ASIA ADVENTURES Tour Vietnam - What You Can Expect
Riding difficulty – Moderate to hard flat courses – 40 - 120 kms per day covered
Country/Locations visited – Vietnam and Cambodia (Saigon to Siem Reap)
Highlights – You are truly immersed in Cambodian/Vietnamese culture with rice paddies, villages and rubber plantations throughout the tour. The spectacular ancient temples of the Khmer Empire are simply amazing.
Rating – Accommodation is mostly 2 - 3 star
Inclusives – Tour runs for 13 days and includes accommodation, air conditioned support vehicle, English speaking local guides, on tour mechanic, drinking water, face towels and snacks whilst riding, and most meals.
Approx. cost - $2,400 for 13 days (prices decrease as your group gets larger)
Tour availabilities - book throughout the year for travel until 30th September 2013
A cycle tour is undoubtedly the best way to really connect with a country, its people, to experience the tempo of village life, and escape the well trodden tourist trail. This Saigon to Siem Reap cycle tour is fully supported and fully guided, and it keeps you away from the main roads which many similar tours follow. Your cycle tour of Vietnam begins with easy cycling as you explore the wonderful watery world and traditional lifestyle of the Mekong Delta. After a few days you bid farewell to Vietnam and enter Cambodia via a remote coastal border crossing. Cycling through Cambodia you pass endless rice paddies, take breaks in everyday villages, explore the charming capital Phnom Penh, ride through shady rubber plantations, before culminating in the discovery of the spectacular ancient temples of the mighty Khmer Empire. For anyone wanting to discover the real Vietnam and Cambodia, this is the tour for you!
Day 1: Arrive in Vietnam, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
On arrival in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) [flight details to be advised] you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. After checking-in you are free at leisure for the rest of the day.
Accommodation at Vien Dong Hotel (3 star)
Day 2: Saigon, Cai Be, Vinh Long & Can Tho – Cruising & Cycling (max 55km) [B/L/D]
This morning you will meet your cycle guides and be fitted to your bicycles before being transferred to Cai Be which is a bustling river market and here you will enjoy a cruise along the Mekong Delta and visit the colourful floating market as well as visiting nearby Dong Phu Island. Here you will explore the shady surroundings as you spin through orchards and witness the daily life of the farmers. You will have lunch on the island, including a variety of freshly picked fruit. After leaving the island you head to Vinh Long and then continue cycling through the heart of the Mekong Delta crossing countless canals and rivers that irrigate this vivid, arable landscape. After a few ferry crossings, always a good opportunity to interact with the friendly locals, you arrive in Can Tho, the unofficial capital of the Mekong Delta. It is a friendly lively city with rice husking mills being a major source of employment. On arrival in Can Tho you will check-in to your hotel.
Accommodation at Saigon Cantho Hotel (3 star)
Day 3: Cruising & Cycling Can Tho to Chau Doc (max 125km) [B/L/D]
An early start as you take a boat trip along the Hau River to the Cai Rang floating market, one of the biggest in Vietnam, here you will witness a mass of wooden boats of all sizes converging to sell their wares. Your small boat allows you to weave in-between these waterborne traders getting up close and personal, great for photo opportunities and buying some produce yourself! Afterwards it is back on the bicycles as you pedal amongst vivid greens and friendly faces. You are now heading deeper into the delta and the roads narrow and the traffic becomes lighter. At Thot Not you will stop off at a Stork Sanctuary before having lunch in the town of Long Xuyen. After lunch you enjoy a gentle coast through one of the most scenic parts of the delta as you follow the Mekong through traditional villages and past fish farms, over small bridges, a more rural feel… On arrival in Chau Doc you will check-in to your hotel. If time and energy permits you may wish to hike to the top of nearby Sam Mountain for great sunset views out across the rice fields of Cambodia in the distance.
Day 4: Cruising & Cycling Chau Doc to Ha Tien (max 80km) [B/L/D]
Another early start as you board a boat and explore the amazing riverside market with all its bustling activity and smorgasbord of sounds, colours, and smells. The boat continues through fish farm villages where tons and tons of fish are bred in cages beneath floating homes, to an ethnic Cham village with its famous Mubarak Mosque. Here you will also witness women weaving using traditional methods. You then cycle along a pleasant road, passing vibrant green rice fields, crossing many bridges, seeing towering limestone formations in the distance, and noticing the Khmer influenced pagodas as you get closer to Cambodia. By the late afternoon you arrive in Ha Tien and check-in to your hotel. Coastal Ha Tien, only 8km from the Cambodian border, has a forgotten feel but still retains a certain charm with its shuttered terraces, crumbling colonial buildings and mats of seafood drying in the sun…
Day 5: Farewell Vietnam, Hello Cambodia (max 65km) [B/L/-]
This morning you bid farewell to Vietnam as you cycle the short distance to the border crossing with Cambodia. Once you have completed the customs formalities you will be met by your Cambodian cycling crew. For your introduction to Cambodia you will cycle along quiet coastal dirt roads passing through salt flats and small villages. Your first port of call will be the coastal resort of Kep which is now undergoing a revival after years of neglect. You will have lunch here and perhaps try the tasty seafood the area is renown for. After lunch you spin the final 35km to Kampot, where on arrival you will check-in to your hotel. Kampot has an undeniable charm, being a sleepy, quaint place with a relaxed ambience and friendly locals, the streets are quiet and there is a lot of French colonial and Chinese influenced architecture still surviving, and it all that wasn’t enough there is a wonderful riverfront where you will experience possibly the most beautiful sunset in Cambodia as the sun slips down behind the nearby mountains…
Day 6: Cycle Kampot to Takeo (max 90km) [B/L/D]
As you leave Kampot you cycle through some inspiring limestone karst scenery, picturesque villages including some ethnic Cham settlements, and endless rice fields. On arrival in Takeo you will check- in to your hotel Takeo does not have a lot to boast about being a small provincial capital made up of many local government department buildings. However, around the market area there are some old colonial villas in differing states, and the waterfront promenade makes for a pleasant late afternoon sunset stroll.
Day 7: Cycle Takeo to Phnom Penh (max 90km) [B/L/D]
After breakfast this morning you have the opportunity to visit a local orphanage managed by ‘New Futures’. Here you will learn more about the great educational work they are doing in the surrounding poor villages, and how Asia Adventures is working together with them through its 'Pedal2Empower' cycle donation project. As you leave Takeo you spin north passing through more endless rice paddies. After some time you turn off the main road to visit Tonle Bati, a riverside location where you have time to explore the small, yet picturesque Angkorian temples of Ta Prohm and Yeay Peau. You will then avoid the ‘main’ road as much as possible and upon reaching the outskirts of Phnom Penh you will stop-off at the 'Killing Fields'. This is where Khmer Rouge prisoners were forcibly marched from the Toul Sleng prison in the city centre and then executed; it is now a memorial site located in a beautiful tranquil setting. After some contemplation you can either negotiate the rush-hour traffic into the heart of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city, or opt for taking the support vehicle. You will check-in to your riverside hotel and then be taken to a local restaurant for dinner.
Day 8: Phnom Penh City Cyclo Tour [B/L/-]
On your first morning in charming Phnom Penh you will may be pleased to discover that today it is someone else’s turn to do the pedalling as you are treated to a fun cyclo tour, a traditional mode of transport. Your first stop will be the terracotta red National Museum which offers a charming setting for a comprehensive collection of Khmer artefacts. After this you will visit the nearby Royal Palace, on the banks of the mighty Mekong river. Inside the Palace walls you will be treated to the Throne Hall, the Chan Chaya Pavilion, and the King’s residential quarters. You will then move onto the neighbouring Silver Pagoda, so named as it is claimed its floor is made up of over 4,000 silver tiles! Your cyclo driver will then take you to a local restaurant for lunch. Afterwards it is back in the cyclos as you are pedalled through the streets of Phnom Penh to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (also known as S21), ironically a former school, located in a quiet Phnom Penh suburb, this was the infamous Khmer Rouge prison / torture centre. You will then be taken to the Russian Market an excellent place for picking up souvenirs. There are stalls selling some very good Khmer antique reproductions, other stalls piled ceiling high with wonderful colourful silks, incredibly cheap clothing stalls, and of course those stalls selling pirated CDs, DVDs, and computer software. Afterwards you will be taken back to the hotel where you are free at leisure for the rest of the evening, perhaps wanting to experience the eclectic string of bars and restaurants along the city's riverside.
Day 9: Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham (65 - 105km) [B/L/-]
This morning you may choose to cycle through the busy street of Phnom Penh or travel on the support vehicle until the traffic thins out. 40km from the city you turn off the main road and enjoy a shady ride following the course of the Mekong River along a mostly unpaved, and at times bumpy road toward the town of Kompong Cham. Foreigners are rare through these parts so expect a few surprised faces as you cycle through the many traditional villages where you will witness people busy with their everyday lives: cooking, cleaning, playing, leading the cows to the river, cycling school kids, pagodas & monks, and the sun-drying of bright red chillies, pepper, rice, and fish by the side of the road, and of course the river life on the mighty Mekong which keeps coming and going from view. There are plenty of cool, shady, scenic spots for rest breaks where the curious locals are sure to want to say ‘Hello’. Kompong Cham retains a number of French influenced buildings and trader shop fronts - while often badly dilapidated they retain an austere grace so totally lacking from the more modern concoctions that invariably flank them. Given its small size its easy to explore by foot, which you are free to do after you have checked-in to your hotel.
Day 10: Kompong Cham, Beng Mealea & Siem Reap (105km) [B/L/D]
An early start this morning as you leave Kompong Cham and soon turn off the main highway and follow a road which gradually climbs and passes through shady rubber plantations. After 75km you reach the small town of Prey Thom Tratrav and rejoin the main highway. From here you will travel in the support vehicle for the 150km drive to the market town of Dom Dek. From here you will re-mount your bikes and cycle the 30km to the temple remains of Beng Mealea, a truly atmospheric experience. Only recently re-discovered the temple has been consumed by the voracious appetite of nature and is largely overrun by vegetation, the trees that have forced their way through the stone towers and galleries make it a shady and cool place to relax. As you explore you feel like a true adventurer! Afterwards you take the support vehicle for the final 70km to Siem Reap. After checking-in to your hotel and freshening up you will be taken to a local restaurant for dinner.
Day 11: Exploring the Magnificent Angkor Temples by Bike (40km) [B/L/-]
This morning you begin your cycle exploration of the incredible Angkor temples. Today focusing on the Small Circuit which features temple greats such as: the pyramid of Takeo, the jungle-clad Ta Prohm made famous by the Hollywood blockbuster ‘Tomb Raider’; Sras Srang known as the King's bathing pond; and the impressive Royal City of Angkor Thom, where you will find the Bayon, a temple famed for its many gigantic carved faces smiling beguilingly down at you. You will also visit other important sites in this immense walled city. After lunch it is time to take on the majestic Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building. After being initially inspired by its overall size you will explore in more detail, getting up close and personal to fully appreciate its architecture and intricately detailed bas-reliefs. After returning to the hotel you are free at leisure to experience Siem Reap’s nightlife which includes many fine restaurants and lively bars.
Day 12: Cycling to Beautiful Banteay Srei Temple (80km) [B/L/D]
Today you pedal north towards Banteay Srei. This cycle ride is a real delight as you pass through pleasant Cambodian countryside and its friendly villagers. On route we will stop off at a couple of villages to get a closer look at the wooden stilted homes and every day life. One thing you will notice for sure is large black pots in people’s gardens containing a thick light brown bubbling mixture - this area is famed for its sugar palm tree sweets, sure to give any cyclist a much needed energy boost! On arrival at Banteay Srei you will be struck by its delicate beauty. It is an elaborately decorated temple, embellished with floral motifs and scenes from the Ramayana, all carved from pink sandstone. It is said the carvings must have been done by women as the detail is too fine for the hands of a man. You will have lunch at a local restaurant, after which you cycle back towards Siem Reap, and depending on the time explore some of the temples on the Grand Circuit such as: Preah Khan or ‘Sacred Sword’, one of the largest temples at Angkor; Neak Pean surrounded by fountains and ponds; and Banteay Kdei. This evening you will enjoy dinner and a mesmerising Apsara dance performance.
Day 13: Free until departure [B/-/-]
Today you are free at leisure until it is time for your transfer to Siem Reap / Angkor International Airport for your onward flight, leaving the home of the mighty Khmer Empire with many wonderful cycling memories…