs one way on some days and the other way on other days. It is also slow. The journey between Phnom Penh and Poipet takes nearly 12 hours; mind you, the bus takes about 9 hours. However, it is a great way to see the Cambodian countryside and meet some colourful locals.

How To Get A ticket To Poipet

This particular adventure started in Phnom Penh with organising a ticket. The ticket counter people had a map and schedule of the southern route to Sihanoukville but not one for the northern route to Poipet. Oh well, I did manage to learn that there were two departures north on Fridays and Sundays. However, this could change as the service picks up speed and gets more passengers. It’s cheap as well with tickets to Pursat, about 4.5 hours, $3; Battambang, about 8 hours, $6; Sisophon, about 9.5 hours, $6; and Poipet, $7.

There are many other stops along the way, but I couldn’t find out how tickets to these places work. Sometimes the train will stop at what looks like a station and at other times it stops at places in the middle of the jungle. There are some places that look like stations and the train slows down then picks up speed again. Perhaps at these places, if there isn’t anybody getting on or off then the train just carries on.

Leaving Phnom Penh

The train is scheduled to leave at 7am. The ticket had printed on it 7.15am. The train actually departed after 7.30am. It travels slowly through Phnom Penh and other built-up areas. People live right next to the tracks. There a men, women and children criss-crossing the tracks and oblivious to the oncoming train. There have been incidents of people sleeping on the tracks and getting run over. Drivers and motorcyclists seem to find the gates a delay and will skirt around them. Trucks and cars have been hit. But as the locals get used to trains then old habits will change too.

The train has the locomotive, two carriages and a freight wagon. It seems that the first carriage is occupied by railway staff, but it isn’t a problem if you want to sit there. The second carriage is for passengers. You get allocated a seat but sit where you like. Oh, there are toilets as well. If you want to take a bicycle or motorcycle, it is possible to put either one in the freight wagon for a small fee. So, with several toots of the horn the journey begins.

The beginning of the journey is slow as the train heads out of Phnom Penh. You can literally see into people’s living rooms. Once clear of the city the train picks up speed.

The first stretch of the journey is towards the old city of Oudom. The train travels through rice paddies and small villages. Oudom appears on the horizon and you can see the chedis. There is a stop where rides to Kampong Chhnang can be arranged. This Ton Le Sap town is an interesting side trip. The town has a Vietnamese community and a floating village. Ferries to other places can be arranged from the port.

Arrival In Pursat

The train heads further north with more stops until arriving in Pursat. This town is the gateway to the Cardamoms Mountains. Also known as the Krâvanh Mountains, this area is extraordinary, a vast blanket of tropical rainforest which remains one of Southeast Asia’s most pristine expanses of wilderness. Isolated by their remoteness and rugged terrain and forgotten during years of conflict in Cambodia, the Cardamoms have at their core a virtually undisturbed rainforest covering over 10,000 square kilometres.

The Cardamoms are mainland Southeast Asia’s largest remaining rainforest and wilderness area. It is also claimed to be the most pristine wilderness area remaining in Southeast Asia. More than enough reason to spend some time in Pursat. The town also has a few other places of interest such as Wat Bakan, considered to be among the oldest active pagodas in Cambodia and revered as one of the most holy sites of Cambodian Buddhism.

The train moves slowly out of Pursat but quickly picks up speed on the way to Battambang. This town is one of Cambodia’s hidden secrets. It has maintained a rustic atmosphere and a slower pace of life. French Colonial architecture is a notable aspect of the city, with some of the best-preserved examples in the country. Again, this is a place where there is a lot to see. There are several Khmer temples in the area and an impressive bat cave. The journey continues.

Is That A Cow?

Unfortunately, a little ways out of Battambang the train comes to a grinding halt. Railway workers start rushing to the back of the train. Apparently, they think they have clipped a cow. Farmers tether livestock very close to the track. Most of the animals panic when the train rumbles through. I had thoughts of a cow splattered on the train tracks. Luckily that wasn’t the case, just a close call.

The trip to the next big town is through mainly rice paddies and small villages. Eventually you arrive at Sisophon. This town is where the road from Poipet splits and travellers can either go to Battambang or Siem Reap. You can get off here and head to Siem Reap by bus. It is also the best place to access the Angkorian temple of Banteay Chhmar, just 70 kilometres to the north.

Arrival At Poipet

The last leg of the journey is to Poipet. This dusty border town has nothing much to see unless you like gambling. If there is enough time you can cross the border and make your way to Arunyapathet in Thailand. Failing that, it means a night in Poipet. There are plenty of guesthouses on the main street.

Phnom Penh To Poipet Experience?

Is it an adventure? Lets us know. We love to hear from you!