If you’re subscribed to my youtube channel or follow me on just about any form of social media, then you already know I’m going to ride a bike around Cambodia for the next month and some change. If you want to learn how to travel the world by bicycle, here is what I’ve learned.
Bicycle tourism has always been something I’ve wanted to try. Even when I was organizing my first backpacking trip back in 2013, I considered biking around Vietnam and Laos. It didn’t play out back then because I thought it would be too difficult to organize it once I arrived in Vietnam.
And back then, it probably would have been. But now it’s 2017. I’ve been traveling for years. I’ve lived in Cambodia for over a year at this point. And most of all, I know how to organize an adventure in a foreign country. So that’s what I did. And it’s almost time to go.
As I write this, today is Wednesday, April 26, 2017. I start my ride on May 1st. That is this coming Monday. I still have things to buy, Khmer I’ve never studied, and my foot is still just a little bit sore from an injury that set me back a month ago.
Oh yeah, did I mention I haven’t been able to ride for the last month because of an injury in my ankle/foot? Yeah.
Let’s get down to it. In this article I want to break down what I’m packing, where I’m going, and the things I’m most excited about seeing on my bicycle trip around Cambodia.
The Packing List: What to Bring on a Bike Trip Round the World
Okay, it isn’t a bike trip around the world, just Cambodia. But still! Here is the list of what I am packing, split up into categories. I’m trying to pack light, while still having everything I need in case of disasters or nights spent out in the middle of nowhere with no guesthouse or even regular house for shelter.
Category 1: Bike Gear
- 1 Merida Mountain Bike
- 1 Multitool
- 4 Inner Tubes
- 1 Patch Kit
- 1 Hand Pump
- 1 Can Chain Grease
- 1 Rag
- 1 Bike Helmet
Category 2: Clothing
- 3 pairs biking shorts/pants
- 2 long sleeve shirts
- 2 T-shirts for relaxing/pijamas
- 1 sarong (doubles as a skirt and towel)
- 1 dress (for when I’m not on a bike)
- 5 pairs of underwear
- 5 pairs of socks
- 1 poncho
- 1 hat
- 1 pair sunglasses
- 1 pair bike gloves
- 1 krama scarf
Category 3: Toiletries
- 1 small bottle 2-in-1 shampoo
- 1 deodorant
- 1 toothpaste
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 floss
- 1 comb
- 5 extra hair ties
- 1 menstrual cup
- 1 bottle sunscreen
- 1 bottle 98% deet bugspray (SORRY NOT SORRY)
- 1 First Aid Kit (disinfecting spray, bandaids, wraps)
- Many packets of ibuprofen
Category 4: Electronics*
- Macbook Pro & Charger
- Phone & Charger
- Canon DSLR & Kit Lens & Charger
- External Hard drive
Category 5: Miscellaneous
- 1 Hammock
- 1 Rope (about 4 meters)
- 1 Tarp (to cover panniers, and me if I get caught sleeping in the rain)
- 1 Mosquito net
- 1 Notebook
- 1 Flashlight
- 1 Knife
- 1 Spoon
- 1 Camelpak
- 1 Passport
- 1 Wallet with money
And that is IT! That is everything that I will have with me as I ride in a big giant circle around Cambodia. Any questions or concerns about my packing list? Have I forgotten something? Tell me about it in the comments down below!
*I wouldn’t normally want to bring a laptop on a journey like this. However, I’m planning on working during the ride and I need to have my computer with me in order to do that. Do I now wish I had purchased a more lightweight laptop? Yes. Yes, I do.
The Route: Getting Off the Beaten Path in Cambodia
I’ve spent the last year living in Battambang, Cambodia. Battambang is a gorgeous city with incredible countryside, but it does have some drawbacks. Most notably, that you cannot get anywhere else in Cambodia without first having to go through Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. And since Siem Reap is a 3 hour drive away, and Phnom Penh a 6 to 8 hour drive, that sort of rules out weekend getaways.
All that is to say I’ve spent the last year gazing longingly at maps of Cambodia, wondering what is out there. To date, I’ve visited two cities on the coast, Sihanoukville and Koh Kong, ridden a bicycle for four days through the Cardamom Mountains, and spent some time in Pailin, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh.
Okay that actually sounds like a lot.
But there is so much more of Cambodia to explore! When it came time to plan my route, I knew I wanted to reattempt the Cardamom Mountains and I wanted to explore Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri, and Preah Vihear. The rest of the route just planned itself.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, here is a map of my route:
Let’s talk about a few of the places I am the most excited for.
First up, I’ll begin the ride in the Cardamom Mountains. This is similar to the route I took back in November, just with a different starting point. My original plan was to be in really good shape so that I wouldn’t struggle as much as I did the first time around. Oh well! A twisted ankle threw that plan out the window. Instead of being in peak physical form, I’ve just rested for an entire month. Cardamom mountains, here I come.
With the Cardamoms, I’m really looking forward to taking in beautiful views, struggling up the mountainsides, and the sense of relief I will feel when I finally get a view of the lake and O Saom village. The highlight of any ride through the Cardamom’s is tranquil O Saom village, and I cannot wait to get back there. After that it’s just a quick 100kms through the mountains to Koh Kong.
Spend a day working and recovering in Koh Kong, a city on the coast, and then I’m off to Chi Phat. Chi Phat is this little town up in the Cardamoms where hopefully I can squeeze in a two day trek. I’ve heard they are a bit expensive and it can be challenging if you are traveling solo, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.
From there, it’s a one or two day ride over to Kampot, where I will spend two days exploring and working. I’ve heard from many people that Kampot is wonderful and not to be missed. I’m looking forward to visiting the ruined old French resort at Bokor Hill Station, and riding my bike casually through the countryside.
Pop over to Kep on the ocean real quick because I heard they have good food then it’s a few days ride up to Phnom Penh. In Phnom Penh I will have to buy a new visa (yipee!) but luckily this is Cambodia so you can literally stay for as long as you have money. A 6-month multiple entry business visa is $150.
After Phnom Penh comes the part I am the most uncertain about. I’ve chosen to follow a road called “National Highway 8” that goes towards the Vietnamese border, skirts it to head north, and eventually meets up with Highway 11 and the route to Sen Monorom in Mondulkiri.
I’m nervous for this section because there are no major cities, there are no tourist hubs, this region is in effect a “wildcard” for me. I have no idea if there will be guesthouses, I don’t know how the people will be, I have no idea what to expect. And that is why I picked it. I could’ve chosen an easier route, riding from Phnom Penh up to Kampong Cham and over to Sen Monorom. But really, what is the fun in that?
Then, Sen Monorom is the main city in Mondulkiri Province. There is an elephant sanctuary there, the Elephant Valley Project, and I’m planning to spend half a day with those elephants. Might spend another day in town exploring, might not.
Up next: THE DEATH ROAD. Okay, in all seriousness, there is a long road that runs between Sen Monorom and Banlung. In the past, it was unpaved and referred to as “the death road.” It’s paved now. But I’m still excited to ride it. Should take me two days.
Banlung. I want to do some trekking up there but the only prices I can find online are $130 for 2 days! I’m sorry but that is just not right. I’ll wait and see what happens when I get there. If I can trek, I will trek. If they insist on this ridiculous mark-up then whatever, I ain’t mad.
After Banlung comes the newest addition to my route: the road to Siem Pang. This road is irresistible. The road to Siem Pang is not paved. In places it is barely even a road. I’ve read trip reports from guys on motorized dirt bikes who say it took them 9 hours to finish the 95km, so I’m imagining it will take me two days. This is why I’m bringing the hammock, guys.
From Siem Pang, I ferry across the river then head back down to Stung Treng and hug the Laos/Thai border over to Preah Vihear. Preah Vihear has been a Cambodian travel goal for me since I arrived in April 2016. It’s a large, Angkorian era temple situated on top of a cliff right on the border with Cambodia and Thailand. It commands stunning views of the surrounding countryside and is apparently really well preserved. Can’t wait.
After that, I’ll stick close to the Thai border, enjoying some Cambodian countryside, staying in homestays, and loop back down to Battambang!
Time to Bike Around Cambodia
There you have it, that’s my plan. Am I nervous? Yes. Is it the hot season? Yes. I’ll be waking up at 4:30 or 5 am each day to ride, hopefully finishing shorter days by 11am. For the longer days, I plan to ride all morning, sit under some shade during the hot period, then start riding again at 3pm. I’m also planning on working the entire time. I create content for blogs and businesses around the world, so I’ll still try to spend 2 to 4 hours each day on that. Longer during my rest days. So, there you have it. That’s the plan.
Let’s see what happens.