Angkor Wat by Bicycle

The biggest decision when visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia is choosing how you will visit the temples.  There are many options for all types of travelers – plenty of tour choices, bike rentals and tuk tuk drivers can be hired for less than $20 for a full day.  I, of course, wanted to do something different (crazy?!) and chose a bike tour offered by Viator. I knew there was no way I’d get my butt out of bed before sunrise unless someone was waiting for me, so I chose the Angkor Sunrise Discovery Bike Tour.

Angkor Wat

The website shows spandex-clad bikers breezing by temples.  Choosing what to wear this day was perplexing – shoulders and knees must be covered when visiting the temples, but you would be biking through 100+ degree temperatures.  Ultimately, I went with linen capris and a wicking t-shirt with Chaco sandals.  You could wear nothing and still be ridiculously hot, so you can’t win on this one.  The modesty is required due to the fact that these are still active temples, and we saw several areas where monks and others had come to worship.  Tucked away in several corners were Buddha statues, freshly decorated with offerings.

Around 5am, I was met in my hotel lobby by Lot, our guide for the day.  I joined the rest of the group in the van, and we headed off to get our Angkor Wat passes.  The crowds at the ticket booth were large, but they were quite efficient.  You get your photo taken, hand over cash and in a few minutes are given your Angkor Pass.  We then drove on to an area where we would watch the sun rise.  Most people have seen the classic “sunrise at Angkor” shot, but don’t realize there are hundreds, if not thousands of people gathered at this reflecting pool.  Instead, we went to a less crowded place which also offered a view of the temples with the sun rising behind, albeit a bit further away then I was expecting.  It wasn’t quiet or off the beaten path, by any means, but a bit less crowded.

Angkor Wat

We spent about an hour watching the sun rise behind the temples and then moved on to begin our tour of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat

We did eventually make a stop at the famous reflecting pool once the crowds had dissipated.

Angkor Wat

The Angkor complex is quite large, and the details that remain after 9 centuries is quite impressive!

Angkor Wat

After leaving Angkor Wat, we arrived at a hut in the woods, where a full breakfast awaited us.  Then it was time to begin our bike tour.

Angkor Wat

For whatever reason, I thought this was a “van supported” tour – it was, in the sense that the van carried our belongings and met us at various points, but it was not the kind where you can jump in the van at any time if you are tired of riding! (Or if you feel like throwing up from the heat…hypothetically speaking!)  We rode on sandy paths through the woods, occasionally passing small communities where the children would run out and yell “Hello!” – they were so cute, and I wanted to slow down and visit, but we didn’t.

After a bit of riding, we entered the Angkor Thom complex.

Within Angkor Thom is Prasat Bayon, the “faces” temple, where again, the detail remaining in the sandstone is quite impressive!

Bayon

Bayon

After a break for cold washcloths and fruit, we hopped on the bikes again, and immediately ran into this family of monkeys hanging out and robbing tourists of their water bottles.

Our last temple stop for the day was Ta Prohm, famously known as the filming site for Tomb Raider (which I haven’t seen)  Ta Prohm is covered in trees, which appear to be oozing down over the temples rather than growing up from the ground.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

By now, it was well over 100 degrees, and I hoped our van would be waiting outside, but there was a bit more riding to a nearby restaurant where lunch (and our van) was waiting.  After lunch, we were returned to our hotels, where I showered and went to bed at 3pm.  I woke up later for room service dinner, but didn’t even venture down to the pool that day!

The temples were gorgeous and there were so many more that I did not see – I would love the opportunity to return, for a longer visit, perhaps in a slightly cooler season and take my time to explore them all.

For all of my Cambodia pictures, click here!

 

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Bangkok Tuk Tuk Tour

With a city as huge as Bangkok, I knew a tour would be the best way to explore. I also knew I would not be up for traipsing around in the heat of the day.  So I was pretty excited to find the Expique Tour:  Bangkok Night Lights / Tuk Tuk Tour.  For a very reasonable 1850 Thai Baht (about $55) we had a 4 hour nighttime tour of Bangkok.  While not billed as a food tour, it definitely centers around food!  I was quite full by the end of the night.

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk Tour

The tour begins at the Krong Thonburi train station, where we were met by our tour guide, Natt, as well as Expique owner, Simon.  Our international group totaled 9 – 3 couples (Italy, Austria, Germany) and 3 solo ladies (US, Puerto Rico, Australia) and we were divided into 5 tuk tuks for the evening.  We were each given a small pamphlet with a map showing the places we’d visit, as well as a few key phrases and random facts.

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk TourChinatown

Our first stop was the Klong San Market, where our local food sampling began.  I really liked the fish balls, which were little fried dough balls sprinkled with a spicy red sauce.

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk TourFood Market - one of my favorite items of the night - fish balls with (hot!) chili sauce.

We then stopped by Wat Prayoon on the banks of the Chao Praya river.  It was quite beautiful lit up at night.

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk TourWat Prayoon

Mid-tour, we had a sit down dinner at Thipsamai, known as the best pad thai in Bangkok.  I have no real reference point, as my only previous pad thai experience was at Uwajimaya in Seattle, and I was not a fan.  We were whisked past a long line out the door, and given menus to select our entree, and tall glasses of cold tangerine juice.  I went with the guides recommendation, shrimp pad thai, which was quite tasty and, interestingly, wrapped in a cooked egg.  (eggs show up in strange places in Thailand, like on every club sandwich)

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk TourShrimp Pad Thai in an egg wrap

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk TourWe had quite the international group - Puerto Rican, American, Australian, 2 Italians, 2 Germans and 2 Austrians!  Thankfully everyone spoke English and of course the hot Italian boys were gay.

With full bellies, it was back to the tuk tuks for more adventure.  Next up was Wat Pho, famously known as the home of the Reclining Buddha (which, sadly, I did not see as it was closed earlier in the day when I tried to visit) With no crowds of tourists, we were free to roam around the exterior of the temples.  Our guide explained how all the tiles were porcelain from China, originally used as ballast to weigh down the ships coming back.

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk TourWat Pho

We then moved on to the flower market.  It is simply amazing how many street markets I saw in Thailand and Cambodia – all of them rolled out and rolled up every day. The flower market was huge, stall after stall filled with fragrant flowers, and women making Buddha offerings with flower buds.  Such a treat for the senses!

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk TourFlower Market

Our last stop was in Chinatown, where we again entered a restaurant and enjoyed some sweet treats.  We had white bread cubes which we dipped in a delicious bright green custard sauce. And I finally got to try mango sticky rice with coconut milk..so good that I was recently searching Yelp to see where I can find it in Chicago!

Expique - Bangkok Night Lights TukTuk TourFinally got to try Mango Sticky Rice - delicious!

At this time, it was nearing 11pm, and we had the option of retaining our tuk tuk drivers for a ride back to our hotels.  I gladly chose this option and enjoyed a breezy ride back to the Aloft hotel, arriving way past my usual bed time!

Expique offers several tours in Bangkok, and they are reasonably priced and well organized.  Throughout the tour, we were given cold bottled water, and even cold washcloths to cool down – an extra nice touch in the crazy heat! I would highly recommend this tour, or any other option from Expique if you are visiting Bangkok.

For all of my Bangkok pictures, click here!

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