We have spent the last few days cycling in and around Siem Reap. It has been incredible to have the opportunity to bike ancient dirt paths through thousand year old ruins of an incredibly powerful and prosperous people.
With roughly four million tourists visiting Cambodia last year and most of these visitors going to Angkor Wat, cycling through Siem Reap and Angkor is the way to go. There are A LOT of tour buses and packs of visitors from Asia and Europe, but Cambodia Cycle did another great job getting us off the beaten path and on the back roads, slipping us into back entrances and following the path less taken. Destinations were temples created during the Pre-Angkor (roughly 1-800 A.D.) and Angkor periods (800-1500 A.D.) – Kravan temple, Banteay Kdei, Ta Phrom, Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei , Bakong. We managed to bike 3-4 hours each day for 3 days and still spend time seeing all the sights.
(aka Tomb Raider) has these massive trees (Spung trees) that have grown around the temples, and restoration teams have intentionally left the trees. Angkor was stunning and although Cambodia is a gorgeous country, trash on the side of the road is common, but not in Angkor. It was truly pristine. Roughly 30% of the funds from the entrance to Angkor go to the maintenance of this gorgeous area. And Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world, is stunningly beautiful. Word of caution… We knew we needed to wear clothes to cover shoulders and knees and planned accordingly. However, upon arriving, the officers would not let me (Susan) in the temple, probably because of the small slit in the biking skirt. Our resourceful guide went around the corner and borrowed some pants from a female worker at the site. Chris has the picture to prove it, but this is definitely not one for the public viewing. Let’s just say the pants were colorful.
Biking in and around Siem Reap was fantastic. We biked mostly on dirt roads through rice fields and farms. We had a chance to visit a charcoal producing farm which was interesting. Wood is put in mud ovens for 2-3 hours, and then the charcoal is cooled. Once cooled, it is bagged and taken to the local market. A sobering adder: the owner of the charcoal farm showed us his bullet wounds from an AK-47 fire fight during the civil war. The war, the mines, the aftermath, the impact from both the Vietnamese and Americans (we dropped more bombs on Cambodia than we did in all of WWII) weigh heavy here still.
We also visited the River of Thousands Lingas which has Hindu mythological and religious carvings in the Kbal Spean River. A great place to bring a date? Lingas are basically phallic symbols that are thought to bring good luck and fertility.