Just 3 miles outside the city center of Siem Reap, Cambodia the ancient temple of Angkor Wat sits amongst 400 sq km of land comprising a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Angkor Archaeological Park offers 1, 3 or 7 day passes for foreigners. I spread out my 3-day visit and tailored it to include 1 day of sightseeing by tuk-tuk, 1 day taking in the Buddhist New Year festivities and 1 day sightseeing by bicycle.
Round 1, the tuk-tuk was waiting in the early morning hours to time our arrival at Angkor Wat for sunrise. I vaguely remember being crabby at the loss of sleep (I do love my sleep), but it was completely worth the early wake up! After Angkor Wat, it was a short hop to Angkor Thom and the Elephant Terrace, exploring these ruins for a few hours and heading back around lunchtime. When it’s as hot as it is in Cambodia, small doses are best!
Round 2 entailed an outing to Angkor Wat again by tuk-tuk to take in the New Year party. Bands were playing; group games were in motion; families were enjoying the sights or having picnics along the moat. When it became dark, hundreds of lanterns were released in the moat waters creating a fairy tale image of these famous ruins. The crowd was thick all throughout the day and very tame for a NY celebration!
Round 3, back to the park, but this time via bicycle (free from the guesthouse) to complete the Big Circuit. It was about 12 miles roundtrip plus the circuit mileage. The 1-speed bike made for a long day of pedaling, but this was much more fun in the end (even in the rainstorm). The countryside between temples is flat and incredibly dry (my visit was during their dry season).
In hindsight, it probably made more sense to do the grand tour by tuk-tuk and any extra stops by bicycle! Then again, more miles on the bike meant more coconut shakes back in town!