Although tiny and still on the road to development, Phnom Penh is a well-visited tourist city in Southeast Asia known for its many unique, exotic and cultural tourist attractions. A popular spot for foreign tourists and expats is the 3-km long promenade called Sisowath Quay, situated along the river. It is one of the many reasons why bicycle touring in Phnom Penh is a wonderful way of seeing and experiencing the city.
Phnom Penh is located at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Most of the city’s main attractions are its historical structures near the river, and three of the most important riverside attractions are the Royal Palace, Independence Monument, and National Museum. Biking along the quay, one gets to see a number of restaurants, cafes, bakeries, bars, hotels, markets, shops and supermarkets, in addition to the historical sites.
While biking through several streets of this capital city is scenic and very cultural, traffic on the main roads is very hectic and chaotic. Cars, motorcycles and tuk-tuks rule the streets, often trying to beat traffic lights and other times ignoring them completely. Some major intersections, in fact, do not have traffic lights and are greatly in need of them. Some streets are narrow and the sidewalks are always crowded with vendors and shops. There are children and adults selling and begging for money or food. These may not be the sights a tourist hopes to see, but the experience is very real and significant. Alongside poverty, there are rows of first-class restaurants, hotels and shops.
Before beginning the bicycle tour to important attractions, bikers might want to pass by the bicycle shop on Street 302. An extremely important site is about 15 kilometers away, which is why it is necessary to fine-tune the bicycle before making the tour. The Killing Fields in Choeung Ek are a must-see whether on a bicycle or not. It is such a significant site that you could even walk all the way if you must.
The Killing Fields are a gruesome reminder of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979. Approximately 20,000 innocent Cambodians were executed here and buried in shallow graves. Only after the inhumane regime ended that the field was discovered and was made known around the world by the Cambodian journalist Dith Pran and his 1984 movie, “The Killing Fields”.
The road leading to Choeung Ek is an easy 15-km bike ride on a flat road and very picturesque. The route begins at Charles de Gaulle, to Monireth, through the SOKIMEX gas station, and 5 more kilometers towards the Killing Fields. After SOKIMEX, traffic is light and biking is easy. Entrance to the field is US$2.00.
Bicycle touring in Phnom Penh is definitely the most scenic, laid back and eco-friendly way of seeing this promising Southeast Asian city. For tourists that are really up to the challenge, other worthwhile destinations outside the capital city are the beautiful riverside city of Battambang, casino city Poipet and the white-sand beaches of Sihanoukville. There are also several packages offering a guided bicycle tour to Laos and Vietnam.