Are you a cycling enthusiast who values health and exploration at the same time? In this modern age, defined by stressful work and high-calorie food, it is more important than ever to get physical and travel to ease your tensions. Cycling is even more strategic to get away from a crowded, bustling city like Phnom Penh. Taing Rinith comes up with tips for a nice bicycle trip around Phnom Penh.
Getting a bicycle
FIRST, what kind of a bike and for what kind of a journey. A road bike is the choice to ride for exercise and stay on the pavement while a cruiser bike is ideal for short, casual rides. In the meantime, an adventurer who doesn’t mind cycling up a mountain or riding on bumpy roads should get a mountain bike. At the end of the day, the bike depends on your budget.
In Phnom Penh, many shops abound selling new bikes, including AEON Mall, which can cost up from a few hundreds to thousands of dollars. Yet, if you prefer travelling on budget, find cheaper second-hand bikes from a line of shops on Street 107 (near Orussey Market). They sell imported bikes from Japan, up from around $40, and give free accessories such as baskets and locks. Ask to try the bicycle first before you purchase it — to check on brakes, paddle and so on. If you don’t like any of the parts, ask the seller to change it for you.
Of course, if it is only the occasional trip now and then, you can rent one from bike rental shops such as Phnom Penh Cycling & Tour (on Street 174) and Phnom Penh Cycling & Tour (on Street 360).
Carrying too much weight can cause discomfort. Items recommended are: fill a small backpack with one change of outfit, a hand towel, bottle of water and raincoat, and maybe your favourite book or e-reader. And of course, bring some money in small change, say around $100.
If you are a picky eater or have a weak stomach, pack food and keep it in your bag.
Always keep yourself protected, with cycling gear or at least with a helmet to protect your crown. Don’t forget a printed map in case your phone does not have ‘services’. If you need spare parts when cycling in Cambodia, then you should stick to the bigger towns.
Where to go
Many places near Phnom Penh has world-class sights to see and the roads there are quite good. Here are some places we recommend:
Arey Ksat, a small commune in Kandal province, is the most popular among bike enthusiasts. The roads in the commune are quiet, even during rush hour, allowing a biker to elevate the mood by moving into top gear to embrace the cool, fresh breeze of the countryside. If you prefer cycling in the slow lane, it boasts a number of serpentine trails with trees at regular intervals or plantation or fields along the way.
Isles on Tonle Bassac
About 20 km south of Phnom Penh, on the part of National Road Number 2 that is lined with Bassac River, you can take a ferry to several isle on the river, including Koh Anlong Chen, Koh Ksach Tonlea and Koh Kor, all of which are good places for relaxing and exploring.
A hillside retreat in Kandal located about 25 km north-west of Phnom Penh, Phnom Baset is the most well-known place in Cambodia for mountain biking. It is also a great sightseeing landmark and a historical site.
Silk island, also known as Koh Dach, is a biker/cyclists’ paradise just a stone’s throw from the hurly-burly of Phnom Penh. Enjoy swimming, trekking and sightseeing there — not to mention a spectacular cruise across the river.
Ride on the right side of the road only. Keep yourself hydrated. Don’t go to remote areas alone. Don’t take out your phone or money on a road, and always stay near your bicycle. Keep a Khmer language phrase book (if you don’t speak it) in case you need help. Look out for what you eat; don’t accept a drink offer from anyone you don’t know.