Cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia in the first leg of my Vietnam to the UK trip was a really fascinating journey.
After extensive preparation, riding through the street lights that lit up the roads an overwhelming feeling of dread and numbness came over me. I had never prepared for something so much in my life, that is in terms of material things yet on the flip side never had I been so ill prepared as my longest ever ride was still only 12 km, this for me was still tough so cycling from Vietnam from Cambodia was going to be one hell of a challenge.
The Ride to The Border
The ride from Ho Chi Min (Saigon) to the border with Cambodia was to be perfectly honest was not a nice road at all. Very little countryside to look at and combined this with the regular flow of huge lorries drudging up gravel made it seriously uncomfortable.
Arriving into Cambodia
After a short wait at the border, I was in Cambodia. Staying at the border town, Bavet, a dust bowl of a town and full of casinos, to say I was looking forward to the next morning was an understatement. Annoyed at myself at lying in the next morning, as knowing the sun beats down forcibly by 8 a.m, by which point I set off.
Camping in Cambodian Bush
I had my tent so why not use it? Riding until 4 pm I started looking for a place to stay. I thought to myself here is the perfect place to stay. I dutifully set up my tent and blow up my mattress. Suddenly people came out of nowhere and I realised that even though my camp was behind a few bushes, there were a substantial lot of people living nearby. They came to check my out, and after I thought just for a moment I was going to be in the clear, the police turned up.
Being Taken To The Police Station
I was swiftly escorted off the premises and told to go to the police station. I had to pack up my belongings in complete darkness with maybe thirty people crowding me. Riding down that dirt road to the police station sandwiched by the two police motorbikes so many thoughts swirled around my mind. How much would I have to pay? Would I get arrested? Where would I stay tonight? The policeman proceeded to take me into his office and took out his phone and started recording. I tell you what Mr Policeman, I’ll do the same, so I started recording him. After ten minutes, I was told everything was fine and that I could stay on the floor for the night. I inflated my bed and tried to go to sleep whilst the police got drunk in the next room. I decided not to join them.
The Delight Of Riding Through The Cambodian Countryside
If you ever think about cycling in Cambodia during the month of November, you need to first of all know that the sun is really strong during the middle of the day. Between the hours of 11 am to 2 pm it’s best to find somewhere to avoid the sun’s laser beam gaze. There are also plenty of restaurants that serve basic food like meat and rice, regularly found as you make your way.
The strong sun meant waking up early is a must. You get into a routine comfortably though. Words cannot do justice just beautiful it is to ride in the dawn and dusk hours. So I’ll just show you in pictures.
The Body Pain
As previously mentioned, I had only ever ridden for 12 km in one go before. This was never going the right preparation for cycling such a long way. I knew it was going to hurt, but I wasn’t sure how much. It hurt a lot, first my right tendon was killing, then my left. Looking up stretching videos, I made sure every night and morning I stretched as much as I could. The pain became manageable eventually.
I was really grateful that I bought a new saddle and padded shorts. This made those 100 km days bearable. It still hurt but my saddle combined with loads of vaseline made sure the chaffing was down a minimum.
Feeling exhausted was a constant thing, and as I wasn’t doing my own cooking it was really important that I managed to find enough street food to take in the calories that I would need. This wasn’t an issue as there were loads of restaurants that offered meat and rice. After a while i must say it became a bit boring but needs must!
I really need to give a mention to David Goggins and recommend to people to listen to his audio book Can’t hurt me. In the heights of my pain, hearing David talk about callousing the brain in order to release your full potential echoed in my head was such a tonic.
Cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia was a total distance was 423 km with the majority being very flat terrain. Roads were mainly good but on occasions especially out of Krong Bavet on day two, the dust was insane.
Day 1 Ho Chi Minh > Krong Bavet
Day 2 Krong Bavet > Krong Svay Vieng
Day 3 Krong Svay VIeng > Kampong Cham
Day 4 Rest day
Day 5 Kampong Cham > Stueng Saen
Day 6 Stueng Saen > Kampong Kdai
Day 7 Kampong Kdai > Siem Reap
Accommodation in Siem Reap
Arriving in Siem Reap was awesome, on the way in I came across a landmine museum which I dutifully checked out. Finding a lovely guy from couchsurfing named Trak, let me stay in his place for a couple if nights. It was basic but nice to get an incite into Cambodian life.
Thinking About Doing It
Cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia was certainly the toughest thing I have ever done. The beating sun was relentless and having to take special over my diet and hydration is something I had never been conscience of before. Yet the dramatic sun rises as the sun pierced the palm tress over the endless expanse of rice paddies made it all worth while. A special mention has to go to the people, who were friendly throughout and made a special effort to go out of their way to make you feel at home. Especially the police!
If you are thinking about taking this on yourself, it’s certainly doable. The ground is flat throughout and as long as you eat up the mileage when the sun is at its least potent, you’ll certainly get the job done. You don’t need too much money either, as on the nights I didn’t camp, hotels were only $6 – $8 (rooms without a fan) and food never exceeded $2 a meal.