Part 3 – Angkor Wat sunrise

The next day, by either sheer stupidity or tenacity, we got up at 4am to watch sunrise over Angkor Wat. There are two types of pass, which will either give you one or two days’ access to all the temples. The two day pass has a picture of you printed on it, which was not exactly a glamour shot at 4 in the morning.

It was pitch black, and our little panic alarm / small LED torch became very handy. We were told by our local guide (yes, she got up at 4am too) that if we bought a cup of coffee or tea from the street vendor then we could borrow his plastic chairs. At $1USD, the rather ordinary drink was decidedly expensive by Cambodian standards, but well worth it for the comfort of sitting down.

We grabbed the prime spot – right up against the edge of the lake that is in front of Angkor Wat, good viewing point but also the worst in terms of getting bitten by mosquitoes.  I was mildly surprised (amused?) that there weren’t any little boats carrying monks dressed in bright orange robes on the lake, as one would expect from watching Tomb Raider.

Now came the exciting part – so we waited.

Waited…

Waited…

And waited…

Finally.

A small ray of light poked through the sky above the magnificent temple, and its highest point illuminated. First a round of gasps and exclamations, then an avalanche of cameras clicks around us. We didn’t miss out on the action, and grabbed our respective Canons and clicked away.

The light gradually flushed the sky and clusters of dark clouds came into view.  Then, almost instantaneously, the sky was ablaze with orange and crimson, and the temple a grand silhouette against the striking backdrop. The intense hues were gone almost as soon as they appeared, and daylight finally broke through, revealing the surface details on the divine structure that was Angkor Wat. A few small insect bites and a few hundred photos later, we learned that this was one of the best sunrises our guide had seen, what luck!

It was time to thoroughly explore the temple. We were well-acquainted with Angkor Wat on television, through shows like the US Amazing Race; and a  miniature version at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. How they paled in comparison with the real thing! No images or models could depict the grandeur of these ancient temples grounds, with its huge sandstone blocks and intricate carvings.

Several areas were off-limits to tourists, including steep sandstone stairs leading up to each of the towers, apparently a Korean guide died not long ago racing down the stairs (a very silly thing to do)! The same steep steps were ubiquitous in ancient Khmer temples we visited later on, but we saw a young girl, 7 at most, bouncing down the stairs like she did it every day (and she probably did, to sell souvenirs at the top).

Coming out of Angkor Wat, it was breakfast time. Little kids crowded around the tourists (that’s us), trying to sell us post cards in absolutely perfect English.

‘Where are you from?’

‘Australia.’

‘The capital of Australia is Canberra. The largest city is Melbourne and it has 3 million people.’

‘Um no, I think it’s Sydney. And Melbourne has more than 3 million people.’

‘No! You are wrong, it’s Melbourne. Do you want to buy my post cards?’

‘No thank you.’ (We were specifically told by our guides to not buy from street kids, as this would only encourage their parents to send them out on the streets more often.)

‘You are very beautiful. You look Chinese.’

‘Ummm thanks. I am Chinese. You are very sweet’.

The kids followed us to the restaurant, and I later received a ‘love letter’ from the girl I was chatting to. But still we resisted, and did not buy from those kids. This scene would often repeat itself during our time in Cambodia, little kids would follow us everywhere. It’s sweet and heart breaking at the same time.

To be continued …

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One Response to Part 3 – Angkor Wat sunrise

  1. The sunrise sounds beautiful! Will you put the pics on your blog? 🙂 I’ve had the same reaction with the young kids in Thailand and Bali. Sad isn’t it!

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