Getting out into the countryside for scenes of rural life, where ox carts trundle along against a backdrop of vibrant green rice fields sprinkled with quaint, quiet villages, is one of the loveliest ways to spend your time around Siem Reap and a great reason to add another day in Cambodia into your itinerary. But the sleepy pace of the countryside need not be reflected in your choice of transport to enjoy this idyllic terrain. Quad biking is one of the more adrenaline-inducing modes to go exploring, and there’s little sedate about it.
Three quad bike operators — Siem Reap Quadbike Adventure, Cambodia Quad Bike, and Quad Adventure Cambodia — offer similarly priced tours, starting at $30 for a one-hour, 16km sunset trip. The longest running outfit is Quad Adventure Cambodia, who moved in 2015 out of their well-known and easily accessible spot on Sala Lodges Road. They will however arrange a free pick up from anywhere in town to take you out to their more remote new location. This looks like a wise decision in view of the fact that the newer operations decided to set up on exactly the same road which, given their broadly similar names, must have caused untold confusion.
We experienced around 45 kilometres of ATV driving (that’s ‘all terrain vehicles’), taking a little over two hours. Ticking off a colourful contemporary pagoda, skirting around Bakong temple of the Roluos group, racing along dusty dirt roads and being greeted by waving school kids, this was very much an insight into classic Cambodia. The itinerary, however, also took us to a school/orphanage – and it is worth questioning the impact of tourism such as this (would you be able to just drive into a school or an orphanage in the West?). Check the details of the route for the different tour lengths to find one that appeals to you — and skip the school/orphanage, please.
Nervy drivers can have their fears dispelled, as all vehicles are automatic with no clutch or gears to handle and incredibly easy to ride. At the same time, they’re more fun than, say, a practised dirtbike rider might imagine them to be. The session starts with a demonstration and practice time to make sure you are comfortably in control. A driving licence is technically required to drive, though we weren’t asked and exceptions can be made if you’ve got prior experience on quad bikes. Kids can sit on the back, so can enjoy the experience too without driving and it seems teens are allowed to drive providing they get to grips with it in the practice session, which is unlikely to cause any problems as it is surprisingly straightforward. Of course, make sure you have appropriate travel insurance. For those who really can’t get it, a co-rider can be assigned to steer while you enjoy the scenery.
Visors, helmets and face masks are provided. In rainy season you are guaranteed to get muddy – with a hose down at the end of the ride! Don’t forget sunscreen and slightly sturdier footwear might be useful too.
Quad biking – or delving into the countryside via motorbike, tuk tuk, bike or foot – is an opportunity to see incredibly photogenic scenery and experience contemporary rural culture that will complement, and break up, visits to the historic sites of Angkor. If adventure is your thing, you should also consider Flight of the Gibbon, dirt biking or a moto tour up on Kulen Mountain.
Quad Adventure Cambodia: Country Road Laurent, Siem Reap; T: (017) 784 727, (092) 787 216; www.quad-adventure-cambodia.com.
Siem Reap Quad Bike Adventure: Behind Wat Damnak, Sala Lodges Road (left side, near ISSR International School), Siem Reap; T: (097) 965 1451, (012) 324 009; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.srquadbikeadventure.com
Cambodia Quad Bike: Sala Lodges Road (on the other side of Sombai Road and the canal), Siem Reap; T: (012) 893 447, (097) 6701 777; email@example.com; www.cambodiaquadbike.com
By Caroline Major
Last updated on 18th February, 2016.