Tag Archives: teaching and traveling

A Collection of Tales from the Road – Introduction

In this series of blog posts, I will record and share some stories of a rather long bicycle ride of 40,100 kilometres through 60 countries.

This post is a shortish introduction detailing some facts and figures and how I have structured the large task of compiling so many stories.

Some of the accounts you can read in this series are of things that were meant to be a little bit of fun but turned out to be shockingly bad. Some are sad stories that turned out to be funny (in hindsight at least). Many are just things that happen on a tour, the kindness of strangers, the thrill of the ride. Some are of times when I was desperate, others are accounts of diamond moments.

I want to do this partly because I do think that some of these stories might entertain you. They may seem far-fetched and hard to believe, but are true nonetheless, as I recall them. Mainly I just want to put them into writing. Memories of these things will always pop-up in my mind’s eye, but this document is immortal, so will forever be a place I visit as a bank of fond memories, even when I’m losing my marbles.

People keep telling me that I should write a book one day, and I immediately wonder- Why?

Because when people suggest this, my mind goes naturally to producing something that would be practical, but what useful advice do I have for people who like to explore? I am not sure that I would be a respectable source of information for the intrigued anyway, so i’ve decided to keep it simple and just write about random happenings, as these are the things that people have most enjoyed hearing about.

 

It’s been 18 years since my first tour (as an adult), and as I have mentioned in other blog posts, the world has changed a lot in that time. With only a few thousand kilometres left, the journey will be completed next year having pedalled more than 40,100km on tour, which is the circumference of our planet at its widest, so it’s actually slightly rugby ball shaped (see this post). 

This process of reflection, and my current location in the west of Canada, mean that I am already starting to feel nostalgic. It’s certainly been an investment to put it mildly, and a large part of my life. Indeed longer tours become a way of life, or a lifestyle. I wonder whether touring is now an obsession? I guess I’ll know soon enough. But for this circumnavigation at least, it is definitely something I know I need to complete, to get out of my system and be content for the rest of my life.

Over the course of my adult life so far, I visited 70 countries. In 10 of these, for whatever reason, I didn’t get on a saddle, so the memories I will share in this series of posts will be from 60 countries.

It’s difficult to find a commonly accepted definition of a country, nation, territory. Borders, or political boundaries have been fluid in some regions, and as I’ve mentioned in a previous post LINK ; countries are rather arbitrary in times of change.

For me, it has become more about the land and less about the country I happen to be in. People and cultures blend, the earth ebbs and flows from pastures to desert, mountains to jungle, back down to the ocean.

As I come towards the end of this 40,100km ride around our world, it is the knowledge of what the earth looks like, at 4-D ground level, that will stay with me as one nice whole visual bubble of information, made up of millions of data points and pedal strokes.

Note: Because of changing political and economic geography around the world, I have recorded what happened and where, as it was then. So some references may seem outdated, and so they will likely remain. This was pertinent in the cases of Tibet, Mongolia, Kosovo, Macau, Hong Kong, Armenia & Nagorno-Karabakh, Myanmar etc…

I decided that the best way to organise these memories is not on a timeline, which I could have called the ‘Chamois Cream Chronicles’, but rather in a typically teacher like alphabetical order, which I am yet to decide a name for. Alphabetcycles maybe?

I have written about something from each of these countries, and will work through the alphabet one country at a time. So the first blogpost will be about Albania.

Below is a list of the countries i’ve cycled, and HERE IS  A LINK to an interactive map of the screenshot above that I’ve created, locating each country and therefore story with a numbered pin in the order I’ll write. I do hope you enjoy reading about them all:

  

The full list of countries visited can be found here:  LINK

Stories so far: Albania, Armenia

Visit our website at www.pedalgogy.net to learn more.

 

Pedalgogy in the USA

Hello from the US of A!

Couldn’t have asked for a better start to the North American leg of our ride around the world.

Hosted by our friend (and fellow international teacher) Mark in Chicago who helped us to get our bikes up and running, showed us the sights, introduced us to deep dish pizza and rode most of the first day with us before turning to ride all the way back home.

Literally 15 mins after Mark left us, we met Jim (a recently retired science teacher) who chatted with us and then invited us to stay at his house instead of camping in 40 C/ 100 + F degree heat. He and his wife Joan treated us to a lovely dinner and “standard” American breakfast of bacon and eggs with lots of chatting and fun. Jim rode out with us and pointed us in the direction of Lake Geneva where we are currently camping/melting and writing this post after our first visit to Walmart.

Also we were given free petrol at a gas station for our camp stove and someone spoke to Niamh in Irish. First impressions of the US are extremely positive. Thanks to everyone who made it so and may the good times continue!

www.pedalgogy.net

The Good People We Meet

 

A commonly used adage is “The less one has to give, the more generous they are’”.

This may presume that material possessions are a gauge of how much one has. Or that giving is a sign of ones kindness. I prefer to think that generosity in the form of helping strangers does not require any form of wealth other than human spirit in the heart.

Along our way, we have been touched by the kindness of strangers. It fills me with hope for the future and, in the short term, a warm glow, protection and reassurance for our continuing journey.

We grew up with clear instructions from our elders never to speak to strangers. Whilst we often remain wary of many people, a large part of this experience is about immersion and putting trust in the people we meet.

Our bicycle tour around the world has now taken us through 12 countries and we would like to pause and say thank you to some of the people who helped us when we found ourselves in sticky situations or just went out of their way to be friendly and welcoming.

  • Sardorbek and the other field workers just outside of Bukhara, Uzbekistan who let us get some shade under their apricot trees in the 40 degree heat that we just weren’t prepared for on our very first day of the tour. They then gave us a huge bag of delicious apricots to take with us for energy.

  • Dildora and her family in Gazli, Uzbekistan who, when we asked if we could pitch a tent in the shade near their property, instead insisted that they make up beds for us in their air-conditioned living room and then laid on an almighty spread of food in typical Uzbek style while refusing any money for the accommodation or food.

  • Islomjon and Dilmorod, the General Motors truck drivers who picked us up on the side of a desert highway in Uzbekistan when Niamh was really sick from heat exhaustion and just couldn’t cycle in the sun anymore. They put our bikes on the back of the truck and let us lie down on the bed behind the drivers’ seats to rest while they drove us to the next town and would only let us buy them some tea at a highway rest stop as a thank you.

  • Abdulrahman who repeatedly welcomed us to Kyrgyzstan while buying his cup of vodka in the local shop, went away, came back 5 minutes later and presented us with two delicious ice-creams and a big smile.

 

  • Sultan, the little boy on the donkey in Kyrgyzstan who helped us to find a good spot to camp on the side of a mountain pass when it was starting to get dark and then came back later to give us two bouquets that he had made from wild flowers and which we adorned our bicycles with the next day.

  • Axel and Claudia, the German couple in the 4×4 in Kyrgyzstan who spared us a couple of litres of drinking water when we underestimated just how remote one section of our trip was.

  • The Russian family who picked us up when hitch hiking to Charyn canyon in Kazakhstan and to the group of Turkish men who picked us up on the way back.

  • The family in Khorgos who, on our first night in China, were extremely helpful in finding us the best restaurant and food in town and later came to check that we were happy. One of the best and cheapest meals we had in the country.

  • The mechanics in China who tried to fix Matthew’s chain (but made it worse) and then helped us to organise transport for us and the bikes to the next town where it could be fixed while feeding us energy drinks, tea and beans.

 

  • Coco, the woman in China who went out of her way to take us around to all the travel agents in town when we thought it might be cheaper to buy our flights home for Christmas that way. Turned out it wasn’t and we just bought them online, so she had completely wasted her time on us but didn’t mind at all and wouldn’t accept anything but a thank you in return.

  • The doctor in Laos who gave us a lift back from the hospital to our hotel on his motorbike when we were too sick to walk and who then checked in with us to make sure we were ok while we recovered.

  • The family in Cambodia who let us camp under their house when we got a bit stranded in the dark on impassable paths and gave us a ball of rice and some coconut milk to drink when they didn’t have much themselves (we gave them some money in return).

 

  • Meow’s family in Thailand who’s hotel we stayed in. They had all just flown in for their sister’s funeral but, despite the sad occasion, were determined to make us feel welcome and said that their sister would want them to take care of us. So we had a lovely evening of chatting, photos and delicious food.

 

  • Asad, The Pakistani man in Malaysia who made us feel so welcome in the town canteen and cooked his native dishes with such pride and passion.

  • Mr Nager Zer, the manager of the Amadeo hotel in Duri, Sumatra, who took us to an English class to run a Ted Web workshop with his students and then treated us to dinner.

 

  • Randy, who when Matthew met him in a ropey laundry place in Indonesia, happily offered to take him around town on his motorbike to find a better place and then to his family’s cafe to get some tasty local food and coffee. He also guided us through the busy streets out of town as we continued our journey and hooked Matthew up with some great meds from a doctor friend of his.

  • And to finish with a compatriot and like-minded bike lover, Pete in Bali who tended to the needs of our weary steeds in his beautiful bike shop and cafe : Kayuh Bali/Rhino Velo

We will look back fondly on these memories and remind ourselves of them in the future if we start to doubt that:

PEOPLE ARE NICE!

Follow us on Facebook.

Subscribe to our You Tube channel.

Click here for our route maps of the ride so far.

Biking Stuff: Ride Diary – Sumatra, Indonesia

Click here for an interactive map of our route in Sumatra.

Ride Diary Week 2: Bukittinggi to Bengkulu

A bit more than a week (10 days) but no point in doing a week 3 blog post for only 3 days. We ended up flying out of Bengkulu to extend our visas in Yogyakarta and carried on cycling from there. It was a much more pleasant place than Bengkulu to hang around for a week during processing.

Key to Hotel ratings:

£ = budget (less than 10 pounds) ££ = mid (10-20 pounds) £££=expensive (more than 20 pounds)

C=Cleanliness: /10

F=Facilities: /10

V=Value for money: /10

Adjusted for country expectations. Average price of hotel etc…

Bukittinggi to Lake Maninjau – 30km direct

Through canyon. Severe ups and downs. Stunningly beautiful. 45 switchback descent to lake. Beach Guest House: £, C = 7, F = 6, V = 9.

Lake Maninjau to Pariaman – 86km

Anti-clockwise around the lake and then down a valley to the coast. Easy riding. Surface generally good. Nan Tongga Hotel: ££, C = 4, F = 5, V = 5.

Pariaman to Airy Paintai Bungus – 71km

Minor roads along the coast as far as the airport. Joined Padang bypass for ease and speed. A few climbs near bays towards end of day. Cavery Beach Hotel: ££, C = 8, F = 7, V = 7.

Pantai Bungus to Painan via Sungai Pinang – 69km including 8km boat crossing

Tough, steep. In parts unsurfaced. Quiet and beautiful along the coast. Wisma Putri Wisatta: £, C = 7, F = 6, V = 7.

Painan to Balai Selasa – 72km

Road under construction. Fairly flat after testing morning climb. Little shade. Villages along coast. Penginapan Bunda Bari: £, C = 5, F = 5, V = 6.

Balai Selasa to Tapan – 65km

Another morning climb – quite short. Road under construction. Improving east. Not much to see or do. Steady pace, fairly flat. Hotel Felai: £, C = 6, F = 6, V = 6.

Tapan to Mukomuko – 70km

A few minor hills. Lots of short, sharp up and downs. Nice road past the airport on approach to town. Long town stretched out along main road. Not much to do. Cheap laundry place. Hotel Madiyara (mosque in hotel carpark. Extremely loud call to prayer).: ££, C = 7, F = 7, V = 7

Mukomuko to Ipuh – 104km

First 30km flat and east. Constant up and downs. Hundreds of them. Tough but all rideable. Guest House beginning with “A” (forget name). Small white sign to turn left before centre of town. Che Che supermarket opposite sells beer. ££, C = 7, F = 5, V = 4

Ipuh to Ketahun – 82km

Along coast. More ups and downs. Palm plantations. Road was fairly good. Losmen Dari Hotel – shockingly bad and infested but only place in town. On the right just after petrol station (which in on the left) before roundabout. Supermarket at roundabout sells beer. Good restaurant opposite hotel. £, C = 2, F = 2, V = 3

Ketahun to Bengkulu – 87km

Some confusion on route from town. Stick to the road along the coast. Not well paved but scenic and quiet-ish. Nice place for a rest stop at 47km. Coconuts to drink and rocky island view. Busy on way into city. Tropicana Guest House: ££, C = 8, F = 7, V = 8

If you need a bike shop in Bengkulu there is one to the east of town within walking distance of Tropicana. Aloha Cafe on the beachfront was good and Bencoolen Cafe. Both near Tropicana and both sell beer.

Click here for week 1 ride diary.

Click here for an interactive map of our route in Sumatra.

Follow us on Facebook.

For videos of our bicycle tour around the world, subscribe to our You Tube channel.

Education Project: Surprise School Visits in Sumatra

It has now been 10 months since Matthew and I left our teaching jobs and although I love the freedom that this career break brings, I sometimes miss the classroom. Sumatra has been quite challenging in some ways but we were delighted to visit two different schools during our time there. Both visits were the result of spontaneous invitations and lifted our spirits as they came at the end of two tough cycling days.

Duri

After a day of cycling extremely busy roads and dodging trucks we arrived at the oil and gas town of Duri and checked in to the Amadeo hotel. The Indonesian manager, Mr Ger, turned out to be a fellow adventurer (by motorbike) who invited us to visit the school where he volunteers his free time. After meeting the students and teachers, we split into two groups to run a Ted Web workshop – Matthew with the boys and myself with the girls. Each student wrote a story, some in English and some in Indonesian. Considering that our session was only about 40 minutes, and we arrived by surprise, it was impressive that the students managed to think of and produce stories in such a short amount if time. After the workshop and lots and lots of group photos, Mr Ger treated us to a delicious dinner of fried chicken and coconut rice. Then it was back to the hotel to rest up for the next day’s ride. A really pleasant end to a stressful day of cycling.

Teachers click here to find these student’s stories on www.tedweb.org.

Ipuh 

“Hello Mister!” called the group of girls as we wandered down the street to find some dinner. We had just arrived in the town of Ipuh after a day of constant hills through palm oil plantations. We found a restaurant for some ‘mie ayam’ and then planned to collapse in our guest house for the evening. As we ate, the same group of girls kept poking their heads around the corner and peering into the restaurant. “They probably want selfies,” I commented to Matthew. As we walked back back toward our guesthouse we heard a polite “Excuse me Miss” from behind. I turned around  for the obligatory selfie, but instead was surprised to receive a lovely invitation to be a guest at their English evening course. They had rehearsed the invitation and were helping each other to finish the sentences. When I agreed, they erupted in squeals. Matthew had a rotten cold so he went to rest while I followed the girls to the school. I was greeted by their teacher, Maria, and about 20 students. We all sat down and spent the next hour or so chatting. Sometimes they asked me questions, sometimes I asked them and sometimes I just chatted with the teacher. The lesson went quickly and before we knew it, it was time for group photos and back to the guest house for me. I even got a lift in the teacher’s car for the 400m journey because they were adamant that I shouldn’t get wet in the rain – that’s Indonesian hospitality!

You can find videos of our ride around the world on our You Tube channel.

Follow us on Facebook.

Tales from the Road: Sumatra – An Intense Introduction to Indonesia

An Economist’s Take: Budgeting and Adventure Part 2

Budgeting for a bike tour. Reflecting on the last 6 months and thinking ahead. This post was first published on www.pedalgogy.net in January 2018.

If you are thinking of having a break of any form to go and wander, I suggest that you:

1.) Work out how long you want to go for, and divide your savings by that. In some parts of the world, a bicycle tourer who mixes camping with paid-for accommodation, and cooking with restaurants can live comfortably on $30 per day. But this is my own calculation taking an average of the many countries toured so far. This rose to $60 per day in Norway and as little as $10 in Kyrgyzstan. If you do the math and it doesn’t seem realistic, trim your plans. Don’t let your budget dictate where you go. Go to the places you’ve dreamed off, even if you have to go for fewer days.

2.) Try to put some money aside for Investment/Retirement plans. This is a luxury, although parents would tell you it is a necessity. The fact is that 80% of the World’s Population has no retirement income (World Bank 2010).

However, there is no disputing the fact that having a standing monthly payment into a plan provides a warm feeling. The knowledge that you are following your dreams, whilst at the same time being a little bit considerate of your future security.

3.) When budgeting consider the cost of:

Travel insurance. Silly not to really. (Global Voyager)

Location Beacon and other safety measures (SPOT Tracker)

Inoculations (Many required including boosters)

Flights, visa-runs etc (Skyscanner.net, FCO.gov)

Medicine/first aid/supplements/sun cream. Not to be taken lightly.

Clothing. They wear out quickly on tour.

4.) Always seek a bargain. When your money equates to days on tour, don’t accept the full price. Look for happy hours, make the most of special offers. Travelling as a couple is cheaper than solo.

As I sit here in Ho Chi Minh, I can’t stop thinking about the happy position we are in with our world tour. They say Christmas is a time to reflect, well this year it certainly is. Come January 7th, we will have had over a month off of our bikes to see our families, and for once, to be invisible to strangers rather than standing out as oddities. Each day I get flashbacks of some weird and wonderful place we passed and how they are all joining up to form one wholly positive experience so far.

We have had only a few days of rain, our bikes behaved themselves as we treated them well, and ignoring a few back pain issues and a virus, we have done well throughout this physical challenge. I hope that we will have renewed excitement when we start again, pushing our bikes out of District 8 and on to the Cambodian coast.

From there we should have 6 months of sun, sea and sea, with the occasional downpour I am sure, towards Nusa Tenggara (Indonesia).

I’ve checked myself a few times over the last few months saying “Oh this reminds me of ….so…and..such.. a country.” I’ve begun to realise that as I join up the lines around the world, they all blend into each other. It’s a landmass, not a political territory, so it’s no wonder that we are reminded of other places with similar terrain and similar people. I am hoping that I appreciate the next section for what it is, the kindness of the people we meet, where we are, and the journey itself.

Follow our journey around the world on www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

Videos of our adventures can be found on our You Tube Channel.

Beautiful Places and Moments: Myanmar

Mergui Archipelago, Southern Myanmar

When cycling the world, visa duration is a serious consideration. Upon entering Thailand we were issued a 28 day stamp, as no actual visa is required for many nationalities. While this certainly saved us some money, it didn’t ease the slight tension that goes with pedalling with a time restriction. Nevertheless we thought it would be enough and were just grateful for the ease of entry. We were planning to cycle from Trat (border with southern Cambodia) to Satun (border with northern Malaysia). This is around 1500km. So the daily distance calculation was fine, but it did not leave much time for side trips and relaxing.

We began to find our rhythm in this friendly and relatively developed country (compared to most others on our tour thus far) after only a few days and quickly discovered that bike touring here is wonderful. We really didn’t want to rush, so after running a workshop in a school and hopping across the gulf to Hua Hin, we started looking at our options for extending our stay. In short; it is possible to extend the days on the visa-free regime by applying at any of the dozen or so immigration offices around the country. We were willing to do this and pay the fee in order to avoid overstay penalties, but then the idea came to mind of dipping into Myanmar. We are glad it did.

The new Myanmar E-visa ($50-  3 day processing) enables many tourists to enter at airports and some land/sea ports including Ranong-Kawthuang in the extreme south. There is very little information about this on the internet as anything other than a ‘Visa-Run’ for tourists/sexpats in Thailand wanting to go out-and-in for another 30 day stamp.

We had to dig around to find out whether there were any trips we could do to see some of Myanmar for a few days. There most certainly are. Using Kawthuang as a base a few tour companies offer 1 or 2 day boat trips to islands in the Mergui Archipelago. We visited 4 islands in the south including the entertainingly named Cock’s Comb, and staying in a wooden bungalow next to the beach on Horseshoe Island. It was basic but blissful. We were delighted to be pretty much on our own snorkelling and kayaking, playing frisbee and kicking- back.

Many islands in south east asia are now overdeveloped for tourism and their beauty and isolation somewhat compromised because of it. These little islands in Myanmar though are still uninhibited, untamed and au-naturale. Well worth the trip even if pricey at $180 dollars all in, but it’s difficult to put a price-tag on that experience.

The logistics involved with getting to the jumping off point, the town of Kawthuang, were not clear when we arrived at the Thai frontier. To be fair, everyone was helpful and finding a boat (yes this is a by sea entry point) to take us across on the 30 minute ride to Myanmar was easy. After some bargaining with eager drivers, it cost us about $7 to get ourselves and bikes across. When arriving in Kawthuang  remember to report to immigration at the dock. We forgot to do this for 5 hours and only remembered when sipping beers after we had ridden right out of town to Pulo Tonton island, a good place to go as an out-and-back day ride if you want to experience the diverse culture of this part of the country. Thankfully the immigration process when we arrived back in to Kawthuang town was simple and involves no more payment.

I have mixed feelings about the town.  It sure is different to Thailand; Intermittent power, Indian/Malay food and spices, ludicrously cheap drinks ($2 for a litre of Rum). Overall I think the change of environment and atmosphere broke up our Thai ride perfectly. However, we sure were glad to get back to 7-eleven and Cafe Amazon land, with a fresh 30 day stamp in our passports.

We chose Life Seeing Tours for the islands. They were fine. I think there must be some tacit collusion on pricing between operators. Many service the wealthier tourists staying at the Victoria Cliff Resort and pick up from there and Kawthuang’s main pier.

Follow our journey around the world on www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

More videos on our You Tube Channel.

Education Project: Back to School – Briefly

Follow our bicycle journey around the world at www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

One of our aims while cycling around the world is to visit schools along the way and to engage students in workshops in order to develop our educational project: www.tedweb.org.

 

We had the pleasure of visiting Tara Pattana International School in Pattaya, Thailand, a couple of weeks ago to do just that. I have to admit, I was a little nervous. We have been out of the classroom for 9 months and running a workshop is very different to teaching your own class in familiar surroundings.

We needn’t have worried though. We cycled through the school gates and made our way to the office where there was a big welcome sign for us! The school had also arranged their own teddies on bicycles at the front of the stage so we felt right at home. It turned out that the school was holding a Bike Day the following weekend (similar to the Cylothon we organised at a previous school) so the timing of our visit was great.

We set up our tent and props, familiarised ourselves with the tech and prepared to share our journey with the whole elementary school in a presentation. Matthew teaches secondary while I work in elementary so it was a new challenge for us to present as a team. Matthew took on the role of on-stage presenter while I wandered amongst the children, encouraging interaction and questions.  We showed photos and videos, played guessing games, had the students try some of our gear and answered questions. In our excitement, we ended up rambling on for quite a long time (probably a bit too long) but the students were kind to us and listened attentively. We were surprised and delighted to receive very useful gifts of caps and water bottles.

After the presentation, two classes stayed behind for the workshop. They shared stories that ranged from historical accounts of battles to local folktales, favorite foods, family moments, unicorn adventures and more. We enjoyed chatting with the students so much that we slightly lost track of time and had to rush to photograph the students and their stories for uploading to our growing online library before they went off for lunch.

Just before home time, the students gathered once more to be awarded the badges they had earned during the workshop. We had group photos, said our goodbyes, packed up our bikes…. and then it started lashing rain. The children kept us entertained while we waited for a break in the weather with LOTS of questions and some good advice too. One girl told us about a particular doll that she thought we would really like and where to buy it. Another boy asked how old I was when I learned to cycle (7 but then had to learn again at 24 after more than a decade without a bike).

The rain eased off and we made a break for it – until we were stopped by the very friendly member of the school community for a coffee and chat at the school cafe. We hadn’t been to a school with a cafe before but it seemed like a great idea. Parents could socialise while waiting to pick up their children and teachers could come find them there if they needed a quick chat.

After one last photo to remember our visit we cycled back to our hotel and prepared to head south the next day.

 

I realised that evening that you can take a teacher out of the IB but you can’t take the IB out of a teacher. How do I know this? Because the first thing I did back at the hotel was to open up a memo on my phone and write down what went well and what could be improved for next time. Without realising it, I had written…. A REFLECTION!

Click here to read the stories we gathered at Tara Pattana International School along with many others.

Videos of our adventures can be found on our YouTube channel.

Biking Stuff: Three Most Memorable Experiences in Cambodia

Follow our bicycle journey around the world at www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

Cambodia is a relatively small country with surprising variety – from the unpopulated, rural northeast to the more touristy beaches of the south coast. Our bicycle touring journey took us from Stung Treng at the northern border with Laos, south-east to Ho-Chi Minh in Vietnam and then west to Cambodia again (Ha Tien border) before cycling the coast all the way to Thailand through the border at Koh Kong. Click here for interactive maps of our Cambodia and Vietnam routes.

Here is a summary of our three most memorable experiences in Cambodia:

1.  Rural Adventure

If you enjoy getting off the beaten track, then I highly recommend trying the Mekong Discovery Trail. We took this route on a whim as an alternative to the busy highway and can honestly say that in the 7000km we have cycled so far, this trail has been our biggest adventure. It’s also a great chance to visit some rural villages which don’t see as many tourists and to interact with friendly Cambodian people. The trail starts in Stung Treng on a wide, unsealed but easy to ride path through small villages with cute children shouting hello. Next, you’ll need to use your negotiation skills to arrange boat crossings to first, a smaller and more populated island (Koh Preah) and then to a much bigger and wilder island in the Mekong (Koh Rougniv). On this island, you will push through deep sand, do battle with overgrown forests and have the occasional encounter with water buffalo, Click herefor a detailed description of this trail along with helpful tips and photos. We did this trail by bike but it could possibly be done by an intrepid hiker who is prepared to be self-sufficient and carry all camping gear and food. Now that I think about it, with the amount of walking we ended up doing when we couldn’t ride the bikes through the sand, it’s probably just as fast done on foot. Well, not really… but that’s how it felt.

2. Paradise Beaches

When people heard that we were heading towards the coast of Cambodia, they kept telling us we to “get yourselves to Otres. It’s a great place to chill out.” Well, we did get ourselves to Otres. When we made the turn off from the main road and cycled down towards the beach, we were feeling a bit dubious about it – lots of new construction sites, heavy trucks on the road and a lot of rubbish. To be honest, we were really unimpressed. We were even less impressed when we got to the village and saw the Costa-Del-Sol-style premier league bars and pizza places. But once we crossed the road and pushed our bikes onto the beach, we got what everyone was raving about. A long, quiet stretch of white sandy beach with crystal clear shallow water. We didn’t waste a minute, quickly finding a nearby tree to rest our bikes against. I clumsily got into my bikini while Matthew just ran straight in with his bike shorts. Brilliant reward after 6 months of cycling towards the sea. We stayed in Vacation Bungalows at the end of a cul-de-sac in the village, a short walk to the beach where there are loads of cool bars and restaurants to chill out in. Our favourite was Mom’s Kitchen on the Beach for pure relaxation of Papa Pippo for a great pizza (even though I just complained about all the pizza places a few sentences before).

Now, this beach was stunning, but it pales in comparison to what we were about to see when we went for a mini holiday on Koh Rong.  We decided not to take our bikes to the island because it is hilly with only one bad road and most of the beaches and resorts are accessed by boat. We left a pile of laundry to be done at our hotel, ready to pick up on our return and the owners kindly allowed us to lock our bikes and extra baggage there too. Our ferry and pick-up to get to the ferry was arranged from the bungalow too. It always feels strange to have somebody else organising your transport when you are so used to just getting on the bike and going when you are ready. Ferry was fine but  it turned out that they’ve stopped using the pier at Sok San so we had to get a pick up truck to drive us all the way across the island to our resort. It was a bit bumpy and dusty but fine in the end. When we walked down through the resort and onto the beach, I knew I had made it to paradise. Almost nobody else in sight on the long beach and the bluest, warmest, clearest water I have ever seen. I alternated between giddy excitement and blissful relaxation for 48 hours, rarely leaving the beach. We stayed in Coconut Blvd which has rooms for about 40 dollars including breakfast. It was clean, with a fan and a decent bathroom. Good food in the restaurant and nice smoothies and drinks at the beach bar. Free use of kayaks and snorkels. It was hard to leave here but after 4 rest days we were actually starting to miss the bikes and were looking forward to a new adventure on the road to Thailand.

3. Eco-tourism Community

The Chi Phat eco-tourism village is a 17km detour from the main Sihanoukville (or Phnom Penh) to Koh Kong road. This is one of the few eco-communities we’ve seen that honestly seem to be making an effort to protect the ecosystems and environment around them. We only spent one night there but in that short time we swam in a waterfall, lounged in its lower pools, watched chipmunks in the trees while having a shower (we were showering, not the chipmunks) and ate delicious food. We cycled the 17km from the main road on a sandy but fun road suitable for bikes and cars. You can also access the village by hiring a motorbike taxi or boat from Andoung Teuk village. There are homestays everywhere in this village and the names are fantastic: Laced Woodpecker Homestay, Marbled Cat Guesthouse, Crab-eating Macaque Guesthouse, Purple Sunbird Homestay to name but a few. We stayed in Sunbear Bungalows with mosquito net, fan and a bathroom for about 15 dollars. We had to check in at the tourist centre to be registered first. Electricity is limited in this village. It comes on in the morning for a few hours and again in the evening for a few hours. But by chance, we arrived on Saturday and found out that they had electricity all day. There is wifi at the tourist centre and at Cardamom Cottages. The restaurant at Cardamom Cottages does an excellent breakfast of fried eggs, pancakes with chocolate sauce (Hersheys!), fruit and coffee for $2,50 per person.

In Summary

The beaches definitely stood out the most for me after having lived in a double landlocked country for 3 years and then cycling another 6 months without seeing the sea. I had built up huge expectations in my head over the years and these beaches absolutely lived up to every one. Also, if you are slightly antisocial like me and you like a beach with hardly anyone else on it – Koh Rong’s Long Beach is perfect.

I’d also recommend the route we took in Cambodia for bike touring beginners or anyone who doesn’t enjoy going up mountains (like myself). It was almost completely flat in the east coming down from Laos and just a hilly 100km or so before Koh Kong. It was very manageable and perfect for getting our bike fitness back after a month off for Christmas.

I don’t think we appreciated it enough while we were there but, looking back now, I really enjoyed my short time in Cambodia (2 weeks) and would definitely go back again.

Hope this gives you some ideas for planning your own Cambodian adventure. Click here for interactive maps of our Cambodia and Vietnam routes.

Comment below and tell us which experience intrigues you the most. Rural Adventure, Paradise Beaches or Eco-tourism Community?

Videos of our adventures can be found on our YouTube channel.