We pedalled furiously on our two wheels out of the traffic of Siem Reap following the only signs for Angkor Wat, and after 8km we met a couple of guys at a check point who kindly informed us “you can’t buy a ticket here, the office is 5km back down the road on the left”, apparently we missed the invisible sign to turn off. Our faces dropped at the thought of cycling another 10km to get a ticket, but luckily they happened to have a pair of moto’s and offered to take us for $1.50 each. Money well spent if you ask me.
Moral of the story: take a map and make a note of the location of the ticket office!
After deciding on a 3 day ticket we arrived back at our bikes and saw another couple pull up in the same situation. However, they must have been masochists as they chose to cycle back the 5 km. Tickets in our bag we were finally back on track and pedalling toward Bayon temple.
After exploring Bayon we headed out of the east gate of Angkor Thom and round the small circuit, calling at Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Sra Srang and finally Angkor Wat for sunset.
My favourite temple of the day was Ta Prohm, maybe because I secretly liked pretending to be Lara Croft, or maybe because I liked how the jungle still had a tight grip of the temple. The most disappointing was Sra Srang as I expected something a little more spectacular.
On our second day we woke at 4.30am and saddled our mighty steeds at 5am, wincing as our bums hit the seat – pedalling 30k the previous day had certainly took its toll. We were up so early so we could catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, however first we had to visit the market to get some baguettes for breakfast. It took us longer than expected to reach Angkor Wat, although we managed to arrive just in time for sunrise at 6am.
As we walked through to the central court of Angkor we could see hordes of people all milling around, although we still managed to find a quiet(ish) corner to watch the sunrise and gobble down our nutella baguettes. The early morning light reflecting on lake was beautiful, and the image of the temple reflected like a mirror. We were also lucky enough to visit when the water lilies were in full bloom on the lake (December).
After sunrise we waited for the bus loads of Chinese tourists to disappear for breakfast before we started exploring and it was comparatively pretty quiet. However the Chinese tourists returned in force and we spent the rest of the day peddling our little hearts out, sweating in the midday heat, trying to stay one step ahead of them to avoid being run down by their convoy of buses or trampled at the temples.
After Angkor Wat we followed the grand circuit on our bikes and headed toward Angkor Thom, then out of the north gate, calling at Preah Khan, Neak Poan, Ta Som and Pre Rup. My favourite temple of the day was actually Pre Rup as it was a nice surprise at the end of a long day. The temple is symmetrical and has three towers with steps up to the top and would have made a great stop for sunset, however we were both so exhausted after two days on bikes, we pedalled straight home and collapsed on our bed.
Cycling vs Tuk Tuk
In hindsight, if we could go back and do the temples again, we would have just bought a one day ticket, saving ourselves $20 each and hired a tuk tuk (around $15/day) to take us around the main temples. You can easily see the main temples and a couple of the smaller ones in a day if you take a tuk tuk, and if you buy your ticket after 5pm then you get to watch the sunset that evening.
We underestimated the distance involved in cycling, as it is an 8km cycle just from town to the entrance, then 30km around the temples (not to mention walking round the temples themselves!), then 8km back to town. Unless you are a ‘fitness freak’ then more than one day of cycling round the temples in the heat is likely to leave you exhausted, which detracts from your experience as most of the time you feel too tired to walk around the temples.
1 day vs 3 day ticket
If you really want to take your time around the temples, spending a couple of hours relaxing in the grounds, or if you are a temple buff, then go for the 3 day ticket – otherwise the 1 day ticket is perfect – you can easily see all the main temples in 1 day.
An ideal one day itinerary would be as follows:
5:30am – Sunrise: Angkor Wat
Sras Srang / Banteay Kdei
5:00pm – Sunset: Pre Rup
If you don’t want to stick around until 5pm for sunset then buy your ticket after 5pm the previous afternoon and watch the sunset that evening.