Angkor by bicycle
I was only sure about one thing in Angkor: I’m not gonna hurry. I take my time to enjoy the sites, to have joy and to really live in the moment. I decided to cycle every day to the temples to keep my freedom and to feel close to the temples, maybe a bit more than as if I’d sit in a tuk-tuk.
Looking back to the time spent there I still think this was the best option for me, so I can honestly recommend to explore the Angkor complex on two wheels, because
- the roads are really good, there’s even a bicycle lane at many areas around the temples. Okay, these are many times used by the motorbikes and the tuk-tuks, but that’s another thing.
- the heat is manageable, and most of the roads are in the shade around the temples. There are many trees around. Maybe a solid exception is the northeast-east side of the ‘great circle’ in the afternoon, if you cycle clockwise. Otherwise if you leave Siem Reap before 9 am, you’ll be among the trees when the worst of the heat hits, and later getting from temple A to temple B is not a big deal.
- the traffic is not that bad. Pay attention in Siem Reap, but I only had trouble with the tourists riding motorbikes illegally, but the local somehow really feel the trafic, they are harmless. Even if it is scary for the first sight, that they drive towards you in your own lane and they always cut the curves when turning.
If you can pedal daily 30-50 km, you can do this and it will be a memorable experience.
I remember the first day, I just got to the ticket office and a little while later with a 7 days pass in my pocket I was on my way to the first checkpoint, I had an overload of emotions. I haven’t seen anything yet, I only had my profile photo on my pass right next to the iconic silhouette of Angkor Wat, and my tears just started. It was so unbelievable that I was there, that it was really happening. There were only 3 attractions on this trip that mattered to me a lot: Borobudur and the Bromo volcano in Java and Angkor. It made me feel blessed, that I was there.
My temple of choice to visit first was Ta Phrom. And it was also the last a week later. Though it is really popular, it is still my favourite and I knew this was to happen. I spent hours with sitting on random stones around the temple, enjoying the atmosphere and the breaks between tourist groups. After experiencing this I am fully convinced, that it is possible to find peace and calmness in the most touristy places as well, it is only a question of time and patience.
Riding a bicycle meant freedom to me. I stopped when and where I wanted to, and stayed as long as I wanted to enjoy the experience. It gave me rituals and now I have some favourite sections of the road. It also resulted many interactions, as all of the free tuk-tuk drivers offered their services for the next day, but none of them was agressive, we just had jokes and fun – mainly about my sweaty face. It is cool to ride through the sleeping city to see the sunrise in Angkor Wat (no need to start earlier than those leaving with a tuk-tuk) and close the day with cycling by the Elephant Terrace and Bayon to get home. Hm. Could do that forever.
- Angkor pass 1/3/7 days: 37/62/72 USD
- City bike: 1-2 USD
- Mountain bike: 5 USD
- Tuk-tuk: 15-20 USD
- usually there’s nothing to lock your bike to, unless you are cycling at least two of you together, so you lock the two bikes to each other. But I always put the lock on the bike, just because of habit.
- the road to Angkor is completely flat, still I recommend to rent a mountain bike. There’s construction work at the moment on the north of the great circuit and the northeast side is pretty bumpy. It is better to do it with a proper bike. And in general, the ones using city bikes were not really happy.
- having a head torch for the morning of the sunrise is pretty smart, as most of the bicycles have no lights. And anyways, you will use it later in the temple as well until the first light comes.
- it is better to use the Charles de Gaulle Boulvard before sunrise, the other alternative roads are in a bad shape, you don’t want to risk an accident because of not seeing the obstacles in the dark.
- renting motorbikes in Siem Reap and riding them in & around town and in Angkor is illegal for foreigners.