Exploring Angkor Wat

Recently I’ve tried to base most of my travels off free flights. If I need to work an event somewhere international, like a race in Bhutan, and my flights are paid for, I’ll book a one way flight for work and then figure out my own way home. With no real time constraints I’ll spend a few months exploring the region, and that’s exactly how I ended up in the back of a tuk-tuk taxi in Siem Reap.

Tuk-tuk taxi in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Tuk-Tuk Taxi

This was my first time in Cambodia and I really came to explore Angkor Wat, but first I checked into an apartment near the city center just a few blocks from Pub Street and planned to spend a several days catching up on work.

Pub Street Siem Reap, Cambodia
Pub Street At Night

After taking nearly 3 weeks off work for the Snowman Race in Bhutan I had hundreds of emails to go through, projects to update, and clients to catch up with. Siem Reap was a great place to be productive and I grabbed wifi in a few trendy coffee shops, worked from my room, and even had a hamburger lunch at The Habit, a surprise Cambodian location of my favorite burger joint back in Santa Barbara, California.

Working on my laptop from a cafe on Pub Street.
Working From A Cafe On Pub Street

Once I felt like I was caught up enough with work I rented a bicycle and set out to do what I really came to Cambodia for, explore the sprawling temple complex of Angkor Wat.

My bicycle at Angkor Wat.
Exploring Angkor Wat By Bicycle

My first morning on two wheels I spun off with no plan. A few miles from town I entered the temple complex and followed the road through thick jungle to massive ruins just opening for the day. The large tourist buses had yet to arrive, so I had the first few temples all to myself which made for an incredible experience.

Reflection in the water of the temples at Angkor Wat.
Temple Reflections
Temples at Angkor Wat.
Pre Rup Temple

After a few hours of cycling and exploring I stopped at a roadside stand for lunch. I checked out the wide variety of grilled meats they had on the menu and ordered something safe, fried rice and veggies.

Meat on the grill.
Cambodian Street Meats

I spent the rest of the day spinning around the temples and stopping in spots with less crowds and no tour buses. Angkor Wat is definitely a busy place, but having my own transportation and no schedule meant I could still find a sense of solitude.

Prasast Preah Khan in Angkor Wat.
Alone At Prasast Preah Khan

Before sunset I biked back to town, got another gourmet burger on Pub Street, and sat with a cold Angkor lager watching the street life go by. I woke at 4:30 the next morning and spun my way back to the temples long before sunrise. Unfortunately the headlamp I rented with the bicycle died 5 minutes in so I spent the rest of the ride either sporadically shining my cell phone flashlight or following other cyclists and motorbikes into the park.

The dicey ride was well worth it and I made it just in time to join the throng of people standing in the grass waiting for the iconic view of the sun coming up over the main Angkor Wat temple complex.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat.
Sunrise Over Angkor Wat

After exploring the main complex I grabbed breakfast and then got back on my bike to see more. My tush was a bit tender from the previous day’s mileage so instead of spending the entire day spinning around the temples I returned to a few of my favorite spots before heading home.

Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor Wat.
Ta Prohm Temple

The Ta Prohm Temple is one of the most photographed complexes in the park, partly due to it being featured in the Angelina Jolie film Tomb Raider, but mostly because it’s just absolutely stunning to see the jungle growing up and over the ruins, reclaiming the buildings.

Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor Wat.
Ta Prohm Temple

Back in town I packed my bags and the next morning caught a tuk-tuk taxi back to the airport. It had been a quick trip to Cambodia, mostly to visit Angkor Wat, but surprisingly I found that I really enjoyed my time in Siem Reap. I was sad to leave so soon, but I had plans to meet up with friends in Thailand and I was ready to get back to island life!

Bridge in Siem Reap.
Siem Reap, Cambodia

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