Exploring Around The Angkor Wat Complex By Bike
Oh Angkor Wat Complex!! I know you have heard a lot about this world’s famous Archaeological Park and for sure, this is one of the destinations that you’d like to tick off your list. It may seem an easy task to explore around the temples of Angkor; however, you would probably ask yourself how to actually begin this journey. Bike or tuk tuk? Is one day enough? How about three days? Will I need a guide?
I have been to the temples several times. First, was when I had to write about Forest Bathing: A New Trend in Wellness (I just had 2 hours so didn’t really have the chance to get around and it was a sponsored trip) The second time, I was with a Filipino friend and a British friend and we took a tuk tuk to wander around and the third time (which is the focus of this blog) I explored with a French friend, a full time traveler, Esteban of Viatibo, mon tour du monde by bike!
There are so many ways to tour around the temples of Angkor: by tuk tuk, by moto, by bicycle, by car or even by an air conditioned bus. You have a lot of options but if you’d like to satisfy your adventurous side, exploring around the temples by bicycle can be the best option.
Why you should visit Angkor Wat?
Angkor Wat Complex is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia and it has been preserved as much as possible without compromising its authenticity. Angkor Archaeological Park is nestled over 400 square kilometers and exemplifies two basic themes in Khmer temple architecture: the temple-mountain and the later “galleried temple”, in a representation of Mount Meru, the home of the Gods.
The night before we wandered around the temples, Esteban and I were actually thinking if we would do it by tuk tuk or by bike, we didn’t have an exact plan as we were tired and Esteban had just arrived from his adventures in the South of Cambodia. I insisted to take a tuk tuk as I had been there many times and I knew how massive the complex was. However, Esteban wanted to do it by bike. What we just agreed on that night was to wake up at 3:00am of course, to see the sunrise!
We woke up at 3:00am and prepared ourselves for the adventure. Since it was going to be a long journey, Esteban decided to prepare something for breakfast – French food! We left my villa at 4am since my villa was situated in the countryside (10minutes by tuk tuk). Since there were no tuk tuks at that time, we decided to walk to the town. It was pretty dark but it was okay as we enjoyed sharing our travel stories. Since we really wanted to get to the town straightaway, we considered taking a tuk tuk to get there but it was impossible at that time. I was just shocked that Esteban managed to get the attention of a bus driver (tour bus) who stopped by to give us a lift – we hitchhiked! I asked him how he did that – he said he had been hitchhiking for quite some time!
As soon as we got to the town, our next step was to rent a bicycle. Again, it was impossible to rent at that time as most of the bike rentals started their operations at 6:00am which would be too late for us to witness the sunrise. We headed to several places to rent a bike. We almost gave up and were almost encouraged just to go there by tuk tuk. On the other hand, we still searched for a bike rental. We came across with a tuk tuk driver who knew where we could rent a bike. He was asking us to pay him 2 dollars to go to Sok San Road (which was not pretty far) We haggled! From US$2 to US$1 – not bad!
The first bike rental which we headed to was still closed. It was almost 5am that time and badly needed to go to the temples as we also had to buy our passes. The tuk tuk driver knew another bike rental so it was our final attempt – Thank God! Though it was still closed we managed to convince the owner to allow us rent two bikes! We felt really great as we were already hopeless. Well, we couldn’t contain the happiness as we started to ride on our bicycles.
We now made our way to the ticketing office to buy our passes, that was around 5am. Note: Getting there is really dark so be extra careful. We decided to just buy one day passes as we believed that one day would already be enough for us. Cycling along with the wagons, trucks and motorcycles was a stressful start to our 5.5 km journey from the Old Market area of Siem Reap, but we soon left the town for the long, smooth open road that led us to the world’s famous site.
We parked our bikes across the religious site where there were sellers who could look after them. We doubled checked the locks as there were incidents of bikes being stolen – we just didn’t want to pay for the stolen bikes.
We now approached the majestic site. It was still dark but there were already hundreds of tourists also waiting for the sunrise. We waited for about 3o minutes as the sun rose at 6:30am. Everybody was already searching for the perfect spot to catch the sunrise. Esteban and I went to the right side of Angkor Wat temple as there were fewer tourists – Achievement unlocked! We managed to capture some great shots especially the view that can be seen on a thousand of postcards – picture perfect, indeed!
So what did we do next? Of course to visit some other temples around the complex!
After a few minutes lazily wandering around the grounds of Angkor Wat, we made our way to the North towards Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom is the great walled city that is home to Bayon, and other majestic temples.
We also headed to Phnom Bakheng which is the highest temple mountain within the Archaeological Park. It was too steep so we needed extra effort to climb up! Phnom Bakheng is said to be the best spot if you’d like to see the sunset – one of the most popular things to do.
After climbing up to Phnom Bakheng, we now made our way to visit other temples.
The cycling adventure was really tough as the weather was extremely hot (Well, it’s always summer in Cambodia) plus the temples were scattered at distant places. We just realized that the complex looked small on a map but the truth was it was really massive. We probably underestimated the distance from Siem Reap to the temples of Angkor – that’s 1,000 temples nestled over a 400 square meter area.
Think of it this way: You have to bike about an hour to reach each temple, then you’ll spend a few minutes walking around the ruins and climbing up the towers (pretty high!), it will be very hot there with little to no shade at all. Furthermore, you’ll still have to cycle back into town. But it was all part of the adventure and the privilege of cycling through one of the greatest ancient cities in the world.
To sum this cycling adventure up, Esteban and I basically had “The Grand Circuit tour” which is usually done in two days but we managed to do the big tour in just a day, by bike – one of the best adventures I have had!
We started to cycle at 5:00am and managed to be back into town at roughly 8pm, that was 15 hours! . What temples did we manage to visit? Kravan, Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Tommanon, Chaosay Tevoda, Victory gate of Angkor Thom city, Terrace of Elephant, Terrace of Leper King, Phimean Akas, Location of Royal Palace, Baphoun, Bayon, Pre Rup Temple, South gate of Angkor Thom city, Angkor Wat. If I’m not mistaken, the total distance was approximately 85 km.
What do you need to know?
Get up early – If you don’t want to miss the sunrise, you should get up really early. Moreover, it is advisable to start your day early, wandering around the temples before the heat gets unbearable and knock you down.
Bike rental: US$3.00 – US$10.00 per day depending on the bicycle you wish to rent and bring your passport/I.D and US$20.00 – US$60.00 for the deposit.
Angkor Temple pass: US$20.00 for a one-day pass, US$40.00 for a three-day pass which can be used on non-consecutive days within a week or US$60.oo for a one-week pass which can be used on non-consecutive days within a month.
Keep track of your temple pass: They will ask you to show your pass before you get into the temples. If you lose, you need to purchase a new one.
Get a map: The complex is so massive so better have a map. Moreover, the map will be a great guide as to where you’d like to head to.
Be sure to ask for a bike lock: Again, there have been some incidents of stolen bikes, better secured than sorry.
Bottled water: You can buy at any convenient stores in the Old Market Area as they are way cheaper. On the other hand, there are many stores around the complex but the prices are somewhat doubled. Hydrate as you will definitely sweat it out!
Wear comfortable clothes: As much as possible, wear light clothing and wear shoes. You can also wear flip flops but believe me, you would just regret it.
Sun Protection: Since you will also be battling it out with the sun, don’t forget to apply some sunblock on and if you have a cap, better to bring it along with you. Believe me, it is extremely hot.
Heading to Angkor soon? You may want to check “Interesting Facts About the Angkor Wat Complex”
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