Cambodia: Exploring Siem Reap's Countryside On a Bicycle


Siem Reap remains the most popular place in all of Cambodia thanks to the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat- the largest religious complex in the world. I stayed in the city for 3 nights. One full day was spent at the Angkor temples, another at the Kulen Mountains, and that’s when I realized 3 days were too less for this place. There is a ton of other activities around the town including spending a day at the Tonle Sap Lake’s floating village that I wished I had time for.

My flight back to India was scheduled in the afternoon and so on the very last morning of my 3 week Vietnam-Cambodia trip, I went for a half-day bicycle tour of the countryside of Siem Reap with Butterfly Tours, a Cambodian students’ company that seeks to introduce visitors to the rich yet often unseen interiors of Cambodia in the cities of Siem Reap, Kampot and Battambang. It was to be one last adventure before I headed back home.

Bicycle tour of Siem Reap, Cambodia's countryside


I was picked up from my hostel in a tuktuk and was joined by the rest of the group that included Mimi from South Korea and Natalie and Marc from Germany. We were met by Sokheng and Sam Ath at the Butterfly Tours office and after a short briefing of the plan for the day, we were assigned our bicycles. I had never driven a Mountain Bike before, so it was fun to figure out the gears and other controls as we started on our 4 hour countryside trip of Siem Reap with Sam Ath, our guide.

Our first stop was the local market where we learned about several local vegetables and got to try some desserts from an old lady. I had a sugar coated donut and it was delicious. Although at times it got difficult to figure out what we were eating, Sam Ath made it a very fun and memorable experience with his jokes and plethora of information.

Bicycle tour of Siem Reap, Cambodia's countryside


We then stopped at the paddy fields for some fresh air away from the city’s pollution and got to know each other’s cultures better.

Next stop was a basket weaving workshop. This was a very enriching experience as we got to know about the importance of baskets in the Cambodian culture. Sam Ath told us in details about the Cambodian wedding ceremonies. The boy’s family fills a basket with fruits and goes to the girl’s house to ask the girl’s parents for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Along with the basket they also give betel leaves (paan) and go on to explain the qualities of the boy. If the girl’s parents are happy about the proposal, they eat the betel leaves and accept the basket. The two families then discuss the dowry that the boy needs to pay the girl’s family. This amount ranges from 3,000 USD in the rural areas to as much as 50,000 USD in the richest social circles. It was so fascinating to learn about the entire process and I could relate it to Indian weddings. It was surprising to find out that the process is quite similar even in Korea and some parts of it are same in the German culture as well.

Bicycle tour of Siem Reap, Cambodia's countryside


We cycled around the fields and arrived at a rice wine factory. This was a rural household that makes rice wine. Sam Ath explained the process to us and we got to try some freshly brewed rice wine shots. The Cambodians don’t drink casually, they drink to get drunk, he told us.

Bicycle tour of Siem Reap, Cambodia's countryside
Sam Ath our guide, pours a glass of fresh rice wine for us to taste. Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Bicycle tour of Siem Reap, Cambodia's countryside
Rice wine making workshop. Siem Reap, Cambodia


Our final stop for the day was at a piggy bank house. This was a potter’s workshop and we saw the entire process of making beautiful piggy banks. There were minions and all sort of animals getting made out of clay. I have always hated the fact that those beautiful banks need to be broken once they are full to access the money.

We finally rode back to the Butterfly Tour office. It must have been a good 20 km of riding in total over the 4 hours and we were profusely sweating due to the heat and humidity. Sokheng welcomed us with cold towels and water and finally after a group picture we were dropped back to our hotels.

Bicycle tour of Siem Reap, Cambodia's countryside
Meet the Minion Piggy Bank. Siem Reap, Cambodia

I have always loved riding a bicycle and hardly get an opportunity here in India. This half-day tour was not very taxing and we got to learn loads about the Cambodian culture and way of life- way more than what I had learned throughout my stay in the country. I feel it is so very joyful to get to know the culture of the country you are visiting and interacting with locals always increases your knowledge. 

This half day tour, aptly named ‘Off the Beaten Track’, was a perfect way to end my Cambodian adventure. I am so glad I joined it. Watch this video for a visual experience of the day tour:


I was hosted for the half-day bicycle tour by Butterfly Tours in January 2018. All views and opinions in the post are completely personal. 

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Comments

  1. I am so used to public transports and cabs that I cannot imagine cycling whole day! I am pretty sure that the experience must have been amazing and tiring, needless to say. Looking forward to more such experiences from you, and getting inspired to do the same! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. The Butterfly Tours team made sure it was memorable.

      Delete
  2. This is amazing ... Exploring a city on cycle is amazing and if it's heritage, it is always so cool :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True. I wanted to do one of the Mumbai midnight cycling tours during my stay there but never got the chance. You should go for it Stuti :)

      Delete

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