For the environmentally-minded, getting around in Siem Reap can be somewhat of a sweaty affair as eco-friendly options for individual transport are limited to walking or cycling.
Or at least they were until recently, when the opening of electronic bike rental shop Green E-bikes introduced a third option for those who endeavour to travel ethically and comfortably.
Green E-bikes is the brainchild of Frenchman Yann Vaudin, a renewable energy engineer who feels greener transport options could greatly benefit Siem Reap.
“When I first came to Cambodia in February 2013 I visited the temples by bicycle, and ended up with heat stroke. It’s is just too hot to cycle so far!
“I also care very much about the environment, and was surprised to find how dirty and polluted the air here can feel. It’s not good for the people or the temples.”
It was a trip to Australia, however, that helped spawn the idea for Green E-bikes.
Though he felt confident that the e-bikes he saw in Australia would be popular in Siem Reap, he wanted to make some modifications before renting them out.
“The ‘Green E-bikes’ bikes are actually my brand. The manufacturer sends me the bikes, and I make changes which I believe make them even better.”
All of the bikes are – of course – signature green, and come with an equally green helmet. Vaudin has also trained a Khmer mechanic to maintain and service the bikes in-house.
The e-bikes are charged overnight, and once the battery is full they can easily travel 30kms at a maximum speed of 32kms/hour before needing to be recharged.
Vaudin has secured a number of e-bike charging points around the Angkor Park, where riders can charge the bikes for free, and some other charging points at more far-flung locations.
As for the popularity of the e-bikes, Vaudin said, “People like that they are eco-friendly, but it’s also a new, fun way to explore Siem Reap and the temples independently.”
And fun they certainly are! I did a test-drive and found that not only are the e-bikes easy to drive (even for someone who doesn’t drive a moto), they’re also a really fun way of whizzing around.
Many people – locals and expats – have asked Vaudin whether the bikes are available to buy, and for the time being his answer is “not yet.”
“Maybe in one year I will start to sell the bikes too, but for the moment I want to concentrate on one thing. I like to keep things simple, and want to make sure my rental business provides a high quality service before I think about selling e-bikes.”
While the e-bikes are certainly proving popular with travellers looking for something a bit different, Vaudin also hopes they will also encourage those living in Siem Reap to be more environmentally conscious.