I have been putting off a trip to Cambodia for the longest time possible. This was mainly due to its lack of nature and scenic attractions. However, at the request of a travel buddy to organize a trip there, I then started looking out for promo flights to Siem Reap, the gateway to the Angkor temples.
I managed to book a flight + hotel via AirAsiaGo at approximately $110 per pax for a 3D2N trip. I would usually book my flights and hotels separately. However, since this is going to be a short trip, booking a package is usually cheaper if you are staying at the same hotel. We also wanted a little adventure and therefore, I had made sure the hotel I booked included a bicycle for hire.
We then decided that we would go to two of the more popular destinations. This would be the Angkor Archaeological Park and Tonle Sap, where one will be able to see the floating villages.
Siem Reap Cycling Day 1: Tonle Sap / Chong Khneas Ferry Terminal
On the day of our trip, we boarded a 2 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap. We landed at the Siem Reap International Airport and proceeded to change some local currency. We were subsequently greeted by our driver at the entrance and were told to wait while he gets his vehicle.
After a couple of minutes, a tuk tuk arrived and stopped right in front of us, much to our surprise as we were kind of expecting a van to pick us up. Our adventure ride began the moment our driver started the motor and whisked us out of the airport with all of us holding on tightly to our belongings. It was a good thing we did not have a huge luggage. We quickly put on our glasses and kept our mouths shut during the ride, fearing sand and dust would get in. While in a hurry, our driver rammed through the boom gate at the airport’s ticket booth when it was coming down.
Our driver quickly parked on the side, got off the tuk tuk and headed back to the ticket booth. Upon returning, he apologized and explained that he had forgotten to pay for the parking. We arrived at Green Park Village Guesthouse (read our reviews here) after a 30 minutes ride at 9:30 am. Since we were early, we left our bags at the reception and requested for our bikes.
We were allocated 3 bikes by the owner, complimentary for guests and were told that we had to rent one nearby at a rate of $2-$5. There were a couple of problems with the bikes which the owner has to fix such as the faulty brakes, the loose seats and the flat tires. By 11 am, our bikes were finally ready. We covered ourselves as much as we can to protect us from the sun and dust and get ready to set off. I think we looked more like a group of terrorist trying to take over Siem Reap than a group of tourists.
We headed out to a nearby bike rental shop to get a another bike for a rental of $2 per day. To rent the bike, we were required to leave some kind of formal ID with them. This can either be a driving license or a national ID card issued by your local government. If you do not have both, you may have to leave your passport with them which I personally do not recommend. The reason given for keeping the ID was that they have encountered incidents where tourists would abandon their bikes after getting tired of riding.
Upon paying for the bike, we requested for a bicycle lock and headed out to town for lunch. We have read good reviews about Lilypop Restaurant and decided to give it a try. It took us awhile to find the restaurant after checking with some locals on its whereabouts. We eventually managed to locate the restaurant on a quiet street and ordered our food. Although it took awhile for our lunch to be served, the food was good and the price was reasonable. You can read our reviews here.
After lunch, we headed south, cycling alongside the Siem Reap river towards Tonle Sap, about 12 km away from town.
The route to Tonle Sap passes by temples, a Lotus Farm, a pond, paddy fields, stilt houses, villages and scenic views with hills in the background.
We finally arrived at the Chong Khneas Ferry Terminal around 4:30 pm. This is usually the time when the sunset tours of the floating villages would start. However, we decided to give it a miss after finding out that it costs $20 for 2 hours which includes a tour of the crocodile and fish farm as well as the floating villages. I have earlier read numerous poor reviews which indicates that the tour isn’t worth the amount paid for. Furthermore, it would be quite late by the time we get back.
We headed back to Siem Reap town passing by all the wonderful sceneries we came across earlier. We were rather tired by the time we got into town and went for a massage at Pura Vida. Pura Vida is one of the more popular massage centers with good reviews. We did a foot massage at $6 as well as a full body massage at $9. After our massage, we had dinner at a restaurant opposite Pura Vida. The restaurants in Siem Reap are all priced in USD. In other words, there is no need to actually change to their local currency. After dinner, we headed back and checked in to our rooms. On day 1, we covered a total of 24 km.
Siem Reap Cycling Day 2: Angkor Archaeological Park
We left for Angkor Wat on our bikes at 4:30 am to catch the sunrise there. On the way, we stopped at the Angkor Conservation Area Ticket Booth to purchase a 1 Day Pass at $20. This price would be increase to $37 coming 1 February 2017 as announced here. The ticket booth opens at 5:00 am and there was already a queue by the time we arrived. We bought 4 day passes and continued on our way towards Angkor Archaeological Park.
We finally made it to Angkor Wat at 5:45 am, showed our tickets and immediately hurried over to the reflection lake. Lots of tourists had already gathered around the lake in pitch darkness, each picking a spot they think would give them the best view of Angkor Wat. We quickly made our way around the lake looking for a gap to squeeze through and eventually found our spot.
At 6 am, the background of the temple begins to turn into a gradient of colors with different shades of red, orange, purple and blue. That was when we started to hear cameras clicking away.
Once the sun is out and the sky got brighter, we left the lake to check out Angkor Wat. Other tourists continued to hang around the lake, waiting for the Sun God to enter the temple. We have never heard of this prior to our trip. We later realized that they were referring to the sun and temple aligned in a way which seems that the Sun God has entered the temple. Check out the photos here for further clarification.
With a 1 day pass, we only have time for a few temples and decided to go for the more famous ones which are Prasat Bayon and Ta Prohm. Prasat Bayon is located in Angkor Thom and is famous for its stoned faces. The distance between Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom is about 3 km. All vehicles will need to pass through the Bayon South Gate to get to Prasat Bayon.
Upon completing our Bayon tour, we headed east to Ta Prohm. We exited the Victory Gate and stopped for lunch since Ta Prohm is about 5 km from Bayon.
After lunch, we continued on to Ta Prohm which we have heard so much about. Ta Prohm was actually featured in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider which starred Angelina Jolie. You can watch an excerpt of the movie below.
Ta Prohm is our favorite temple as the view of nature blending in and overtaking man-made structure seems to be something that only appears in fantasy books and movies. After Ta Prohm, we headed back to our stay taking a shorter route. We came across Srah Srang, a baray or reservoir with a picturesque view and made a quick stop.
On day 2, we cycled a total of 36 km. After 2 days of cycling in Siem Reap, we were pretty exhausted and looking forward to go home.
If you would like to have more information on the cycling routes, feel free to download our free eBook.