If you’re the type who sees the glass half-empty, you can say that I crashed and fell from the bike on the way back to the hotel from Angkor Wat, leaving me with two big, nasty wounds on my left leg. If you see the glass half-full, then you can say that after a whole day of biking in the crazy streets of Siem Reap, I’m still alive!

In all honesty, the streets of Siem Reap are not really that crazy. I’m just an awful biker. To be fair, it was my first time to ride a bike in 15 years. I was still in primary school when I last rode one, and I just could not get it together anymore. My bike kept on wobbling and my body wiggling, as my arms refused to relax. Still, I survived getting around Siem Reap and even reached Angkor Wat in two wheels in spite of! I don’t think I would be doing it again in the near future, though. Not until I get rid of the wobbling. And the wiggling.

That’s my bike!

Bike Rentals in Siem Reap

The description of biking around the city on the brochure that I got was not very encouraging. It says, “The traffic rules here are slighy different… i.e. whatever they are, everyone ignores them anyway.”

Under normal circumstances, I would have dropped the idea especially that I had not tried biking in over a decade. But it was not a normal circumstance. Bebs, a friend of mine who has been living in Bangkok, was so convincing. He promised to teach me how to bike again until I relearned the whole thing.

Biking is probably the cheapest way to get around the city. It costs USD1 per day. And it comes with a bottle of water and a map, too! (Compare that to a tuk-tuk tour, which costs USD 12 per 3 stops.) Bike rental shops abound in the streets and alleyways of Siem Reap so it’s NOT difficult at all to spot one. In fact, we found several within the 100-m radius of our hotel.

Biking in Siem Reap
Bike Rental Shop in Siem Reap

Learning How to Bike

While the highways of Siem Reap are unforgivingly busy, they stem to the inner streets, where vehicles seldom pass through. I found one parallel Siem Reap River and thought it would be a great place to reclaim my lost biking skills because there was hardly anything there. The street was half paved and half rocky and for over a couple of hours, I struggled to bike on either surface. (Surprisingly, I found the rocky part more favorable.)

When the sun scorched the pavement signaling the midday, we decided it was time to hit the highway. For the first time, I rode my bike through busy streets where both drivers and pedestrians seemed to be oblivious to everyone else, and they turned and crossed from all directions like it’s nobody else’s business. My heart pounded so hard every time I hit an intersection. It was like I was dragging my bike around. And many times, I was literally dragging my bike around.

Siem Reap River

Siem Reap City Tour

Because much of the day I spent learning, I only had very little to go around. I had lunch at a cheap restaurant at the Old Market area, exchanged currencies, and visited some interesting places such as the Preah Promreath Pagoda, the Angkor National Museum, and the Shopping Center. (I will be writing about these places in detail on a separate post but here are some photos.)

A Restaurant at the Old Market in Siem Reap

Street food stalls in Siem Reap. That’s my friend Bebs buying something
Preah Promreath Pagoda
A bas relief image on one of the pagodas

Angkor National Museum

To Angkor Archaeological Park

Here’s the thing: A 1-Day Pass to the Angkor Archaeological Park costs USD 20. While most tourists prefer going in the morning, we decided to bike to Angkor to buy tickets at 5pm, which is valid for that day and the next day. So it’s like a pass for more than a day. Yes, the temples close at 6pm but you could still visit at least one within that period and explore the surrounding landscapes.

The Road to Angkor Wat

Angkor Ticketing Office

We actually arrived at the Angkor Ticket Office at 4pm so we had to wait for over an hour for the counters to start selling tickets for the next day. (Again, while the tickets sold from 5pm are for the next day, it can already be used on that day.) It was surprising that so many people turned up despite the time.

After acquiring a ticket, we traveled by bike to Angkor Wat, where a gazillion tourists were on their way out. I was able to explore the outer grounds of the temple but chose to leave the inner area for tomorrow’s visit. While there was a temple that gives better view of the sunset, I stayed at the Angkor Wat, by the moat, and watched the ripples that disturbed the peace of the still water that painted a perfect reflection of the ancient stellar landmark next to it.

Lotus in the lake surrounding Angkor Wat

Statues by the entrance to Angkor Wat

The sun was still sinking when we agreed it was time to head back downtown. It was getting dark and the wind cold. Tourists coming from the Temple Complex flooded the street, as motorists rushed to the city. The speed of the overtaking vehicles got me anxious and messed with my head that before I knew it, my bike crashed and I fell from it quite violently. I was lucky that I was at the very side of the road. I was able to get up immediately but my knee and ankle were badly hurt.

Despite the accident, I was content that I was able to experience something like this. Never in my life had I imagined that I would go biking around a foreign city. I had always been afraid to try new things even when everyone seems to have no problem doing it and I’m just being a wimp for not trying something so mundane. But that’s what I’m here for. I’m traveling to learn more, experience more, and grow more. The goal is that at the end of this backpacking trip I become wiser, stronger, better. But hopefully, no more accidents.

SIEM REAP GUIDE


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Yoshke Dimen

Storyteller at Yoshke.com
Yoshke is a part-time digital marketing consultant, part-time travel blogger, and full-time dreamer. He has three passions in life: social media, travel, and --- wait for it --- world peace. Yoshke has won 3 PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS and received 9 nominations. Learn more about his personal journeys at Yoshke.com.
Yoshke Dimen

Comments

  1. wow, biking around a foreign place seems really interesting! would love to try it someday. you may have gotten yourself a couple of bruises, but what you’ve experienced is something worth for keeps.

    • The Poor Traveler says:

      Yes, yes! I actually enjoyed it very much, and it’s something I’ll always remember. Despite the bruises and wounds. (They prevented me from doing more physical tours in Thailand and Laos, though.)

  2. melvin says:

    I think may kinalaman sa design ng bike nila yung pag crash mo kasi youre not the only one na natumba sa bisikleta in siem reap.i think i know at least three people.parang iba kasi sa mga bike natin dito sa pinas.i wanted to try that when i was in cambodia kaso lang hindi ako sure if they provide locks sa bike kapag iniwan mo somewhere.

    • The Poor Traveler says:

      Hi Melvin! Maybe but I’m not that familiar with bikes in general so I can’t tell. Haha.

  3. Alia says:

    Hi, I’m here again. I just want to know your experience with crossing borders. Diba as Filipinos, we can visit SEA Visa-free? Have you ever paid for anything at the borders to get your passport stamped? :)

  4. genbengivy says:

    hi would you know if i can rent a bicycle and also have a tuktuk take me to the complex? the idea is if i’m already in the complex can i just bike around? or would that be really tiring since temples are far from each other? thanks

    • Heya! You can bike to Angkor complex and bike around it, if you really like to bike. It can get really tiring but nothing you won’t survive if you’re in good shape. :)

  5. Areej says:

    Hello. Planning to go here next year. You said it was cheaper to go around with a bike than riding a tuktuk. One question though is how do we know where to go about? Thanks for your post. PLanning to cross the border too coming from Thailand. And we will be basing on your itinerary too :)

    • yoshke says:

      Hi Areej! Yes, much cheaper. Tuktuk was USD12, bike was only USD1 per day. :)

      The bike that I rented for 1 dollar came with a map (simple photocopy) and a bottle of water. :)

  6. Annie says:

    Waaah! this got me really excited. I’ve been wanting to go to cambodia (never been outside the country) and knowing that I can bike around makes it more exciting :D

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