Nov 02 2012
The best way to see Sihanoukville is by bicycle. Some might argue in favour of motorbikes, but if you want to actually see Sihanoukville and not just keep your eyes on the traffic, cycling is the way to go. Walking is another option, of course, but although relatively low in population, Sihanoukville is large in area. Convinced yet? If not, let’s take a bike ride around Sihanoukville and see what happens.
Your journey may begin at a bike rental stand like this one on Serendipity Road. You can either rent one-speed cruisers or mountain bikes. I can’t vouch for the quality of either, but you don’t really need 24 gears on a super-light frame to negotiate the largely flat Sihanoukville terrain. If the tyres are pumped up and the brakes work, you’ll be fine.
The route here is a short one designed for cruisers. Thanks to my mobile phone’s GPS and a relatively cool app called MapMyRide, I can say with confidence that the route is just 6.56 kilometres long and involves a change in altitude of only 37 metres. If you take the route clockwise, most of that change feels like it’s downhill as you coast down to Sokha Beach.
When you reach the bottom of the hill, you already have options. For 1,000 riel, you can leave your bike with the attendant at the motorbike parking area at the base of the hill and go for a swim on the free end of Sokha Beach, or you can continue riding. I recommend the latter, because you really haven’t even worked up a sweat yet.
At the bottom of the hill, you’ll take a sharp right. Within a couple of hundred metres, you’ll come to the entrance to the Sokha resort complex. As intimidating as the guards may or may not look, no one is going to stop you if you take a side trip and ride through the grounds of the resort. Just follow your nose and you can’t get lost, but don’t ride on the footpaths. You will be prevented from doing that.
Not far after the entrance to Sokha, you will have to face a major decision: continue riding along the coastal road, which will double the ride’s length but let you take a break at Independence Beach (where you will probably end up spending most of the day); or take a right on the double wide concrete road that skirts the edge of Sihanoukville’s largest and most ambitious development project, Pearl City.
The cement road will eventually make a sharp left, but continue going straight ahead on the dirt road that takes over where the cement road angles left. Within a few minutes, you’ll find yourself on Ekareach Street. Turn right and just keep riding till you finish your loop. Be careful at the stop lights — most Cambodian drivers ignore them unless the traffic police happen to be on duty.
You may start your ride from Ochheuteal or Serendipity Beach, but I started mine from the corner of Makara and Ekareach Streets in downtown Sihanoukville. Why? Because, like a donkey chasing a carrot on a stick, I was looking forward to stopping in at Douceur du Cambodge on Makara Street for a well-earned cappuccino and pastry after my ride.
In most places, bicycles only cost a couple of dollars a day to hire, so a bike ride around Sihanoukville won’t bust your budget. Don’t leave your bike unattended though, and avoid carrying a heavy bag packed with valuable stuff with you. I’ve been riding safely around Sihanoukville for years, but it’s never a good idea to leave an open invitation to thieves.
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