Angkor by Bike

Welcome to Angkor
Angkor was the ancient capital of Cambodia and now is an archaeological park. It hosts so many historical ruins, some of which are much more popular than the others. The most visited ancient remains is absolutely the Angkor Wat whose name often ambiguously referred to the whole area of the park. No wonder Angkor Wat has become the national symbol of Cambodia and appears on its flag.

It would have been too much time and energy demanded to visit all sites scattered around the 400 square kilometers area, especially because we biked. Consequently, we gotta set up our priorities of which to visit and which to skip. Other than Angkor Wat, we had got two sites listed on our itinerary; Angkor Thom and Ta Phrohm. I'll show you the places one by one later. But before that, some readers might wonder if we could sneak into the archeological park area without without paying fees. Once I was also thinking to avoid paying the $20 pass (yeah, i was one of those jerks), but the answer was NO. Every time we were about to enter a site, there was a ticket checkpoint. So, forget about cheating!

Siem Reap Without Angkor

Angkor Wat, the #1 destination of Cambodia.
A big Siamese army of more than 10,000 men once marched into the Khmer's territory but then Khmer people -under King Ang Chan- successfully killed the enemy's leader and captured the remnants. The town's name 'Siem Reap' meaning 'Siam defeated' got its name from this story because it was the place where the the Siamese army got a total defeat. Most historians doubt the historical accuracy of the story though.

The sure thing about Siem Reap is that the town has become very popular among foreign visitors. In fact, there are more international tourists here than in Phnom Penh the capital city. It's simply because the little town has the magnificent Angkor Wat just few kilometers away from it. So if visiting Angkor Wat is the main reason people come to Siem Reap, isn't it ridiculous for first-time tourists to come to Siem Reap without going to Angkor? Well, we still kept that possibility in mind when we were on our way there.

Tuk-tuk Tour Around Phnom Penh

Me and two guard statues of the main pagoda in Wat Phnom.
The absence of public transport in Phnom Penh resulted in the way budget travelers like us explore the capital city. While driving own vehicle seemed to be most preferred option, we were thinking of renting a bicycle. It was not an easy task to get one, however. After taking a stroll for few minutes, we finally found a place renting bicycles. They asked for too high price so we called off the plan. As we were walking away, a better idea came up in my mind. So, what we were going to do later was to hire a tuk-tuk with driver. But for now, we would just walk to Wat Phnom.

An excellent place to start with, Wat Phnom was historically considered as the central point of Phnom Penh. Established in 1373, this old wat (temple) was built up after a lady found four Buddha statues inside a big tree log floating on a river. The founder's name was Penh, from which the very name of Phnom Penh was taken. Locals could go in and out there for free, but foreigners were charged $1 entrance fee per pax. We faithfully paid the fee though we might have been thought as Cambodians if we just passed through the ticket counter.

First Presence in Cambodia

Independece Monument, Phnom Penh
Our arrival in Cambodia marked some significant achievements for us. It started the last section of our long journey after being freed from the three-year-working contract in Ambon. As you can read in the previous postings, this long journey began when we traveled before to Maros and Makassar in Sulawesi. Then the second part was to Kuala Lumpur plus Singapore while we were leading two consecutive tours. And now when we put our first step on the Khmer's land, our personal trip abroad had just begun.

Frankly to say, this also became our first visit to a country poorer than ours. Cambodia's income per capita was roughly half of Indonesia's. Their local currency Riel, however, was about three times better in value than Indonesian Rupiah. Interestingly, Riel is used along US dollars for most transactions in Cambodia. In fact, USD is more prominent than Riel itself. There is no coin money so Riel plays the role of cents. Let say if we buy something cost 1,5 US dollars using a 2 dollar note, we will get 2000 riel in return (One US dollar is roughly considered as 4000 Riel). They must have put many examples of transactions for their Math problems at school, I guess.

OUR TRIPS (Based on Places)