When we planned to visit the Angkor Temples Archaeological Complex, we stumbled upon so many reviews, to dos, not to dos, when to do things and stuff and as well as reading the ever reliable Lonely Planet book. We found out that biking around the temples would be a great idea. Since me and my friend enjoy biking and were quite looking for an adventure, we decided to find a bike tour that will hopefully satisfy our swash buckling quest around this massive archaeological complex. Upon checking so many stuff online, we decided to book with Grasshopper. This company is originally based in Thailand and has different biking tours all over Asia which you can access here.
The website is well detailed and the tour that we booked is exactly what we did during that sunny biking day at Siem Reap. We took the Day Ride Tour Angkor Temples for US$39. We started the day by meeting at Grasshopper Tour Shop which is quite near the famous Psar Cha (Old Market) in Siem Reap. There were five of us in the group including the guide. The tour is strict to have a maximum of 6 riders in every tour. We biked for about 5-6 kilometers from the city towards our first destination, Angkor Wat. This UNESCO World Heritage site is awfully magical in all sense. The place is indeed a wonder. That initial bike ride from the city was rewarded with just the stunning view of the temple from afar. We parked our bikes outside the main complex and visitors must walk going in and when wondering around the temple. The bike guide also serves as your cultural guide to explain about the temples. Given that English is not the first language of the people of Cambodia, you may find it difficult sometimes to understand their accent as they tell you the story of the temples. But despite of it all, just looking the marvelous creations of the ancient people of Cambodia back in the 12th century is already enough to learn that during that time, their civilizations is arguably one of the smartest, wisest and proudest when it comes to their architectural ingenuity.
|South Gate of Angkor Thom|
|West Gate of Angkor Thom|
|One of the many faces in Bayon Temples|
After Angkor Wat, you have to make a bike ride towards Angkor Thom Complex, it's a bout 1 kilometer from Angkor Wat towards to south gate of the complex. From the south gate, you will be going up the walls that surrounds Angkor Thom. You have to take note that this complex is surrounded by a moat. So while we were biking on top of the wall from the south gate towards the west, we were treated with a view of the moat on our left side while the rough jungle of trees were on our right. The path was quite easy for a regular biker although there a some obstructions along the way that every biker has to be careful in order not to find yourself going in to either the moat or the jungle. Each gate of the Angkor Thom is accented by faces carved from stone which is just mesmerizing. Upon reaching the west gate, we have to take a dusty clay-like road towards the Bayon Temple. Remember that your bikes are always parked outside the temples before you can enter.
For me, I think Bayon Temple is the most mesmerizing temple in the whole of Angkor Temples Archaeological Complex. Every where you look is just picture perfect that even a child holding an instamatic camera will definitely capture that picturesque moment of the Bayon Temple. The temple is composed of so many faces carved into stones that were layered on top of each other. And during that time, I still can not imagine how people had that marvelous idea and how they managed to carved and put up all that stones without a help of any modern engineering facility like we have now.
Another bike ride of about 1 kilometer from Bayon Temple to Elephant Terrace brought to our place for lunch. The tour did not include touring in the Elephant Terrace so it will only give you a glimpse as you pass by the place. During lunch they served us Amok (a local dish made of coconut milk, chicken and vegetables) and their local style of Yellow Curry (chicken, carrots and potatoes) Both dish were sumptuous and enoguh to fuel up towards the second half of the bike ride.
After lunch we biked towards the east gate of Angkor Thom that will bring us to our last destination, Ta Prohm or some thing that we can call "The Angelina Jolie Temples" because of the Tomb Raider movie. The path from the south gate towards this temple was half fun and half scary. It was a smooth road of about 5 kilometers and then the guide will bring you in the an unknown territory deep into the jungle (which is I think a short cut) towards Ta Prohm. The path in this area is sandy so you have to be a bit cautious when biking in order not to slip and slide.
Ta Prohm temples lies within the jungle where trees are trying overtake the temples. I have nothing really much to say about this temples except that it looks creepy but nice. After the Ta Prohm, the bike back to the city is about 10 kilometers non stop. So the entire day you will be biking for around 30 kilometers. We reached the city at about 3.30 PM.
|Our bike guide from Grasshopper Shop|
Remember that the bike tour does not include your Day Pass to the Angkor Complex which costs US$20 for 1 day and US$40 for 3 days. Sun block lotion is necessary as you will be under the sun for almost 7 hours. Water is provided by the tour but you can still bring your own. The bikes used are made of rough roads and the tour provides helmet for your safety.
Just to add a little tip, when in Siem Reap, you can use your US dollars in all transactions and they will give you change in US dollars as well. This is one of those foreign places you visit that you do not need to convert although in general, I find that most of the things here are expensive like for food and souvenirs.
J Gerald C Legaspi is the Filipino author of pinoyjourneys.blogspot.com and is currently working and travelling in and around South East Asia but spends most of his time in Jakarta, Manila and Singapore.