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Cycling tour

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One of the best ways to get a sense of Phnom Penh’s scale and location is to cycle — away from it, all the way over to the other side of the Mekong. While you can always hire a bike and just go, if you’re pushed for time or can’t be bothered working out a smart itinerary, taking a tour is a fine option.


Expect a lot of this. Except with your butt on the bike.

We checked out a half-day, 25-kilometre Grasshopper tour to the Mekong islands, which was excellent and priced at US$39. We haven’t come across any other outfits offering similar cycling tours, though it’s possible some guesthouses or hotels offer their own versions.


We gotta get out of this place.

The tour kicks off at their almost-riverside located office, where I met the only other person on the tour. We met our guide Vichet, who got us to check out our bikes, explained how the gears worked, and gave us details of the morning’s itinerary.


The white building is the Sokha. The black to the left is Vattanac Capital, the tallest building in town.

We started with a quick cycle through the mesmerising morning peak-hour traffic, somehow blending in with it all, before stopping to take a commuter ferry over the river to the quieter side of the Mekong.


Welcome to the other side of the Mekong.

We made a brief stop at a traditional Khmer house-on-stilts, as Vichet explained how land is now being snapped up in this part of town as Phnom Penh expands. For now though, it remains heavily rural, with fields of corn and eggplant, plus orchards of mango and other fruits.


Make new friends.

And plenty of animals.


Forget condos. This is the perfect house for the tropics.

We stopped at a home where silk is produced, with two looms in action. The islands sprinkled through the Mekong here are famed for their production. One of the weavers explained the process of creating silk to us, beginning with the 35-day life cycle of the silk worm, who are fed hand-chopped mulberry leaves when they are small, graduating to munching whole ones themselves when they’re larger.


Munch munch.

The cocoons are then spun into silk, the silk dyed, and the weaving done to create a range of items, beginning with basic scarves (from $10) and moving along to sophisticated wedding outfits that take weeks.


It’s an art.

Cotton weavings are also made and sold here; good quality kramas start at $3. There was no hard sell, but we were each tempted to buy a few items.


Jut try and not buy any. Go on.

After a snack of sweet local fruits we were off again, stopping riverside so Vichet could call a private local ferry to come get us. I started to make a joke about the rust bucket approaching being our boat, when I realised it actually was.


We made it.

It got us across to our next stop safely enough though, where we traipsed around a busy pagoda as Vichet explained its key features.



Then we were off again for another cycle through more lovely scenery, stopping for a freshly squeezed sugar cane juice before jumping on our final commuter ferry back to the big smoke. A tuk tuk whisked us back into town proper, where we headed to a local lunch joint for a solid and rather delicious selection of curries, stir-fries and soup.


Back to the future.

If you’re travelling alone, tagging along on a tour like this is good value and we highly recommend it; once there’s a few of you, it does add up fast, but considering all the add-ins, such as lunch at a place you’d find it difficult to walk into and order at, it’s still fair value.

It gets mighty hot — by about nine we thought it must have been midday — so don’t forget sunscreen, but don’t forget to reapply it as well, as it sweats off fast. You don’t need a high degree of fitness to do this route — you just need to be able to ride a bike.

If the cycling sounds too gruelling but the thought of seeing Phnom Penh from a different angle entices, perhaps try a sunset cruise instead.

By .

Cycling tour
23 Street 144, Phsar Kandal 1, Phnom Penh
Daily 07:30-20:00
T: (016) 337 363, (012) 462 165
Admission: $39

Location map for Cycling tour

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