Cycle the Vietnam to Cambodia Route

Written by Bethany McAtee on 28th February, 2020

Let’s not beat around the bush here. If you’re going to travel all that way to Asia, you may as well visit more than one country. Especially when the countries are neighbours! Similarly, if you want to discover a country without all the tourist traps and crowds, why not travel by bike? Fitting perfectly into both these categories is cycling our Vietnam to Cambodia route. Throughout the 800km route (which, you’ll be pleased to know is mostly flat), immerse yourself in unique, fascinating cultures. Speak to local hill tribes, gain a better understanding of the Vietnam war and be in awe of beautiful scenery. Oh, and eat some of the tastiest food in the world…

HOI AN TO KON TUM

Your cycle on the Vietnam to Cambodia route begins in the historic coastal city of Hoi An. Possibly the perfect introduction to the laid-back, vibrant side of Vietnam, Hoi An is brimming with ancient and contemporary culture. Spend a couple days wandering around the UNESCO Old Town admiring the blend of Asian and French architecture. Also, make sure to pedal to the nearby rice paddy fields and roll the legs down to the quiet beaches. And above all, feast on as much cau lau as you can, as you won’t find this pork dish outside of Hoi An!

a colourful boat sits on the river in the historic hoi an in vietnam

After you become acquainted with Vietnam’s lifestyle, it’s time to hit the saddle on your adventure toward Cambodia. First up is My Lai, a village racked with a traumatic past, and acts as an important reminder of the horrific Vietnam War. Learn about the My Lai massacre by visiting the museum, which provides a moving and accurate insight into the event. Nearby Quang Ngai offers an ideal pit stop for the night. Although not the most attractive town, Quang Ngai’s history also resides in the Vietnam war and before. What was once a centre of resistance against the colonial French Quang Ngai then became a Viet-Minh stronghold. 

KON TUM TO STUNG TRENG

Remote and relaxing, the village of Kon Tum rarely sees tourists ambling around its streets and markets. However, this isn’t to say Kon Tum shouldn’t be a destination along your Vietnam to Cambodia route. If you want to experience Vietnam without the tourist tint, Kon Tum allows you to immerse yourself in indigineous culture. Additionally, there is little traffic and fantastic scenery surrounding the village, so you can truly unwind before hitting the road.

vietnamese children cycle across a stone bridge over a river

Cycle through the hill tribe communities en route to Pleiku, in particular, Jarai and Bhanar. Whilst visiting these communities you can get an insight into their unique communal houses, traditions and customs.  Once in Pleiku, you’ll notice the dramatic change in architecture. Because Pleiku was damaged during the Vietnam war, the city was rebuilt in 1980 by the Soviet Union. Even though the buildings aren’t exactly pleasing to the eye, the close proximity to Jarai and Bhanar makes it ideal. The next morning, ride across the border into Cambodia and discover the volcanic crater outside the small city of Banlung. 

STUNG TRENG TO KAMPONG CHAM

As you’ll discover, the route in between your stop off destinations can be just as thrilling and fascinating than the destination themselves. Imagine pedalling leisurely amongst authentic Cambodian countryside, with rice paddy fields and a picture perfect sunset filling the landscape. You’ll find that this is a daily experience on your Vietnam to Cambodia route (not that it gets tiring!). Yet it’ll likely be during the province of Stung Treng where the landscapes are particularly special.

a sunset over the mekong river with boats silhouetted

Heading straight down the centre of Stung Treng is the mighty Mekong River, which begins in China. Take a boat ride atop it’s tranquil waters in Kratie, especially at sunset. Look out for the rare pink Irrawaddy dolphins popping up and down! Alternatively, swap your bike for a kayak and spot the 100 bird species too in the Mekong River’s wetlands. Basically, Kratie is a small town consisting of a wonderful collection of temples, markets and outstanding sunsets. It’s quite easy to lose your sense of time here, as the laid back atmosphere lulls you into a slower mindset.

KAMPONG CHAM TO SIEM REAP

Now you’re on the home run, not that anyone wants to go home! Before you reach the finale in Siem Reap, take the time to explore a couple more less touristy Cambodian towns. Kampong Cham is further South along the Mekong River and is a small, colourfully decorated town showcasing the real Cambodia. On your way from Kratie to Kampong Cham, cycle to the French colonial town of Chhlong. Here you can get a taste of Angkor Wat by exploring Wat Han Chey, an 8th century hilltop pagoda. 

the UNESCO angkor wat in siem reap, cambodia

On the other hand, Kampong Thom is known for being a pit stop between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Even so, the route here is beautiful, taking you along tracks beside the Mekong River and past rural plantations. You will only need a night in Kampong Thom, therefore the next morning is your final leg to Siem Reap. Follow the historic roads all the way South and you’ll reach the ancient yet chic city of Siem Reap. Of course, the highlight here is the breathtaking Angkor Wat. Constructed in the 12th century by the Khmer Empire, the UNESCO temple complex is a mighty 400km square km. Spend a day here discovering the intricate designs engraved into the stone and marvelling at the sheer scale of these glorious structures.

Discover Vietnam and Cambodia by bike yourself, and contact our cycling specialists today. Join a guided tour of like-minded cyclists, led by a local, knowledgeable guide.