If there is one tour you should hop up early for on a holiday, this is the one!
Riding through UNESCO listed temples in beautiful Angkor is an experience not to be missed if you want to see the temples and countryside in a way that few tourist do – Also you get some escape from the thousands of tourist that visit this sacred place on a daily basis by exploring hidden trails and temples
There are various option to choose from with Grasshopper Adventure Tours but since we are not ‘super early’ morning people we chose the 7:30 start with an estimated finish of around 5pm – Roughly 30 to 40km for the day (including walking) on a fairly flat surface so easily doable for a couple in their early 30’s like ourselves. – Be warned, you will be hot most of the time – temps hover around 30 degree’s but low humidy so not unpleasent
After having our bikes fitted to our needs and being supplied with fresh water we were off, weaving our way through the morning traffic until we hit the first bike trails that would lead us to the Angkor Visitor Centre for our Entry passes. Photos taken we hit the road to Angkor Wat, the first stop of the tour and roughly 6km’s from our starting point of the ride
I would dare to say that this is the most popular temple in South East Asia and also the busiest! Tourists as far as the eye can see but you can still find little pockets to yourself if you leave the main areas. After a ‘not so quick’ but very informative run down of the temple and its history we were able to explore the outer walls, and then run the gauntlet of tourists along the long footbridge that led to the inner temple.
The temple was built-in the 12th century by the Khmer King at the time and the grand scale of it is something that can’t adequately be expressed in words. Although we only spent two hours at the temple you could spend a whole day there looking at the kilometers (literally) of carvings along the walls, all telling their own individual stories of great battles of the era.
If you are willing to wait there is a llooonnggg line (about an hour + wait) to go up the stairway to heaven, the peak of the temple where you can see a view across the temple grounds in every direction.
My favourite part of the bike riding was in-between these two temples when we were able to ride up onto the actual walls of Angkor Thom, on a billy-goat wide track and ride about 5km around the walls with nothing but the gentle sound of bicycle wheels breaking the silence. We came across this small temple that was crumbling at the seams but felt like it was all ours, no other tourists to fight over space with and freedom to wander around at ease.
We then headed towards one of the Angkor East gate which again we had all to ourselves as no cars could access the site. If we had been on a tuk tuk or by car we would have missed out on the opportunity to see these amazing relics that time appears to have forgotten
The main thing to see in Angkor Thom is the Bayon Temple and the hundreds of smiling Buddha faces in all different forms.
Some smile more than others, some have parts of their faces missing due to the age and crumbling nature of centuries old temples but all make you want to smile yourself. I would recommend Bayon as one of the key temples to see on your travels of the Angkor Complex.
Lunch was provided by Grasshopper Tours and was possibly the best Cambodian food we had our whole trip but be warned, you will want a nana nap afterwards and in reality you still have about 12km of riding in front of you!
Ta Phrom (Aka the Tomb Raider Temple)
Made famous by the Tomb Raider movies this temple was my favourite by far, possibly because I am a nature lover and the sight of the old tree’s reclaiming the temple as nature intended made it feel like this was the ‘real’ temple as in the other temples all the tree’s had been removed and the buildings restored but this was relatively untouched. When I say untouched the temple was a crumbling ruin and there has been a lot of work to restore it however in the places where it is not crumbling it appears as if the trees have actually held much of the structure together as well.
I will let my photos do the talking with this temple as it’s beautiful and we even got a picture of the hidden smiling face amongst one of the trees. Try and find it when your there 🙂
This temple is the end of the tour and after this you will ride 10km’s back to base where a cold towel and a coconut await you, believe me you will need it! Highly recommend this tour, sore butt after riding but still worth every push of that pedal with small group sizes so you dont feel left out at any stage.
Cambodia and the temples were one of those places we had always heard about but always put on the back-burner in favour of more far-flung destinations but finally it worked out in our travels to see this amazing place in person. The people are friendly, for westerners everything is very cheap and you could easily spend a week here visiting all the different temples available.
As they say – ‘Better to see something once then hear about it a thousand times’ – Asian Proverb