Angkor Wat and Beyond

What are we, mad? After an exhausting day two days ago, we got up this morning at 5am to meet Mr Heng and go to Angkor Wat for sunrise.

Angkor Wat Sunrise

We knew we had to do it, so we thought we should get it done soon. Although lots of people do get up this early to see it, most of them stop at the main entrance to the temple, to get the view on the left. It was worth the early start, with the trademark towers of the main temple outlined by the red sky. Angkor is actually a collection of dozens of temples spread across 25 miles of countryside, with the largest temple, Angkor Wat, the most famous. Over the next 3 days we plan to visit half a dozen, as well as seeing others from the road (drive-by-tourism), all on the back of Mr Heng’s tuk-tuk.

Girls at Angkor Wat at Sunrise

Because we went further into the temple, we were able to get some peace and quiet – its always curious to us that you only have to go 50m of the well-trodden path to have solitude. In this case, the girls are sitting at the inner entrance to the temple complex, which is packed full during the day, but for sunrise everybody stops short of it. When we walked in further to the temple itself, we again had it virtually to ourselves – apart from a little rush of people heading down from the main tower – they’d seen the sunrise, and were heading back home.

Climbing the centre tower at Angkor

Inside the main temple, the detail of the buildings and carvings took our breath away – on every surface were classic Khmer tales, related through stone carvings. Although they are over 800 years old, they still looked new in many places. The girls loved climbing the suicidally steep stairs to the top of the temple, where we could get a panoramic view of the temple and the forest surrounds. Coming back down was a more difficult task, and had to be completed slowly!

Elephant at the South Gate at Angkor Wat

Then we went onto the South Gate, the entrance to the ancient city of Angkor Thom. On the far side of the gates used to sit a huge bustling city, but now it is just forest, with temples dotted around. We thought we’d do a classic tourist thing for an elephant photo, but we took the backpacker option of just having the and then hopping off the elephant – costing us $4, but saving the full $30 of a ride into the temple complex! After we’d had a good look around the gate, we went into the city. As it had already been a tiring day (wow, almost 10 o’clock now – 5 hours after we started!) we stayed in the tuk-tuk while we drove around a couple of temples to whet our appetite for this afternoon.
Then it was back to the hotel for a sleep, a quick look around the market, and lunch.