Angkor by Bike Part One

Annika and Roberto in Angkor

Annika and Roberto in Angkor

Bangkok, July, 2013

Who has not heard of the ruins in Cambodia, the city of Angkor founded in 802 AD browsing one Sunday afternoon through the internet. You just have to enter Angkor in Google to receive tons of information about the place and of course where to stay when you get there. After it was declared a World Heritage site this ancient city has been in the spotlight for many international travelers. Just last year, 2012, two million visitors strolled through the temples and monasteries in wonder and in 2013 the number is expected to rise.

Because of its fame the ancient city of Angkor, especially the temple on which this city is most famous for Angkor Wat, has become a trademark for the country of Cambodia. This 200 acre temple compound represents about 50% of the international tourism that enters the country. So it is no surprise that the image and its name are found all over the country in the form of a brand of beer, streets, hostels, motels, stores and since1850 in the center of the flag of The Kingdom of Cambodia.

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The Kingdom of the Khmer civilization ruled this land for a period of over 600 years and is responsible for building one of the biggest and, some might argue, the most beautiful temple complexes in the world. Cambodians are proud of their Khmer heritage and it is clearly visible in the streets when they talk about it.

Upon entering Cambodia about 400 km away from the ruins, we were already flooded with brochures and info about Siam Reap the city just 5 km south of Angkor. And so after reading several brochures and websites before even arriving to Angkor we had already built an expectation about it.

Angkor by Bike

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So the day came and I set off with Annika to see what was all the fuzz about this place. “Is it overrated?”, I asked myself “Have I read too many spoilers on the web?“, I thought myself while riding our bikes to the park entrance.

So the first issue to support my doubts concerning Angkor was the ticket price: A three-day pass to explore the Angkor temples costs US $40. A single-day pass is available for US $20 and for those intrepid explores a week-long pass can be purchased for US $60. If only, the money went on to restoring the ruins or at least the maintenance. But as I said before, too much internet info can affect your expectations, according to About.com: Most of the money to restore Angkor Wat comes from foreign aid. Only an estimated 28% of ticket sales goes back into the temples.

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We were already warned about the high prices and we had already decided to gamble a ticket of three days, because many people had told us that one day was not enough.

With the tickets in our hand and mounted on our saddles we approached the internal security. Our first seal of entrance done and off we go.

There are many ways to visit Angkor, the most popular is to hire the services of a Tuk Tuk guide for approximately 15 USD. He will not only take you to the temples of your choosing but will also give you a historical insight of them. Of course there are also the established tours and the private guides. Another very popular way it to rent a bike for 1 USD a day. However since we were lucky enough to bring our bikes with us, our decision was already made.

Our first pic of Angkor was the untouched forest that surrounded it. We had ridden about 400 km of Cambodian landscape and nothing had compared to what we were experiencing. Tall trees, bushes, jungle like scenery, it was amazing. I could perfectly imagine how Cambodia was like before its deforestation (Cambodia only has 20% of remaining forest, but let us not be so critical about it. Europe was once 90% forest).

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Then after 10 minutes of interrupted greenery there she was the majestic temple of Angkor Wat surrounded by a wide moat and tall trees to hide most of its presence. From a distance you could only see the tips of the iconic entrance towers that represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology. Let us remember that Angkor Wat was built in honor of Hindu God Vishnu, so much of it’s iconography is Hindu, not Buddhist as some might think.

I felt guilty for doubting its magic, the wind, the greenery, the architecture it was worth every single cent. At some moments I felt euphoria of just being there on a bike!

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If you want to know what we discovered by bike stay tuned with the second part of Angkor by Bike Part 2.

But befoe that happens here are more pictures!

Our bags made it 11,500 to here. Way to go Ortlieb bag.

Someone forgot his lunch here.

Annika cycles in front of The Bayon

Monkey sits on our saddle, looks like he also wants to ride.

My bicycle parked in the ruins.

My bicycle parked in the ruins.

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This article is dedicated to our amiga Ayşenur Şengör from the High School Bigadiç Cumhuriyet Lisesi in Bigadiç/Balıkesir, Turkey. She is the first to participate in the Tasting Travels Program, students ask.  She wanted to know what was going on in Angkor Wat. There is still a second part to come, but we hope we are answering your question. If you or any other classmate has a more specific answer, please contact us at: info@tastingtravels.com

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  1. Hey there

    I arrive into Singapore on 1st September. Plan to ride to Angkor wat… would be interested to know your route?

    • admin admin says:

      Hey there amigo,

      First of all I think you have an excellent plan! We are now in the south of Thailand and we will only cycle until the Malay border and take one month off from cycling. So from Singapore to Malaysia we really cannot recommend you anything. However, from south Thailand to Siam REap, we can give you tons of info. We have fallen in love, specially with Thailand. So please write us an e-mail to info@tastingtravels.com so we can send you a list of places you might like as well as routes we took, there are many small wonderful roads and specially many national parks that might be worth visiting. Oh and also found a place that for 50 cents of a euro you can enjoy a wonderful hot spring bath!! je je so let us know and we will be very happy to help you. – Roberto

  2. Hector says:

    What a beautiful place!

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