No visit to Cambodia is complete without a proper motorbike ride through the countryside. Motorbikes are an integral part of the daily life for people living in the country that is home to the famous Angkor Wat temple.
As majestic, ancient and incredible as the temples of Angkor Wat may be, it was the motorbike tour with Sabai Adventures that became a highlight of my visit to the kingdom. My day out exploring the rugged countryside was a memorable activity. Setting out from Siem Reap with my knowledgeable Cambodian moto guide Sokpan, it didn't take long before we left the hordes of tourists behind and the real journey began. If you’re like me and enjoy getting away from the busy crowds of "package tourists" and the oversized buses they occupy, then consider a countryside moto tour with these Sabai Adventures.
Sabai Adventures showed me the world just beyond Angkor Wat. As my guide took me along the countryside roads, I discovered small villages that hardly ever see any foreign visitors. Children came running up to the side of the road enthusiastically shouting hello as we drove past.
During the tour we stopped at a few remote temples and we were pretty much the only people there. The first temple involved hiking up a steep staircase to an ancient site at the top of the mountain that offered stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
As we returned to the bikes and continued driving along red clay roads through rural communities, I tried to absorb the beautiful scenery and unique culture I was witnessing. Seeing locals working the fields by hand using primitive tools and ox pulling wooden carts was an incredible sight. I thought to myself that little has probably changed in hundreds of years, other than the obvious introduction of items such as motorbikes and cell phones.
Sokpan, my guide, led me to another small temple with charm. The monks in the pagoda joined me as we hung-out on the fallen stones of the millennium old temple in the shade of the mid-day sun.
On the way back we stopped at a secluded small lake for a refreshing swim. During the drive back to Siem Reap, I thought of the great day I just completed out in the Cambodian countryside. As we were coming to the end of the tour, I couldn’t help but think, no visit to Cambodia is complete without a proper motorbike ride through the countryside with Sabai Adventures.
This is actually quite amazing. I thought about this and came across this one by pub street, $1 for 15 mins plus a free drink - I was in
For the first few mins it really tickeled, then was great. My feet felt great at the end, and really clean.
Would recomend this to anyone.
Wat Bo is a working temple complex on the other side of the Siem Reap river.
Its in an area that is dirt roads, and some of the temples here are not used any more
its peaceful, serene and interesting.
The Siem Reap old market is not just a tourist market, although a good part of it is geared to just this, but it is also a working market for the residents here as you will see.
You can buy just about anything here
Some good shopping and a wonderful experience
My friend and I got lost since we don’t know where to find the KFC. Yes, one of the popular fast foods in the world and why are we finding it!? Three of our friends got so exhausted and fell asleep without having dinner and because we are thoughtful friends, we decided to buy them food somewhere for take-out. However, we got lost… until we found ourselves in the PUBSTREET, haha!
This place is very much alive when we got here. Loud party music is played with a disco ball hanging at the center of one of the streets. Bars, women, men, are seen everywhere. There are also guards/policemen, paramedics and tuk-tuk drivers are seen at the corner of the street.
Along the streets are also souvenir shops and one of the popular items being sold here are those made of the crocodile skin and very expensive. One of the locals we talked to said that it’s not advisable to buy any items around the area because it costs a lot of dollars.
Then after a few misleading paths… at last, we finally accomplished our mission! We found the KFC!:)
This is the other market we passed by Mr. Dee (our tuk-tuk driver) said, it’s where most of the locals buy. I think the difference of this place to the old market is that, it offers more goods that the locals basically need for everyday life.
As you can see in the pictures, there are lots of breads being sold outside. Usually the breads are long, hard and very much exposed to the surroundings. Fruit stalls are more seen here than in the old market.
The best place to buy more varieties of souvenirs is in the old market. Name it! Shirts, bags, pens, calendars, bracelets, rings, earrings, necklaces, puppets, paintings, hats, caps, fridge magnets, key chains, wallets, clothes, coffee, fan, etc.- you have it here!
The souvenir shops are situated on the sides of the market. Inside are fishes, vegetables, etc.are being sold. Dried fishes, I think those are eels, can also be seen hanging in front of the stores.
Always remember to bargain, most of the vendors here are snob in giving discounts so don’t show them how much you want it because they’ll make a stand for the undiscounted price they gave.
What my friends and I did was that we went into shops, look around, ask for the price then if we find it cheaper than the other stores that’s when we ask for a discount, if granted then we buy at once.
I observed that most of the Cambodians are artists; when I looked in the paintings displayed at the corner of the shops, it mesmerized me. Their works of art are amazing! The canvasses looked very much alive!
The free exhibition hall highlights the geography and more of the cultural practices of the Cambodian people. The hall has just opened when we arrived at 9am. I learned a lot in reading the articles displayed. I really wondered about this lake before, while traveling in the bus because almost everywhere, the road we took were as if surrounded by water and now I know that it’s the Tonle Sap Lake, wehe. It’s a large body of water lies in the center of Cambodia. Tonle Sap Lake is also the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.
We also read an article about their education status and one of the exhibition guides discussed a few about it. We were surprised to learn that the teachers earn only 8-10USD per month for the public schools and that’s why they have shortage of teachers. Young people don’t think of studying education because they don’t see its worth due to the small earnings.
The teachers on the other hand who currently teach in the public schools sell foods, candies, or any other things to the students just to add a few pennies to their living. Sometimes, the teachers encourage their students to buy the items they sell so they’ll be exempted in taking the tests.
The guide said that this scenario wasn’t new to them. The locals were aware of their education status that’s why more of the parents prefer to send their children in private schools where the teachers were more focused in teaching. As for the children who can’t afford to study in private schools, some bear to continue studying while some prefer to work instead of going to school.
There are souvenir items for sale on a corner- shirts, cards, pens and puppets. Before the exit, there’s also a donation box which is not bad to give a few bucks to help and support the organization.
We had a different tuk-tuk driver for this tour since Mr. Chun (our driver to Angkor Wat) wasn’t available. We had Mr. Dee for a half day tour. He’s a family friend of Mr. Bun Kao (hostel owner). He speaks English well and very nice. He’s one of the people I find sincere in everything he says.
Wat Thmey was part of the killing fields where a lot of victims were tortured and killed in Siem Reap. There’s no entrance fee, just a donation box was seen infront of the Pagoda for the reconstruction/maintenance of the temple. In the entrance, we saw this bulletin board which showed a number of pictures that include the events happened during the Pol Pot regime. It also showcased the pictures of the victims, how they were in prison, how they died and a picture of Pol Pot was included there. Having seen these, it brought chills in my spine. Those criminals have gone mad. The people were killed brutally. Honestly, I didn’t felt that good.
One picture still scares me up to now- a woman seated on a chair, her arms tied at the back and a machine (I don’t know what it is) that looked like a gun was positioned directly at the back of her head. Mr. Dee said that the “machine” was used to drain the heads of the victims. Not really a good thing to imagine.
On the left side, there’s a small stupa like in the Choeung Ek (Killing Fields) in Phnom Penh. It also contained a number of the victims’ skulls.
On the right side was a bigger pagoda that was newly painted with the life of Buddha. We admired the painting; it’s very colorful and lively. Mr. Dee said that this pagoda was also used during the Pol Pot regime as a prison. The temple was now being maintained by the monks. We saw a few of them outside, cleaning the area while some praying.
Out of curiosity, I asked Mr. Dee if he was already alive by that Pol-Pot time. He then told us his story; he was only about 9 years (as far as I can remember) so he was spared. During those times, children aged 13 years and above were taken by Pol Pot and his men to be trained and transform them to be ruthless “soldiers” who’ll dare to kill even their own family and friends. I can feel sadness in Mr. Dee’s voice as he went on. His parents with his brothers were killed as well as his other relatives then his voice somewhat cracked when he said, “I have no family left at a young age…” . I fought back my tears after hearing that....
Mr. Dee has gone through a lot. I saw in his eyes the grief but no anger at all. He even called Pol Pot as “Mister Polpot” though we believe Pol Pot doesn’t have any right to earn that salutation. Just to make things feel lighter, I asked how Mr. Dee’s doing now. He said he has a family with 4 kids... this made me really happy for him. He said that he was able to survive and what happened was already in the past. I really admire his braveness to face life at a young age and the acceptance of those bad times.
Everybody has a story to tell and his, was a worth sharing. There are a lot of people who easily give up in life but imagine how you can face it if you were in Mr. Dee’s shoes. I believe there are more people who have similar inspiring stories to tell like Mr. Dee’s.
Moving on doesn’t mean you forget things. It just means you have to accept what happened and continue living.
Srah Srang known also as the “King’s bathing Pool” was built in the 10th century. It belongs to a smaller series of water reservoirs, which were built to support “Baray(s)”. From the history we read, Baray were artificial reservoirs supplied by rainfall and diverted rivers. Artificial reservoirs because people raised dykes to contain water, water then would enter through the north dyke and could later be released to irrigate the fields. However, these were not meant to last.
There are no temples to see here but you will be able to observe agricultural activities /typical lifestyle of Khmer villager as well as the sunrise and sunset. There are also souvenir stores at the entrance and a canteen.
Angkor Thom means the “great city” in Khmer. Angkor Thom is an enclosed compound with many temples to explore; one of which is the Bayon Temple. It was surrounded by a square wall 12km long, an extra gate (Gate of Victory) was made in the eastern side of this wall to accommodate the road, in addition to the central eastern gate (Gate of the Dead).
One of my favorites is the south gate where we entered coming from the Angkor Wat. I was very fascinated by this long line of Hindu Gods and demons statues on both corners of the bridge and only in this gate, these figures are best maintained. This is a theme from the Hindu Myth of the Churning Milk of the Ocean. The statues are bigger and larger than us!
The Victory Gate in the East leads to the Thommanom and Chau Say Thevoda temples then to Ta Prohm.
Must see attractions in Angkor Thom:
-Terrace of the Leper King
-Terrace of the Elephants
Chau Say Tevoda temple is adjacent to Thommanon Temple. The temples are like twins that were constructed between 11th to 12th century. Both temples weren’t as popular like the other temples such as Angkor Wat and Banteay Samre but through them, the styles and the forms of these more famous landmarks became more evident. Both temples have sculpture images of Shiva and Vishnu.
There’s nothing much special in this place but it’s good to know where the other famous temples gained their style and structure.
Thommanon Temple is found adjacent to Chau Say Tevoda temple. The temples are like twins that were constructed between 11th to 12th century. This temple as well as the Chau Say Tevoda temple wasn’t as popular like the other temples such as Angkor Wat and Banteay Samre but through them, the styles and the forms of these more famous landmarks became more evident.
There’s nothing much special in this place but it’s good to know where the other famous temples gained their style and structure.
Ta Prohm is the last temple we’ve visited and I find it one of the most interesting places because of the oldest trees around the area. The trees are very extraordinary and very very old! They have very long roots that almost curl and crawl in the temple. It’s one of the most unusual things I’ve ever seen in my entire life!
This temple was named before as “Rajavihara” or “Royal Monastery” then eventually called as Ta Prohm or “Old Brahma” today. This place became more famous when the movie “Tomb Raider” was filmed here. The movie featured one of the oldest trees with its long roots that stand in the middle of the temple. I find the trees a bit scary because of its very unusual long curling roots that seem like an invisible entity currently resides here…
Many of the temples are really in ruins that most of the structures were supported by steel and logs which I find it good in preserving the natural beauty of this place.
We were still away from the Bayon Temple but it’s very noticeable even from afar. Bayon Temple is a Mahayana Buddhist temple built for the Buddha. This temple is one of my favorite places we visited because I find the temple unique with its towers surmounted by different faces- smiling, frowning, straight faces, etc. But it was then I found out that this earned controversies when it was built, the different faces of the towers were called ‘enigmatic’ that caused a lot of discussions and debates back on those days.
The temple grounds were in ruins but I like the impression of it. It really fascinates me how the Khmer people were able to build such a masterpiece and not just one… a lot of these attractions in Siem Reap are really admirable!