Angkor Wat Cambodia Motorcycle Tour – an 11-day epic journey.
Angkor Wat is the most amazing place on Earth! Period!
It is truly mind-boggling that ancient man was able to construct such a myriad number of architectural masterpieces by hand. And equally astounding is how Angkor lay untouched and slumbering for more than half a millennia. Needless to say, riding a motorcycle through the ruins is by far the best way to visit them.
On this mixed on-road / off-road motorcycle tour we will visit the hardest to reach and least frequented of these great temple complexes, as well as the most famous ones. And each afternoon we’ll return to the stylish town of Siem Reap for spas and massages, fine dining, and evenings full of entertainment. Action adventure travel doesn’t get any better, or posher, than this.
This is a very special Asian Motorcycle Adventure motorcycle tour despite it having the least driving distance of any of the other tours on our itinerary. There is only one destination on this motorcycle trip–Angkor Wat–and simply put, Angkor is one of the greatest wonders on earth and must be seen to be believed.
Think about that for a moment–one of the greatest wonders on earth. Do you not owe it to yourself to experience such a place? And with A.M.A you’ll be getting there by motorcycle, and once there, will explore every Angkor Wat nook and cranny by motorcycle as well.
The motorcycle ride into Angkor Wat from the Thailand border is over a road so bad it has a lot of nerve even calling itself a road. But what can you expect from a thousand-year old thoroughfare built for elephants and ox carts and which had fallen into total disuse for the last 500 years. This Royal Khmer Road has only recently been opened to outsiders, and it leads us directly into the center of Angkor.
In all the world, Angkor Wat is the most exceptional historical and architectural site created by human beings. What the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans left behind pales in comparison to the antiquities of the ancient people called the Khmers.
If you are like most people, you probably never even heard of Angkor until recently. And those who are aware of Angkor probably think it is only one huge temple. Wrong! There are 296 structures clustered in several ancient cities which are spread across several hundred square kilometers of Cambodian countryside.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, while Europe was slumbering through their stupefying Middle Ages, on the opposite side of the globe, the Khmer rulers went on a 700-year building spree the likes of which the world has never seen. A succession of thirty-nine powerful kings each tried to out-build his predecessor with larger and more elaborate temples and cities dedicated to their Gods and ancestors. Some of the earliest temples were constructed of bricks. But the great majority of buildings were erected from stone blocks with scenes of Khmer history, culture, their wars and their God, carved into every single surface, inside and out, in the minutest of detail, details as small as leaf veins and fish scales, etched by hand into solid rock! Mind boggling!
The Khmers became rich beyond compare because they were the first civilization to control one of earth’s fundamental elements: water. They developed the technology to store and move water where it was needed, when it was needed, thus sparing themselves the twin ravages of floods and famines.
Using their great wealth, the Khmers conquered all the other surrounding kingdoms. Their booty, which included untold thousands of slaves, quarried the stones, moved them down the rivers, and erected and carved the magnificent temples and statuary. Some scholars think this building frenzy was the cause of their eventual demise, by sapping the energy and resources of the kingdom.
By the late 1400’s, the game was over for the Khmers. Their enemies drove them out of Angkor and down to Phnom Penh, the present-day Cambodian capital. For the next 500 years, nature went back to work, the rainforest and jungle covering up the lands the Khmer kings wrested from it.
Angkor was long forgotten by the outside world until “rediscovered” by a Frenchman in the mid-1800’s.
But it was not until the early-20th century that Angkor Wat become known again to the world. Cambodia’s isolation kept all but the most intrepid travelers away.
In the 1960’s, just when air travel became somewhat practical, Cambodia was plunged into decades of civil and external warfare. The fighting finally ended for good only in 1997. Now peace reigns, and one of mankind’s supreme achievements is open once again, and open for motorcyclists as well.
Angkor Wat is one of those special places in our world that both humbles and inspires at the same time. The atmosphere is seeped in mysticism and magic: you can feel it as soon as you enter the complex. Angkor Wat overloads the mind on so many different levels that it is hard to walk fifty feet in any direction without being hit with a scene so powerful and exotic, so mesmerizing, that you have to stop dead in your tracks to try to digest what your eyes are registering.
Different aspects of Angkor fascinates its visitors differently. Some can’t get over how an ancient people could design and build such huge and exquisite structures made solely from solid stone. Others marvel at the magnificent carvings and statuary that cover and decorate these edifices. For many, what amazes most strongly is the silent but powerful struggle of nature re-claiming the antiquities themselves.
Some temple complexes are almost completely restored. Several others are in different stages of restoration. The majority of the temples, however, are still in the same state of ruin as when they were rediscovered. And in these temples, it is possible to explore on your own, at your own pace, the many hidden delights still covered by the detritus of time.
Our lodgings are in the adjoining town of Siem Reap, a cowboy town far from the capital’s central control, and the more common Asian vices operate fairly openly. Siem Reap is a town full of contradictions: wagon wheel makers and blacksmiths are still integral industries, yet internet cafes abound and satellite TV is ubiquitous.
The food is excellent: local Cambodian fare, along with Western, French, Indian, and Asian cuisines. Wine shops are fully stocked. Lively nightspots do a thriving business into the early hours. And the shopping is terrific at prices bordering on the absurd (but don’t tell the sellers that).
We stay in one of several five-star hotels dripping with that inimitable Asian style and grace. Lodging doesn’t get any better than this, anywhere. Knowledgeable guides will accompany us all around the antiquities every day, explaining the history of Angkor, the story behind each temple, and point out the most spectacular artwork and carvings. They will also take us to some temples not even listed in guidebooks or notated on maps.
And for one full day on this tour we will go out with a professional photographer who will take you to the most exquisite scenes and and point out the most delicate details in the temple complexes, as well as guide you as to the best ways to capture these images for your scrapbook.
We will do some unsealed road riding on this tour. The dirt roads and trails in and around Siem Reap and throughout the Angkor antiquities pose no undue challenges, and road-riders should not have difficulties adapting
Bring plenty of memory cards for your cameras if you decide to come on this tour. And bring along your spirit of adventure, because in Angkor Wat it will get a tremendous workout.
This ANGKOR WAT tour will not appeal to everyone. But if you enjoy history, art, architecture, photography, and love visiting exotic and foreign locales by motorcycle, this is a tour that will never be forgotten.
Read an excellent article about Angkor from the BBC.
11-Day Angkor Wat – Cambodia Motorcycle Tour: Dates and Rates.
Click to view Thailand with Cambodia map. Click to view Angkor Map.
If you want to receive our not-quite-monthly newsletter that announces all our new tours, click here and you will be added to our list.