The previous day I was exploring Siem Reap by bicycle and the best way to visit Angkor Wat temples will be by bicycle, for me. You can also do it with an e-bike, but last time I rode a motorbike I twisted my ankle and decided to not ride motorbikes anymore.
I found the right company at the Funky Flashpackers, so we were two girls on a bicycle riding from 4 am to 8 pm. Don’t you ask me why, but I wasn’t feeling so tired after so many hours on a bicycle. We left our hostel at about 4 am so we can watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We didn’t have a ticket, that’s why we needed to get up so early. The ticket counter isn’t on the way to the temple, so it took us a while to get there, buy the ticket and then cycle to the temple.
Riding a bicycle at 4 am was pretty cool. The street is ours, we don’t cross many living souls at this time and it is totally dark. It’s night time and we are the only ones riding a bicycle. I’m glad I had company as riding a bicycle in the dark at this time would make me feel scared. When we are approaching the ticket office that opens at 5 am, we start seeing some movement, but not much. We arrived before the opening time and there was almost no one there, but as 5 o’clock gets closer, lots of people start showing up and the queue starts to get big. You have a different queue for the 1-day pass and 3-day pass. They will take you a picture in loco that will be printed on the pass. Once we have our tickets it time to cycle towards the Angkor Wat temple. It’s still dark but now we see many tuk-tuks with foreigners on the street. No one else is riding a bicycle, but the temperature is so nice at this moment that I don’t mind. I really like to ride a bicycle…
Angkor Wat temple
It took us about 30 min to get to the ticket counter and then about 40 min ride to get to Angkor Wat itself. The queue to check the tickets on the main road was small at this time. We get to the temple on time for sunrise but it was already so crowded… Everyone is ready for a picture once the sun reveals its light, and most parts of the people are next to the lake just before the temple to get a water reflection of the sky. It is too crowded and I actually didn’t find it so amazing. We waited and waited until the sun gives us a nice orange color in the sky, but the weather wasn’t the best, so we got tired of wasting time waiting for a perfect picture and decided to start exploring as we have a lot to see in one day. I could actually spend the 3 days there as exploring with a bicycle makes things a bit slower, but I wouldn’t explore it any other way. While riding a bicycle you can feel the atmosphere around you better, there is no sound of an engine, and I can do whatever I want, stop whenever I wish and dare to explore tighter paths.
Angkor Wat temple is huge and you will take a while to see it. It has so many details on its walls… It is such an amazing structure. It makes me wonder how wonderful this area should have been a long time ago. You see many visitors with guides explaining what are those drawing on the walls about, so with a guide, I think you can spend 1 hour just in that temple. Inside there is a high tower that you can climb, but the queue was already so big that made us give up on the idea. Unfortunately, we have too much to see and a short time so we need to leave, but I could surely stay sitting on the stairs of Angkor Wat temple enjoying the nature around. It is so big that the tourists are spread along with the complex which leads the temple to not look so crowded.
Phnom Bakheng temple
Next temple we visited was Phnom Bakheng. We parked the bicycles down the hill and start climbing in the forest. There is a sign saying to be aware of the elephants. Apparently, there is an elephant ride to get you there, but who the hell is riding elephants nowadays?? I’m glad I have seen none here. The way up takes a while but is ok. The temple is under renewal and there are some men working, but we can climb up and have a nice view. This temple is different from all the others so it was worth the visit. I think it was the highest one I visited! Nearby the temple there is a viewpoint to Angkor Wat that seems so far away already haha
Tonle Om Gate (South Gate)
Next, we are on our way to Angkor Thom but not before stopping at the majestic bridge with an imponent gate that I used to see on pictures and get stunned. This is the Tonle Om Gate and here we saw an elephant, and there were actually people riding it. Of course, I didn’t as I would not support such a thing. Fortunately, there is already some news saying that these animals will be banned from the area by 2020.
I’m so excited about the view in front of us! It was the most emblematic bridge I have ever seen. I’m in love with what I see, so I stopped large minutes to take “100 pictures”. The bridge is super crowded so expect to have others on the picture too.
Angkor Thom temple
This is a huge and wonderful creation. I’m mesmerized with it. I love temples and ruins too much. It has so many details on the walls that we try to figure out what they could mean, or sometimes we chase a guided group to listen to the guide’s explanations. This would be such a nice place to invest in a guide to explain to the story of this wonderful place. But I didn’t. The rocks are black revealing the signs of the time, sometimes colored by a green fungus that turns each rock even more enchanting for me. You can spend a lot of time visiting this temple too. I felt like this one was even more crowded than Angkor Wat.
ព្រះវិហារព្រះអង្គគោកធ្លក (can’t find this temple name in English)
After Angkor Thom, we visited this small temple that had no one else around except for a wedding shoot. This was actually a very frequent sight the whole day. We saw about 4 different wedding shoots in the area. This temple is small and kind of hidden as you can’t see it from the main road but it is super charming with some unique shaped trees that are born on top of it.
This is our next temple. We park the bikes in front and go. It’s a beautiful one too and different from the ones we have seen before. You can climb hight to the very top here but be careful as the staircase is very steep.
Then we follow a dirt path in the forest that leads to Phimeanakas. A very pleasant walk with nice trees on the way that leads us to the Terrace of Elephants.
Terrace of Elephants
The view is wide here and you can see some other temples in front with a tower shape. The name is due to the many elephant statues that compose this terrace. We found some Buddhist monks here so couldn’t miss the chance of a photo. This place wasn’t crowded at all. I feel like the people visiting are always going for the same big temples which is cool as we can appreciate the calmness of the others on our own.
Dei Chhang Gate (North Gate)
After this, we cycle to the Dei Chhnang Gate that is pretty much the same as the Tonle Om Gate but way less crowded. So, we stop to get some pictures without intruders. This bridge is also filled with statues that are more destroyed than the ones at the North Gate, but still very wonderful.
Preah Khan Temple
We are visiting Angkor Wat temples by bicycle or walking for about 7 hours now, so we needed to stop for lunch. Meanwhile, we drank a mango smoothie from a lady that was selling it in front of Angkor Thom. I remember it was delicious and the few things we saw to feed us in the area. I also remember that we were attacked by red ants that were bitting our feet all over after we parked our bicycle close to their nest.
There is a restaurant right in front of the entrance of Preah Khan Temple and the food was very tasty. Feels like we are the only ones coming to this area as we don’t see much movement on the street. There are some temples with a security guy asking to see your ticket. This was one of them.
This is such a mesmerizing one! It is very destroyed but each brick on the floor looks charming to me. Plus, this was the most colorful temple I saw, I mean it was colored by nature with tones of green, red and yellow that delighted me. I had never seen a temple with red tones before. We spent a lot of time here. The temple is big and not crowded.
At this time I lost my GPS connection and I don’t have MAPS.ME so we just keep on following the street hoping to find another temple. We reach the entrance of Jayatataka that is surrounded by water so I think it might be a good option to watch the sunset. But just in time, I got connection again and realized we haven’t visited Ta Prohm temple where Angelina Jolie shot the Tomb Rider movie. It is far, almost 1h by bicycle, so we start cycling all the way back as fast as we can in a hope to still be able to see it.
Ta Prohm temple
We arrive at Ta Prohm 10 minutes before it closes. This place is so wonderful that I pity we will not have enough time to visit. We enter anyway while some others are leaving. We are amazed by the huge trees that grow on the top of the temple and want to stop for pictures and appreciate its beauty, but we can’t. Soon there is the security man telling us to leave, we point at the clock to say that we still have 5 minutes left and explain that we are cycling for an hour just to get here and we really want to see it. He asks us where are we from and my friend says she is from Barcelona, as she is living there and he wouldn’t know where is Cape Verd anyway. He sympathizes with the answer and tells us to follow him. Then he tours us to the most emblematic places inside the temple. The biggest trees that he tells us how to shoot in a panoramic view, a hidden Buddha face on the roots of a tree that I wouldn’t notice if he wouldn’t tell. He took us pictures so, in the end, we asked for a picture with him too. He was so nice showing us around and telling us some things about the place that after all we were glad we came so late. Anyway, I would love to see this temple with more time.
While we were cycling to Ta Prohm, we saw other temples in the way that we didn’t explore as we were in a rush to get to Ta Prohm. It’s sunset time so we don’t have much natural light left and this place will not have artificial light either. We still need to cycle 1h and a half to reach the hostel, but if we reach the main road we are ok as it has lights.
Being that, on the way back after visiting Ta Prohm we stopped at Ta Keo temple, Spean Thma temple, a place full of monkeys on the street so we don’t stop for long. We watch the sunset almost at its end at Tonle Om Gate and we reach the lighted area just in time.
We got back to the Funky Flashpackers at about 8 pm and impressively I’m not feeling that tired after walking and cycling for almost 16 hours. I think that’s because the excitement was so big that my brain couldn’t think about such a thing as pain, but my but hurt a lot. It was totally worth it and if I’m going there again to see the rest of it, I will definitely do it by bicycle.
We definitely saw more than I was expecting in one day at Angkor Wat. And what a great day!
Beware that to visit these Angkor Wat temples you should dress properly. Don’t show your shoulders and legs.