As a Dutchie I love cycling and it became a part of my life as is brushing my teeth. Therefore I also simply love exploring a place by bicycle when I’m abroad, cycling through small alleys you can only pass by bicycle or by foot, seeing the local way of life. This is also how I came along a Cambodian social enterprise that organizes bike tours near Battambang in northwestern Cambodia.
A special bike tour
What’s so special about this organization is that all their bike tours are lead by students from the community so that they can improve their English. Besides this every bike tour visits local families in the area who still practice the traditional ways of rice paper making, rice wine production, bamboo rice cakes and other types of rice production. In this way they’re not only training students, but also supporting local families AND providing a unique opportunity for travelers to experience the local way of life.
How their idea started
I spoke to Pisal, Saram and Phalla, local tour guides. They explain: “Two Australians and one American started this company with the intention of providing vocational training to local college students while also educating tourists about everyday life in Cambodia. At this moment all of the people working here are local, except for one. We operate our tours in a way that mitigates the negative impact tourism can have on local communities by limiting the number of guests per group, giving compensation to the families we visit, involve the local communities in our plans and use a way of transportation (the bicycle) that doesn’t harm the environment.”
A unique experience
Joining Pisal, Saram and Phalla on a trip you’ll cycle through Cambodia’s countryside and see family businesses who will teach you how to make rice paper, rice wine, the famous bamboo rice cakes of Battambang, dried bananas, and fish paste. Many of the families have been running these businesses for decades and learned the skills from aunts, uncles, and grandparents. They are very eager to share their time and stories with others.
Battambang is well known for being the leading rice-producing province of the Cambodia. It has a unique charm among Cambodia’s larger urban centers and is home to some of the best-preserved French colonial architecture in the country. It also is a perfect spot to see hilltop temples and bucolic villages on leisurely day trips by bicycle or moto. Pisal, Saram and Phalla share their favorite spots with you. “For us The Well of Shadow is very impressive, because it reveals the history of our country during the Pol Pot regime. It is located in a beautiful and peaceful environment. The second place we like is Phnom Sampau (Sampau Mountain). Even after going there many times, you always discover something new. The mountain contains many caves and each of them is interesting. We have been there over a 100 times, but it never gets boring. The view from the top of the mountain is simply stunning. To read more about Battambang and where to sleep you can have a look at this lovely blog of Lara Dunston called The Grantourismo Travels. She has plenty of tips where to stay and what to stay.
Our dream is to become the leader in the tourism industry, offering educational and cultural tours on a bicycle and practicing responsible tourism. We want to minimize the negative impact of our tours on the traditional culture and environment and maximize the positive impact by creating meaningful opportunities for tourists and locals. We want to train many more local university students to become a tour guide and help improve their English so that they can get a better job when they graduate from university.