Cambodia Microlight Flight
Taking to the skies above the Cambodian plains in a microlight airplane delighted the senses and offered an unrivaled perspective.
hot take: A spendy treat, a microlight flight is the perfect antidote to the crowds of Angkor. (4.0 stars)
pro tip: Book in the morning to avoid the strong winds mid-day and email directly to get a discount.
Soaring above the Cambodian plains like a bird, the immensity of the Angkor complex truly reveals itself. With the secrets of self-propelled flight still a mystery to us, we did the next best thing in jumping into a two-seat ultralight with Eddie, our pro pilot. As a special birthday treat (thanks Mom!), we spent 30 minutes each (at $115 per person) flying with Cambodia Microlight.
We reached out to Eddie directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) to book our flights (which saved $25 each). Eddie is an American (from Tennessee) who has been flying for decades (his skill and professionalism was obvious). He has been flying microlights commercially in Cambodia for more than 10 years (it narrowly beat our Belize for where he wanted to live) and he has been the pilot for numerous National Geographic and other ‘Western’ photographers. On a personal level, Eddie is one of the most interesting, funny, and opinionated pilots that we have ever met…he provided constant narration and his stories are legend (and can be off color) so we won’t repeat them here (you’ll just have to go meet him for yourself).
We started early (well, early for us) at 8a on Eddie’s advice since the winds pick up with the day’s temperatures as the thermals rise across the area. We took a tuk tuk out to the airstrip (which is really just a dirt road) on the edge of Siem Reap (make sure you triple check your directions as this isn’t exactly JFK airport). Eddie had another client before us and landed a few minutes after we arrived. The woman was positively beaming and the huge smile on her face let us know we were in store for a real treat. After strapping Kelly into the cockpit, Eddie had the craft in the air before any fears could creep in. And oh what a view…
With her time, Kelly chose to see the city because we both wanted to see something different with our time. Since it was Matt's birthday git from is mom he chose the more glamorous option. Kelly did however enjoy seeing the wildlife and coastline. While it wasn't as impressive as seeing the temples she really liked seeing the beautiful birds, water buffalo and getting a birds eye view of what the city and rural areas look like.
After a graceful landing, it was Matt’s turn for flight. Matt chose the classic temple route and flew past the main temple complex as Eddie narrated the history and current conservation status of each site. Aside from the awe inspired by such a concentration of religious monuments, Matt was particularly impressed by carefully crafted reflecting ponds that highlighted each temple’s location. It is hard to describe the giddy feeling you get when you are lined directly up with Angkor Wat as you float along at 1,000 ft of elevation.
The experience of the flight itself was excellent. Due to the nature of the aircraft and the headsets worn, the craft is virtually silent with only the wind blowing on your helmet’s visor. With a speed of only 50 mph (or about 90 kph), the experience really is more like soaring and swooping than of a stunt plane. Afterwards, while our feet might have been back on the ground, we were still soaring in the clouds (we both had flight dreams for days afterwards).