Love to hear from anyone about touring in Vietnam and Cambodia. Easy to do on your own? Best places to go. Touring companies that are worth the bucks? Planning a two week trip for December and January. Thanks!
Touring in Vietnam and Cambodia
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Sat, 2011-08-06 21:54#1
Touring in Vietnam and Cambodia
I toured Cambodia for 4 weeks. Best to sleep in guesthouses, cheap and you get to talk to the people. Avoid Phnom Penh, it's total chaos, I had an accident there although I cycle very cautiously. I had no damage because my bike is absolutely bombproof ;-)
I liked Sihanoukville. Some roads are very bad, only gravel with big stones and 4-wheel cars speeding so you choke on the lime dust and can't see a thing. If you have to drive on one of those keep a quite high speed otherwise you will take a fall for sure ...
I won't revisit Cambodia, it's just too damn dangerous. I love Thailand and Laos, the best people and real safe cycling.
Good luck and happy trails,
DO NOT CAMP OR GO OFF-ROAD IN CAMBODIA -- THERE ARE MANY, MANY LANDMINES. If you read nothing else of my post, read this. ALWAYS stay in a guesthouse.
I lived in Cambodia for 7 months and worked for a tour company, PEPY. It's not super athletic -- it's more for people who want to learn about international development work and meet LOTS of Cambodian people while cycling about 30 (typical) to 100 (MAX!) km per day.
That said, it's pretty hard to go through the backroads of Cambodia without a map or some serious language skills. And I don't know where you'd get a map of the dirt roads (which is what most of the interesting ones are) without going on a tour. I don't know who else does tours besides PEPY -- maybe Backroads or something. PEPY won't sell their route maps or directions (FYI), so don't waste your time there.
Phnom Penh is awful (as previous poster said). I hear the mountains (Mondulkiri & Ratanakiri) are AMAZING but I didn't make it up there. Cambodia doesn't have guesthouses everywhere, and there are so many Vietnam-era unexploded ordnances that it is VERY VERY VERY unsafe to go off the roads, even for a pee. The temples near Siem Reap are great -- you can bike them at your leisure. They even rent bikes in town for that purpose.
You've seen this post? http://www.warmshowers.org/content/cambodiamaps-free-map-downloads
One idea for you -- it's kind of crazy but whatever. There's a guy named Lucky who is a serious cyclist in Cambodia. He leads tours for PEPY and has even traveled internationally for competitions before (which is hard to do in such a poor country). He knows EVERY backroad -- he actually designed the trips for PEPY.
If he's interested, you might be able to pay him to make a map/set of directions for you, or even hire him as a guide. I'd just email PEPY and ask them to ask him if he'd be interested in a side job. You might have to go through PEPY. When I was there last, he didn't speak much English although he was in classes (and this was 5 years ago). But if you're a woman, don't bother. He is likely to sexually harass you.
You will definitely need a mountain bike. Even the "paved" roads... well, aren't. Enjoy the Cambodian snow (red dust that is EVERYWHERE outside the cities)!
I toured Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Northern Vietnam in 2009/2010. It is easy to do on your own, and I would actually recommend against joining a tour - I changed my itinerary (almost) every second day and was able to see some cool things and participate in some local festivals, which couldn't be done with a fixed itinerary.
If you only have two weeks (I had 9 weeks), I suggest that you think about touring Laos (and Vietnam), rather than Cambodia. I understand that you wouldn't want to miss the Angkor temples, but you can easily fly into Siem Reap for ~3 days, then on to Laos...
This is just my suggestion, so you can take it with a grain of salt, but I found the Cambodian scenery comparatively dusty and boring and the food was pretty terrible. I enjoyed cycling some dirt roads but there was quite heavy and break-neck fast traffic on the sealed roads. Laos had some amazing hills, lush scenery (you won't even notice the hills!), beautiful towns (Vientiene and Luang Prabang are stunning), and really delicious food and good french-style coffee. *swoon* I want to go back!
I crossed the border from Muang Khua Laos to Dien Bien Phu Vietnam, though be advised that this is an unsealed road, and a two-day trip (there is a Guest-house half way).
Best of luck to you.
P.S. I agree with the previous poster re: Cambodian men. Although I always dressed/acted modestly I experienced a lot of sexual harassment. I believe it is because they do not have a flirting/wooing culture - in Vietnam and Laos men were always respectful and occasionally playfully flirty if their English was up to scratch :)
Having said that, Cambodian women and children are delightful (although get used to kids screaming out "Barang!" as you cycle past lol)