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Get on a bicycle, off the beaten track, and explore the contrast between Cambodia and Vietnam! This adventure begins in Siem Reap, Cambodia and finishes 16 days later in Saigon, Vietnam. This bike journey is an incredible opportunity to truly explore the difference between these two amazing countries. To Social Cycles, travel is not just about seeing monuments and museums. These things can only teach you about yesterday. Their unique NGO engagements give you the chance to speak directly to professionals to learn about today and what tomorrow looks like. This is so much more than a holiday.
Social Cycles understands how important it is to take rest in a place that’s clean and comfortable - especially after a hard slog on the bikes. That’s why they always make an effort to get you settled somewhere in town suited to that description. Where they can, Social Cycles will organize boutique-style accommodation for everyone (with a pool) because quite frankly, you deserve it. They will also make sure that a massage is not far away! Mostly, you will stay at comfortable three-star hotels.
You will always be in an air-conditioned room (where possible). If you’re traveling with your partner, you’ll have your own room. Otherwise, rates are based on a twin share. A single supplement can also be arranged. In Ben Tre in the midst of the Mekong Delta, you stay with a local family in a homestay setting. This is a great chance to pick up a few cooking skills!
In Siem Reap, you will stay at Tanei Boutique Villa. The hotel features air-conditioned rooms, free Wi-Fi, an outdoor swimming pool, and is environmentally friendly. While in Phnom Penh, you will stay at Mito Hotel (or similar). The hotel is equipped with air-conditioned rooms, free Wi-Fi, laundry, restaurant, and spa.
This tour is hosted by the Australian company founder and local regional guides to ensure 100% satisfaction. Of your 16 days, you spend 10 on the bike. With adventures beginning from Siem Reap, Cambodia, and finishing in Saigon, Vietnam, you can truly explore and uncover the mysteries of these two incredible countries.
The route is completely flat and open to beginner-based riders. This is not a race and the journey is as impressive as the destination, so Social Cycles doesn't want to rush it. Take the time to soak up life in the remote regions of these two beautiful countries, stopping for coffees along the way knowing you're in good hands with the support of a local team and the following van.
Social Cycles will take you on a journey to interact and connect with local grassroots Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and the beneficiaries of a funded project of your choosing. Research what really happens on the ground and out in the villages with Social Cycles in a holiday that carefully balances ethical research and local impact with cycling and site seeing.
Social Cycles takes a minimum of two riders and a maximum of 12. They strongly believe that when you travel with a group beyond 12, there is a risk that voices and opinions may be drowned out when you have the rare opportunities to visit NGOs and ask questions to local leaders. Your small group policy means it’s easier for all of you to stay together.
As this is a cycling holiday, you will need to be reasonably healthy. You don’t need to be super fit for this ride, you just need to be positive. The cycling pace is relaxed and casual with frequent breaks to take photos and enjoy the scenery. You cycle from 60 kilometers to 90 kilometers per day, but there is always the option to get in the van should you want to reduce the cycling.
When you embark on an 85-kilometer day, the distance can seem quite daunting. However, an early start for 07:00 and an estimated time of arrival of 16:00 gives you nine hours to get there, and two hours of extra daylight up your sleeve if you need it. Traveling by bicycle is not about the destination, but the journey. You’ll stop for Khmer and Vietnamese coffees, local treats, lunch and of course, to take plenty of pictures. When you are moving, the average pace is about 20 kilometers per hour but that is flexible depending on the confidence of the group.
Friends-International is leading the charge in the ChildSafe movement and the Think Families, Not Orphanages campaign. Friends-International has an office in Phnom Penh, which makes for a great introduction to Cambodia. Chumkriel Language School is an incredible organization that goes so far beyond teaching a language.
In Vietnam, you may have the chance to visit some of the bigger organizations and see how their system helps the community. Social Cycles often visits a variety of different organizations. If there is one in particular you would like to learn more about, please let them know and they’ll make it happen.
Social Cycles will conduct in-depth cycling briefings on all tours, before all rides. Different countries have different road rules (written and unwritten), so it’s imperative that all riders are focused and pay attention during these times. Social Cycles will go through the terrain, traffic conditions, and distance for every ride, but they will also cover road rules, hand signals, group cycling etiquette, and the best practice, as well as cycling pace and timing.
Please note that all riders must wear a helmet and closed-toe shoes at all times during the trip. Social Cycles also recommends cycling gloves and padded shorts. All Social Cycles routes are undertaken on quiet back roads. They do not cycle on highways. Unless specified, they take the support van out of and into major cities. All bikes are serviced in between tours. A mechanic is present at all times during all tours and on all rides should there be any issues with the bikes.
Dehydration is potentially one of the biggest risks in cycling adventures as it is often the least considered. The countries you ride through are often humid and dehydration can creep up on you. All bikes are fitted with at least one water cage. You are advised to bring your own water bottle.
You should be drinking somewhere between two and four liters of water each day of riding. It’s advisable to carry hydralyte to assist in hydration, but if you drink enough water, early enough, you should not need it. The van carries a drum of water at all times, available for refilling your water bottle.
For every Social Cycles tour, all riders are requested to contribute a nominal sum for the purpose of a donation. Usually 200 AUD per rider. During the course of the tour, you are given the chance to engage with and learn from local NGOs. You visit no less than three NGOs during the Cambodia-to-Vietnam tour and spend some time learning about their projects, strategies, and challenges.
At the end of the tour, the riders are then empowered with new found knowledge and have the opportunity to combine the allotted donation money and make an impact toward a project of their choosing. In addition to building a profile for their impact partners, Social Cycles also pays each NGO for their time and resources. You spend one to two hours with each NGO.
In Cambodia, you will use Reid X-Trail 26 (and some X-Trail 29’s) mountain bikes to get you through some of the tough terrains that await. As most of the riding is off the beaten track, the front suspension makes for a much more supportive ride. Flick the mechanical lock-out, and the Suntour XCT 100mm travel fork becomes rigid, ideal for fast climbs and hard sprinting.
When the trail points down, powerful mechanical disc brakes, 24-speed Shimano gearing and 2.10-inch tires you power and control. Reid X-Trails feature tough alloy Alex DH-17 double-walled rims with stainless steel spokes and KT quick release hubs. This makes up a light, robust, and reliable wheelset. All bikes come equipped with a water cage, but for hygienic reasons, you’ll need your own water bottle.
You will arrive and stay in the heart of the cosmopolitan lifestyle that has been thrust on Siem Reap since the country has opened up to the outside world. Tourism is opening new markets, opportunities, revenue streams and challenges for the local area. After Social Cycles picks you up from the airport and take you to your hotel, take some time to relax or explore the city before you meet for a welcome dinner. Dinner is at one of Siem Reap’s best restaurants, Marum. It’s part of the Friends-International social enterprise projects, providing vocational training for marginalized youth.
Today, you will enjoy a sunrise cycling around the temples of Angkor. Sunrise is from 04:30 as you hit the bikes for the first time, but it is so worth it. Sunrise over Angkor Wat is a bucket list achievement for good reason. From here, you’ll venture on to other and arguably more impressive temples in the area for the remainder of the morning. In the early afternoon, you’ll have the chance to visit the first NGO of the trip. You will spend time with these incredibly inspirational people that have dedicated their lives to helping others. Hear their stories and understand what the real issues of the country are.
Today is a river riding through local villages with coffee stops. Traveling across the wetlands and navigating your way around Tonlé Sap River is an experience you will never forget. The road soon turns to single track as you get more and more remote. You farewell your support van and venture on into the rural and barren lands of Cambodia.
Few villages exist out here, supporting themselves through sustainable fishing methods. Battambang is great for shopping with colonial-style streets and hidden secrets where bric-a-brac abounds. Dinner is in another social enterprise-based restaurant, Jaan Bai, that produces food on par with anything in any Australian city.
Today is an adventure cycling with red dirt and Sustainable Cambodia. After an early breakfast, you’ll make your way along the dusty red back roads of Battambang, via Banan Temple. You’ll get to the town of Pursat by early afternoon and into your hotel to enjoy the swimming pool and on-site massage spa.
You’ll get a great experience from an amazing NGO, Sustainable Cambodia. A full presentation by the executives in their office and a tour of their facilities. Shortly after, you will be guided to see their projects working first hand. See the difference the NGO makes first hand. Be inspired by the real difference made by real people.
Today, you will cycle into Phnom Penh through riverside villages and Tonlé Sap. You start cycling 75 kilometers out from Phnom Penh and ride all the way up to the front door of the hotel. Please note that you take the back roads the whole way into Phnom Penh and arrive via a ferry into the heart of the town. At no point do you take National Highway 5. The amount of city cycling is approximately 1.5 kilometers. Riders can walk or take the van if they are not comfortable with this.
The back roads bring in some of the most spectacular scenery as you pass through villages living on Tonlé Sap Lake. The ride takes in great coffee stops, endless photo opportunities, and a couple of ferries. The final two kilometers within the heart of the city can be transferred via van as an option. For dinner, it’s a feast of tarantula’s and silk works at the famous Romdeng Restaurant, a social enterprise restaurant from the Friends-International team.
You’ll start the day by meeting the incredible people at Friends-International and learn about the wonderful work they do within the community. This is a great insight into real local everyday issues, from real local everyday heroes. From the office, you venture toward the Russian Market and then move to Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21 Genocide Museum. This devastating chapter of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian history is emotionally challenging but strongly recommended. There is some free time in the afternoon to process your day, whilst you’ll meet again for a local Khmer barbecue dinner.
Your first major cycling day takes you south of Phnom Penh to Phnom Chisor in rural Cambodia. It’s not really much of a mountain at 130 meters and the route is perfectly flat. You casually cycle through remote villages and waterways, via narrow dirt tracks. Phnom Chisor is where you’ll be for lunch as you have plenty of time to explore these ancient ruins which are 200 years older than Angkor Wat. From here, you’ll take the van down to the Cambodian coastal town of Kampot to enjoy the culinary delights on offer.
Start the day with an (optional 80-kilometer) mammoth Bokor Mountain cycle challenge! It’s 40 kilometers to get to the top. The first 10 kilometers are flat, then it just keeps on going up, and up, and up! If cycling uphill doesn’t rock your world, Social Cycles can bring your bike in the van and you can cycle down! Whilst at the top, you can take some time to explore the French ghost town of Bokor Hill Station in Preah Monivong National Park. For dinner, you’ll head to the Rusty Keyhole for the best barbecue ribs in Cambodia!
Today’s activities include the Salt Fields community, ethical fashion, and slow coffee. In the morning, you’ll visit Chumkriel Language School (no children will be in attendance at the time of visiting). A fantastic NGO and inspirational human being, Mr. Suthy has set up a very grassroots local school to give access to education for children of the salt field community. In the afternoon, just sit and relax by the pool, take a wander through the market or just take some time for yourself. If you like, you can take a cruise down the river at sunset and watch the fireflies come to life.
Today, you cross over the border into Vietnam, but not before you discover the wonderful province of Kep. Located just before the border, this town is famous for its fresh seafood, particularly crab. You’ll spend a couple of hours exploring the famous pepper plantations and salt lakes on the way. Navigating through the back roads, you’ll make your way around the national park and to the border crossing into Hà Tiên, Vietnam. From Hà Tiên, you’ll jump in the van and head to Rạch Giá for a feast of the local seafood and bánh xèo.
Can Tho is where the Mekong Delta really comes into its own! To get there, you cut through the back roads of rice paddies and farmland, arriving in the city by late afternoon. With a population of over a million and a thriving tourist trade, Can Tho has a vibrancy about it like none other. Relax and explore this amazing city.
Please note that you take back roads the whole way up until about 16 kilometers from the city. Can Tho is a big place and this is a good option for some riders to take the bus / van from this point. Others may want to cycle the whole way into Can Tho. For dinner, you’ll pull up a patch of grass at the night market and treat yourself to a degustation of delightful street food!
You’ll catch the floating markets for sunrise and have your breakfast brought to you on the water! The vibrancy and atmosphere at the break of dawn are incredible! This is no tourist performance, this is real life for the local people where they trade, sell, and buy every day. Following that, you’ll visit the noodle factory where you’ll have a chance to make your own noodles and the cocoa farms just before lunch.
There will be more Mekong cycling and a local homestay. You’ll take a day to casually explore the oasis that is the Mekong Delta. From the coconut candy factories of Bến Tre to the canals and floating markets of Mỹ Tho, this is a place to relax and unwind. You’ll avoid the hordes of tourists in Mỹ Tho by using Bến Tre as a base to explore the region.
It’s still a full-day cycling from Can Tho and you’ll enjoy getting amongst the maze that is the Mekong Delta. You should get into Bến Tre for 17:00 and relax with a local family in their home (private rooms). You’ll also have the chance to have an impromptu cooking class for great local food!
You’ll start early to beat the heat and what you can of the traffic. Cycling into Saigon for the last cycle day of the tour is an incredible experience. Ho Chi Minh City is what the world would look like if cars weren’t invented. With whole lanes and roads dedicated to two wheels, it is the city of the future as the population grows. The last 12 kilometers will be where you rest up and transit into the city center itself via the support van. Your boutique hotel is in the heart of the city, just a short stroll from the street food market for dinner and a live band.
Please note that cycling to Ho Chi Minh City is possible via a certain route. The traffic is slow and generally going the same way along this route. Social Cycles has completed this many times with groups before. It is also possible for the van to follow along this route, ensure a barrier between traffic and cyclists. This is, of course, optional, should you prefer to take the van / bus in.
You’ll visit your fifth and final NGO of the trip - Mekong Plus NGO. With a presence in Cambodia and Vietnam, this grassroots local NGO focuses on a hand up, not hand out policy. The social enterprise part of this NGO trains beneficiaries to make quilts, handicrafts, and bamboo bicycles.
The holistic approach from Mekong Plus NGO includes education scholarships, vocational training, microfinance programs, and social enterprise businesses. Use the day to explore at your leisure. There are a feast of local markets, grand shopping centers, museums, and attractions in Ho Chi Minh City. For the evening, you’ll meet up for dinner, swap stories, photos and decide where you’d like the donation money to go to.
Congratulations! You’ve cycled across a couple of countries, covered almost 700 kilometers in the saddle and more than scratched the surface as to what these fantastic countries are about. You’ll enjoy a final breakfast together before Social Cycles get you off to the airport and on your way home.
Notes: Itinerary changes are going to happen. It’s just in the nature of the adventure. Things happen that just cannot be controlled or accounted for, especially when you get off the beaten track as Social Cycles does. However, they will do their best to give you as much notice as possible, upgrade you where they can or just give you an all-around amazing time. They ask for your patience and understanding when they need to alter the cycling route due to weather or terrain changes, and some of which they won’t know until they get there. All changes will be made in your best interest, with health and safety taking priority.
This cycling tour will start from Cambodia covering Siem Reap, Battambang, Pursat, Phnom Penh, and Kampot. Then, you continue to Vietnam by entering Rạch Giá and cycle to Can Tho, Ben Tre, and end in Saigon (Ho Chi Min City).
The best part about cycling from one country to another is to cycle through the various regions of food along the way. This is slow travel at its best as Cambodia offers salt lakes and pepper farms, fresh crab markets in Kep, and tarantulas in Phnom Penh (optional). Meanwhile, in the Mekong Delta, you will roll your own noodle sheets and eat your way through a street food degustation sensation of everything sweet, salty, spicy, and sour!
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