Cambodia on Two Wheels
14 Days / 13 Nights
Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh. Visit Royal Palace and National Museum.
On arrival check in to your hotel.
In the afternoon, we explore the stunning Royal Palace complex, home to the Cambodian royal family. We begin at the Throne Hall and Napoleon III Pavilion, a gift from the French emperor in the 19th century. We continue to the Silver Pagoda, named after the 5000 silver tiles covering the floor, each weighing 1kg. Inside is a delicate emerald Buddha made of baccarat crystal, which gives the temple its Khmer name of Wat Preah Keo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha).
We leave the Royal Palace and continue to the nearby National Museum, home to the world's finest collection of sculpture from the Angkor period. The exquisite building was completed in 1920 and features collections from the pre-Angkor, Angkor and post-Angkor periods. We concentrate on the incredible sandstone sculpture from Angkor, as well as the intricate bronzes.
Day 2: Tuol Sleng & Killing Fields. Afternoon Visit to Silk Island.
We come face to face with the horrific crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng was a former high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a centre for interrogation, torture and death. Today it is a museum of torture and serves to remind visitors of the terrible atrocities that came to pass in Cambodia. 17,000 people passed through the gates of this prison and only seven lived to tell the tale. The Khmer Rouge were meticulous in their record keeping, photographing all the prisoners and many of these haunting black and white images are on display in the cells. Tuol Sleng is a profoundly moving experience and not everyone will want to visit. However, it is key to understanding the hell into which Cambodia descended and how far it has come in the years since.
We then travel out of town to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Prisoners from Tuol Sleng followed this same route to their fate. An old Chinese cemetery, Choeung Ek was turned into an extermination camp for political prisoners. The remains of 8985 people were exhumed from mass graves and are kept in a memorial stupa here. Despite the horrors of the past, it is a peaceful place to go and a tranquil spot to reflect on the tragic events that engulfed Cambodia and its people.
After lunch we then take a tuk-tuk to the nearby island in the Mekong River called Koh Dach, also known as ‘Silk Island’, where we cycle around the island villages where silk weaving is the main livelihood and where there is a loom under every house. We can see the weaving techniques first-hand and experience a slice of rural Cambodia close to the capital before returning by tuk-tuk.
Day 3: Phnom Penh to Takeo.
Leaving Phnom Penh on NH2, we make a short side trip to the temple of Tonle Bati about 32km south of Phnom Penh, our first encounter with the glories of Angkor. We continue south to Takeo, our base for the night where we stay in a local hotel.
Day 4: Takeo to Kep.
We head west from Takeo, then veer south on the newly renovated NH31, one of the nicest rides in the country. We take lunch in Kompong Trach and visit the cave pagodas of Phnom Sor nearby. Later we continue on to the old colonial-era beach resort of Kep, our base for two nights.
Day 5: A Day on Rabbit Island.
We travel to the boat pier to board a local boat for the journey to Koh Tonsay or Rabbit Island. We journey across calm waters to this beautiful palm-fringed island, home to a small community of fisherfolk and farmers. We leave some time free to enjoy the white-sand beaches that ring the island. After a lunch of fresh seafood, there is more time to enjoy the sun, sea and sand before we travel back to Kep by boat.
Day 6: Kep to Kampot.
We take a short coastal ride along to Kampot, a charming riverside town under the shadow of Bokor Mountain. Along the way, we stop to visit the impressive cave pagoda of Phnom Chhnork, with a perfectly preserved pre-Angkorian temple inside. Overnight in Kampot.
Day 7: Kampot to Sihanoukville.
Today, we tackle a longer ride from Kampot to Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s premier beach resort. Heading west along the coast, we pass several picturesque fishing villages with colourful boats.
Day 8: Free Day in Sihanoukville or Visit Kbal Chhay.
We leave today free to enjoy the beaches around Sihanoukville. There is the option to visit the picturesque waterfall of Kbal Chhay, a popular local spot for a freshwater swim, or take a boat trip to one of the offshore islands.
Day 9: Sihanoukville to Kompong Thom.
We leave Sihanoukville and travel north on National Highway 4 towards the Cambodian capital. We pause to pay our respects to Yeay Peau, a protective spirit who looks after travellers on the road. The Pich Nil Pass is where the road cuts through Bokor and Kirirom National Parks to the east and west and is lined with shrines and incense.
We carry onto Phnom Penh, the lively riverside capital of the country and then we continue to travel northeast to the bustling provincial city of Kompong Cham. En route, there is the chance to pause at Skuon, affectionately known as 'Spiderville', where it is possible to sample the local delicacy of deep fried tarantula. We journey west to the provincial capital of Kompong Thom and stay overnight in a comfortable local hotel.
Day 10: Village and Temple visit to Sambor Prei Kuk.
After breakfast in Kompong Thom, we board our cycles to explore the impressive pre-Angkorian capital of Isanapura, known today as Sambor Prei Kuk. The first major temple city in South-East Asia, the brick temples of Sambor Prei Kuk are a peaceful contrast to their more illustrious relatives at Angkor. We explore the main temples here, including Prasat Tao with its elaborately coiffured lions and Prasat Sambor, with its crumbling sanctuaries.
After lunch we cycle out to visit the Santuk Silk Farm and see the entire silk production process from silkworm to weaving karmas and sampots. Then we make our way to the nearby sacred and holy hill of Phnom Santuk, some 18kms south of the city. The hill, with over 800 steps to the top, is a series of pagodas and shrines amidst a collection of large sandstone boulders, on which many Buddhist motifs and figures have been carved, including several large reclining Buddhas. We enjoy the wonderful view across the flat plains of the countryside before heading back to Kompong Thom.
Day 11: Kompong Thom to Siem Reap. Explore Walled City of Angkor Thom.
After breakfast in Kompong Thom, we continue northwest on National Highway 6. This was an old Angkor road and we stop in Kompong Kdei to see one of the ancient Angkor bridges that were built to span the rivers. Spean Praptos or the Praptos Bridge has more than 20 arches and is a spectacular sight, reinforcing the impression that the Khmers were like the Romans of Southeast Asia. We continue to Siem Reap where we take lunch.
After lunch we explore the massive complex of Angkor Thom. We ride around the upper walls from the South Gate to the West Gate. We eventually arrive at the enigmatic Bayon. We then check out a sunset from Phnom Bakheng.
Day 12: Cycling to the Jungle Temple Ta Prohm and Preah Khan.
Today we take on the main temples of the Small Circuit in the morning, visiting Ta Prohm, Ta Nei and Ta Keo by bicycle. We can also visit Banteay Kdei and make our way to the royal bathing pond of Sra Srang where we enjoy a well-earned drink.
After lunch, we explore the main temples of the Big Circuit by bicycle, including Preah Khan, Neak Poan and Pre Rup, where we stop for sunset before heading back to our hotel.
Day 13: Angkor Wat sunrise. Roluos Group. Floating village.
Optional tour: Rising at the crack of dawn, we journey out to the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat.
After breakfast, we depart by tuk tuk and then cycle through paddy fields to the Roluos Group of temples stopping at the pyramid-mountain 9th century Bakong temple and at Prasat Preah Ko. Afterwards, we head towards the floating village of Kompong Pluk and board small wooden boats for the trip to visit the village. Cruising down a narrow waterway, we enter this medieval floating village, where the houses stand atop stilts as much as seven metres above the water. Everything lives on the water, pigs, dogs, crocodiles and people, all jockeying for space in this incredible floating town. We explore the local wat here, before boarding a bigger boat to take us through the flooded forest and across the Great Lake to Chong Kneas and the holy mountain of Phnom Krom. We climb Phnom Krom for a glorious sunset over the Tonle Sap before heading back to Siem Reap by road.
Day 14: Departure.
Free at leisure until transfer to airport for departure flight.