Saturday, November 04, 2006

Electric Bikes at Ankgor Wat

Siam Reap, the base for exploring the temples of Angkor, is a town that changes fast. New hotels are constantly under construction, and the hundreds of thousands of tourists passing through each year give the town a temporary feel. Electric bikes for exploring the temples are one of the new developments since I was last here a year ago. My Mom and I tried them out today, and I thought some might appreciate a quick review.

The bikes are available for rent on a road that branches out to the right about 300 meters before the ticket booth. They cost $4 a day, making them a few bucks cheaper than a moto and less than half the price of a tuk tuk, or remorque moto. They seem well made and reliable and were quite easy to handle - my Mom had no trouble. The max speed is around 30 kilometers per hour, plenty fast enough, and cruising around without noise or effort is really pleasant.

If the battery runs low, there are 14 stations in the temple complex where you can get a battery changed free of charge by locals, who might ask you to buy a drink from them, especially if they watch the bikes while you explore. Mom and I changed batteries once during a long day of riding.

The only problem I ran into happened when I broke the tail-light mount while parking - it was completely my fault, but some kids ran out to lash it on with a jungle vine, and when I returned the bike the attendant said there was no problem. Traffic can also be intimidating, especially in front of the popular temples. Use your horn and expect everyone else to do the same.

The bikes are advertised as an environmentally friendly way to get around the temples, but good hearted travelers should be aware that some locals have lobbied very hard against electric transportation. The $4 for a bike is money taken away from drivers who depend on tourist dollars for their livelihood. If you want to do a good deed for a day, its better to take a moto and, if you like the driver, give him a big tip. You wont make much of a dent in carbon emissions by choosing the electric bike, but it is a pretty sweet way to get around.

Expect frequent posts over the next few weeks as I explore Cambodia.


Anonymous ryan libre said...

Good observations. making a dent in global carbon emissions is unlikey, but having a world herritage site with cleaner air and a quite atmosphere is priceless. the drivers will find new jobs.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

They will find new jobs...but some will be forced to start snatching bags and breaking into hotel rooms when they can't support their the long term, you're right Ryan, clean air and quiet is priceless, but it will have to be a gradual change. The bikes are a good start.

12:09 AM  

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