Cyccling Cambodia. The ride, the road, the facts.
to Mr Pumpy's
to Sisophon: 45 km
The Ride: Highway 5 is the main east west route across Cambodia. It runs from Poipet, at the Thai border, to Battambang (Cambodia's second biggest city) and onto the capital, Phnom Penh.
Highway 5 also runs for much of the way beside Cambodia's only train line and you could ride this route in five days, so with stops and breaks, expect to take a week to ten days.
To ride highway 5 or highway 6? Highway 5 south of the Tonle Sap is an easier ride than Highway 6.
My advice? If you're fit and experienced, Highway 6 is a good but rugged choice, but check the current road conditions before venturing forth. If you have some doubts about your staying ability, or want an easier time of it, then take Highway 5.
Bridges: All in good condition.
Traffic: Fairly light until you reach Phnom Penh. Even in Battambang, there's really not much traffic. A light but steady flow of trucks, cars and weird homemade vehicles.
Road works: There's road works in progress along the whole length, so improvements are in progress.
Food & Accommodation: Food, bottled water and accommodation available along the whole route. No worries!
Bangkok, to Aranyaprathet/Poipet (the Cambodian border) and on to Sisophon:
For a detailed description of the ride to Sisophon, go to The Northern Route
In brief: From Bangkok to Aranyaprathet (200 km) you can ride or catch the train (6 hours to Aran). Crossing the border is easy.
The road from Poipet to Sisophon (45 km) is dusty but in OK condition. Plenty of food and water along the way. It's an easy enough leg.
Rather than cycling to Battambang from Sisophon, you might consider taking the boat from Siem Reap.
Taking the boat will enable you to visit Angkor Wat at Siem Reap (a must see!) and then head down to Battambang and onto Phnom Penh along highway 5 south of the Tonle Sap.
See The Northern Route for details.
Sisophon to Battambang 80 km
An easy day's cycle from Sisophon into Battambang, Cambodia's second largest burg.
Take Highway 5 due south out of Sisophon and keep on going. The road goes past an enormous standing Buddha at the roundabout by the Central Market, and twists and turns beside the river for a few kilometres before breaking into the more mundane countryside.
The first 25 km is well paved, with the usual potholes, but the road deteriorates somewhat after this. The last 25 km into Battamabang is a smooth dirt road.
Battambang is an interesting town, sitting on the banks of the Sang Ke River and a couple of days sight seeing may be in order.
It collects it's fair share of backpackers, so the tourist services are good and a lot of local folk speak some English at least. There's a few good Guest Houses and hotels near the Central Market.
The White Rose and Paris Cafes are good places to get a meal and a drink.
There's an internet cafe on the corner opposite the Central Market (in the main street one block back from to the river).
Side trip to Phnom Sampeau: From Battambang you can do a side day trip to Phnom Sampeau. It's an easy 25 km away, and everybody is Wel Come! so it seems.
Side trip to Pailin: Pailin is 80 km from Battambang (55 km past Phnom Sampeau) down the same road. This area is the one of the last strongholds of the infamous Khmer Rouge, but these days it's perfectly safe. Mr Pumpy chose not to go to Pailin because even the thought of the Khmer Rouge makes him nauseous, much less rubbing shoulders with them. However, don't let him put you off.
slow train to Phnom Penh:
Battambang to Pursat 105 km
The first 25 km out of Battambang is sealed, with the usual potholes, and it tends to deteriorate the closer you get to Pursat. There's a few annoying powdery sections, and road works are in progress (Jan 02). No bad bridges.
Moung Roessei is about 45 km down the road and makes a good stop for lunch. There's a few roadhouse cafes just over the river on your right (south). There's a large school nearby, so if you're there around midday, expect company.
Pursat is a small but very pleasant town, sitting on the banks of the Pursat River (makes sense!). Not many tourists stop here, so the locals are extra polite and friendly.
There's two very good hotels in town.
Turn left (north) just before you cross the river and 100 metres down the road on your left is the Phnom Pich Hotel. It's very 60's and very grand, and 8 dollars will get you a large, sunny a/c room over looking the river and the power station. Mr Pumpy is totally in to power station architecture, so he was very excited indeed. There is a good restaurant on the ground floor, and it seems to be "the place to eat" in Pursat.
Directly behind the Phnom Pich, one street back from the river, is the New Than Sour Hotel which also looks pretty good.
The Tonle Sap is about only 30 km north of Pursat and an interesting day side trip is to take the road that runs out of town beside the river to the village of Phat Sandaong. The road is in pretty bad shape, but they're nice folk down there and believe me, they don't see many tourists!
Pursat to Kampong Chhnang 105 km
Another straightforward days' ride and again the road conditions are complete mixed bag.
The first 15 km out of Pursat is dirt road and potholed, the second 15 km is sealed and in OK condition, then it switches back to more dirt and bumps for another 15 km and the last 60 km into Kampong Chhnang is more or less sealed but somewhat pot holed.
There's also some tree lined stretches that make for pleasant riding and plenty of small towns along the way to stop for lunch and a snooze.
Kampong Chhnang sprawls out along the Tonle Sap River, and you'll need to ride through town, past the Central Market and on for another couple of kilometres to reach the port area.
Opposite the pier is a couple of popular hotels and a few backpackers stop here on their way through to Phnom Penh by boat from Siem Reap.
Personally I found it all a bit grubby and confused down by the port, but there's a couple of Guest Houses near the Central Market that may be a better bet. I didn't see them myself, so maybe check the Lonely Planet for details.
Kampong Chhnang to Phnom Penh 100 km
The first 50 km out of Kampong Chhnang is good, but the potholes seem to increase the closer you get to Phnom Penh. There's also some road works going on in parts (Jan. 02).
There are no hills to speak of, only a few sweeping rises and falls, that won't cause you any problems. The traffic picks up the closer you get to the capital but it's manageable.
Into Phnom Penh
Stay on Highway 5 all the way in to the capital. The road is narrow in parts as it enters the city outskirts and the traffic will be thick around dinner time.
You will pass a few mosques on the way (see at The Quiet Cyclist! at left.)
Highway 5 hugs the Tonle Sap River and will bring you straight out past the Japanese Bridge (on your left, east), and along Sisowath Quay, the road that runs along the waterfront and into Phnom Penh's primary upmarket area.
It's all cafes, pizza shops and tourists, so you can't miss it. Maybe get off the bike, order a cafe latte and pat yourself on the back.
The Royal Palace (on your right, west of the river) marks the end of the tourist strip.
For a short take on Phnom Penh go to Cambodia: General Riding Conditions