Have you ever wondered what it feels like to cycle in one of the most beautiful places in the world? Well, it’s often easier to do then to think about it.
Once in Cambodia, visiting Angkor Wat is a must. There are numerous travel agencies here offering all types of tours to Angkor with and without a guide. The cycling to Angkor Wat is very relaxed and you don’t need any particular training to do it. However, Angkor Wat is located inside an immense, literally huge, park and within its perimeter there are many other beautiful temples so you actually need to take into consideration that once you get there, there are a lot of stairs to climb up and down. You will be exhausted by the end of the day . However, it’s good to know that you can choose between visiting the park for 1 day or more days according to your plan.
Backpackers, nomads and the like might opt to rent a bicycle in Siem Reap where you can choose between a very old fashion bike for just 1 dollar to a cutting edge mountain bike whose price may range between 3 to 8 dollars a day.
In my case, I rented a cheapo at a place where they had no mountain bikes because it was very near my hotel and I thought it would be better not to walk too much after such a long day at Angkor. I actually went to Angkor the previous day to check how far it was from Siem Reap city and discovered that it was much nearer than I thought. As I approached one of the numerous check points, a man stopped me and explained that you cannot enter the park without a special permit. In order to visit Angkor Park, you have to go to a huge place in Road n.6 to get your pass. I wanted to get the pass for the following day so I went to the ticket office in Road n.6 only to find out that the ticket must be purchased on the same day unless you go to the office half an hour before they close. I was a bit disappointed by such policy, however I had to return there the following day.
On the day I visited Angkor, I went to the ticket office straight away. It’s located a bit far from Angkor Park so the best route is to follow the road on the right side of the river heading towards East (Angkor), go past the Peace cafe and keep going until the road bent towards the right. You will find yourself on a small road parallel to Road n.6. The traffic may be intense so pay attention while you cycle. Once you get to Road n.6, turn right and keep cycling until you reach a roundabout, go straight. Right after the roundabout, on the left side of the road you will see big beautiful white buildings where the ticket office and the museum are located. There are normally several tourist buses parked there so you can’t miss them. Once at the office, you have to queue to have your picture taken and you’ll get a pass like the one in the picture below, for 20 dollars or 84,000 riels.
UPDATE: The One Day Pass fee has dramatically increased and now it costs 37 dollars (June, 15, 2017)
Next, to get to Angkor, there are a few secondary roads that can easily take you there, however the easiest way from the ticket office is to get back to road n.6 and turn right at the roundabout. While you cycle you will have the ticket office on your right, keep cycling for a few kilometers until the end of the road, then turn right and you are in Angkor Park. The personnel at the entrance of each temple will check your pass every single time so keep it handy.
My advice is, take a hat or something to cover your head because the sun is really strong. You can easily find drinking water and food all over the park so you don’t need to carry extra weight. There are local communities living in Angkor Park so you can find traditional food and items as well as the usual souvenir for tourists. There are a lot of local artists who make spectacular paintings of Angkor Wat, you can purchase them all over Angkor Park. Personally, I bought a couple of t-shirts from a very kind woman who explained to me that there haven’t been enough tourists lately and so they were a bit desperate to sell their goods. I wanted to help them so, even if I didn’t need them and I definitely don’t want to put any extra weight in my backpack, I bought the t-shirts and she gave me a great deal. I also decided to eat inside Angkor to help the local communities which seem to rely solely on tourism for their income. Most of them are farmers.
I stopped to have a look at a beautiful little girl and her mom cleaning the fish while the men were catching them in the river (see photos below). There are crocodiles here but they didn’t seem to mind. This little girl reminded me of myself as a child. I hated learning girl stuff, one of my aunts once tried to teach me how to knit and I threw everything against a wall and ran to the forest. It may be a bit early to talk about gender fluidity in Cambodia but I think it’s about time. After all, if people are mature enough to know about human trafficking, child abuse and all the horrible things that humans are willing to do for the sake of money, why not introducing the concept of diversity in the name of love? I wish this little girl and her family all the best. Anyway, when I left, she smiled and waved at me a few times. Seeing a woman travelling alone does make an impact in South East Asia.
Back to our bicycle trip, here are the advantages of travelling to Angkor by bike by yourself. You can stop and admire the temples for as long as you wish without having to concern yourself with keeping up with a group. You can have as many toilet stops as you wish! You get to see some incredibly beautiful parts of unspoiled jungle. I also saw some monkeys and wild boars. You can take as many pictures as you like at your own pace. The only disadvantage, in my opinion, is that if you want to know the history of Angkor in detail, you need a local guide. They are all Cambodian, they speak several languages and they can answer all of your questions. Cambodian people are very friendly and warm hearted and the traditional food is healthy and delicious.
If you don’t feel brave enough for this type of adventure, there are numerous agencies in Siem Reap which organize the bicycle trip in a group with an expert guide who will tell you the complete history of Angkor and all of its temples.
That’s all for now and don’t forget to enjoy every single step of your journey!