When I first suggested making our trip to Angkor Wat a sunrise expedition, I was met with a look of absolute horror. But with travellers and writers everywhere gushing about the experience, I was determined to brave that painful 4am alarm. After all, how often do you visit the world’s largest religious site? It alone pulls in over 1 million visitors to Cambodia per year and rightfully so. You just have to check out the pictures below to see that sunrise at Angkor Wat is absolutely worth the hype.
Of course our plans didn’t run completely smoothly. The previous morning, we had made our way sleepily downstairs at 4.30am only for the guesthouse driver to be nowhere in sight. The clock ticked closer to 5am as we waited. After a couple of conversations, the sweet guy manning Reception herded us into a tuk-tuk and raced down the road. It was only after a few wrong turns, with the streets growing light around us, that we reluctantly decided to try again the next day.
Second time lucky, we set off the next morning for the scenic drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cool morning air brushed our skin as we raced through tree-lined streets and calm parklands. We arrived to see the unmistakable outline of Angkor Wat silhouetted against soft pastel skies, the blue hues chased away by streaks of gold and pink. In spite of the crowds that Angkor Wat draws at sunrise, the enormity of the grounds manages to keep the atmosphere calm and peaceful. Stone pathways glowed gold from the first rays of sun as we wandered onto the grass to watch the show.
As the sun rose, light burst from behind the towers and streamed onto the surrounding countryside. This natural beauty, combined with the formerly Hindu temple, was hugely impressive to watch. Inside the temple itself, we wandered through stone archways, imposing halls and vast courtyards. Today, Buddist monks still visit to worship and you can even receive a blessing during your visit. We also climbed the incredibly steep steps to the upper level. Here, we looked out to the visitors flooding into the grounds and at a hot air balloon floating lazily in the distance. The morning light slices its way between buildings to create highlights and shadows everywhere.
After a few hours of exploring the intricate walls, we said goodbye to Angkor Wat and continued on our temple-seeing morning. But the experience of watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat will stay with me forever.
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