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.

cycling in Cambodia

An Awesome Adventure – Traveling from Phnom Penh to Battambang

Best Awesome Adventure - Traveling from Phnom Penh to Battambang

Phnom Penh to Battambang

Cyclebodia takes you on a journey from Phnom Penh to Battambang via Kampong Chhnang.

When you start early Phnom Penh is quiet: not much traffic, the city is waking up, and an army of street sweepers come into play. Lots of Phnom Penhers like to exercise in the cool of early morning: joggers, walkers and other cyclists.

By the time the sun rises you are out of town and on the open road, ready to take on whatever is thrown your way. The ride to Battambang will take you along the south-western side of the Ton Le Sap.

cycling in Cambodia

The Road to Kampong Chhnang

Getting out of Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang is best achieved with a 5am start. Eventually, you hit National Highway 5, and this is the road you use to get to Battambang. The road is reasonably good for the most part (by Cambodian standards). However, on the outskirts of the capital there are some rough patches prone to flooding. If you are on a mountain bike, then you glide through these obstacles. We suggest you do not cycle or drive through flooded potholes for obvious reasons – they might be deeper than you think.

To begin with, riding up Monivong road takes you past the Chrouy Changva Bridge and along the Ton Le Sap River. This part of town has a Muslim flavour. You cycle past Mosques and Masjids with bearded men wearing kufis and thobes while many of the women wear hijabs and abayas. Another fascinating side of Cambodia.

After awhile you pass the second Ton Le Sap bridge.

About 40kms out of town you see Oudong on your left. It is easy to spot as the remnants of the former centre of power are perched on one of the few mountains in the area. Oudong was the royal residence and Cambodia’s capital for more than 250 years until 1866. It is also known as the “City of Past Kings”. You could stop here and look around, but it is better to visit Oudong on a day trip from Phnom Penh.

After Oudong the ride takes you through some twists and turns before you arrive in Kampong Chhnang. The journey from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang is light on traffic and the hazards it presents. There are plenty of places to take a break and top up on water. As usual the inquisitive locals will want to know what you’re up to and smile with disbelief.

Kampong Chhnang

By now, you are in one of the central provinces of Cambodia, and its capital is, what else, Kampong Chhnang. It is amazing how tidy the town is. Most Cambodian towns are dusty and littered but not this one. As you ride in there are several guesthouses to choose from but continue to the centre of town which is nearer the Ton Le Sap.

Kampong Chhnang is about 100 kilometres from Phnom Penh. It is next to the Ton Le Sap. The town’s name literally means Clay Pot Port.

Take a ride to the bustling dock on the Tonlé Sap River. This is the jumping-off point for boat rides to floating villages. Ferrys leave here and ply the lake to the other side or further afield. Near the port are many Chinese shops. There is also a large Vietnamese community.

Outside of town you can visit the areas where the area’s distinctive pottery is crafted underneath stilted homes.

Kampong Chhnang Province

 Kampong Chhnang Province centuries ago was a main trading route between China and India. The Kampong Chhnang museum has the archaeological record of its history.

There is a Khmer Rouge-era airbase in the area. This base was built, but not completed, to handle Chinese aircraft. During its construction there were many Chinese advisors overseeing the works.

The military airport was the product of forced labour under the Khmer Rouge. Construction on this military airbase began in 1977, but it was abandoned in 1979 when Vietnamese forces invaded and occupied Cambodia.

Though never used for any actual aviation, the land holds several abandoned roadways leading to old buildings, water tanks, and the huge airstrips themselves.

There is also a guard posted at the runway. Typically, visitors have to pay a “fee” to look around.

Kampong Chhnang to Pursat

The next stage is another 100 or so kilometres from Kampong Chhnang to Pursat. This town is also the gateway to the Cardoman Mountains and beyond.

Pursat is located between the Tonle Sap and the northern end of the Cardamom Mountains. The Pursat River bisects the province, running from the Cardamoms in the west to the Tonle Sap in the east.

First impressions of Pursat is another dusty Khmer town. However, it is home to 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 province also hosts the annual River Run Race, an event for men and women, including those in wheelchairs, has five- and ten-kilometre races that follow the path of the Pursat River. Since its inaugural race in 2007, the event has grown to the second largest of its kind in Cambodia.

Pursat to Battambang

The Pursat to Battambang road is unusually quiet in the early morning. There is an odd line of street lights lining the road as you leave town. They seem to go on forever. Once past them, there are rice fields on either side of you for the next 100 kilometres or so.

The ride to Battambang, or city of the lost stick, is quite uneventful. However, when you enter city you first encounter the Battambang statue. A short ride from this and you are in the city centre.

Battambang is the leading rice-producing province of the country. It was also part of Thailand for some time before the French ceded it in 1907, and French Colonial architecture is a notable aspect of the city and an excellent opportunity for picture taking.

The city is situated on the Sangkae River. This is a small river that winds its way through Battambang Province to the Ton Le Sap. Battambang has several Angkorian temples in the area, and it is definitely worth staying in the town for several days.

Cyclebodia Destinations

If you have enjoyed this Cambodian cycling adventure there are plenty of other Cambodian destinations to keep you busy and fit.  Try Anlong Veng or Kampong Cham or Ratanakiri and never missing our on Angkor Wat.

Phnom Penh to Battambang

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