I make an effort never to rise before the sun does. I could definitely be a morning person if the morning happened sometime around lunchtime; that would 100 % be my absolute best life situation. Alas it does not so I am doomed to forever stumble downstairs just after 11am, reaching blindly for some form of cereal while simultaneously attempting to wipe the sleep from my eyes.
So it is easy to imagine my displeasure when my Cambodia on a Shoestring tour guide, Zoom Zoom, announced that we would meet in the hotel lobby at 4.45am to make it to the Angkor Temple Complex to see the sunrise.
An unimpressed scowl etched itself onto my face and stayed there through the night. It deepened as the tour group emerged from our various rooms, yawn ridden and with faces creased from bed sheets we had been lying in only 10 minutes before.
Our hired bus rumbled through the quiet streets of the city (quiet because it was basically still the middle of the night and all sane Siem Reap-ians were safely in bed asleep) and after a short while we arrived at the gates to Angkor. As well as being a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor is a 400 square km archaeologically rich area which contains dozens of temples and sculptures that pay magnificent homage to Khmer architecture– Angkor Wat being the complex’s most famous. The temple complex was initially Hindu and later became Buddhist with the emrgence of the religion’s popularity.
Bus loads of tourists- us included- lined up for tickets and then we picked our way carefully across the grounds (because it was pitch black and still the middle of the night) towards Angkor Wat; the main temple.
The crowds were quiet as hundreds of people stepped through the gateway. The only sounds were the rustle of birds and animals slowly waking to greet the imminent day and the lap of the water against the banks of the man made moat that surrounds the main temple complex. Once we found ourselves at the edge of one of the dams at the base of the Angkor Wat, small streaks of daylight teased the fading, dark sky. Sensing that the sunrise would soon be upon us all, the crowds whipped out scores of cameras, tripods, cellphones and anything else that could capture a photo.
The frantic clicking quickened as the navy sky was increasingly washed with the pinks and oranges of dawn.
The temple was a beautiful setting for the sunrise however, what could have been an incredibly serene and peaceful event was slightly marred by the flashes and upraised arms desperately searching for the perfect sunrise photo.
Once the crowds had thinned, it was easier to absorb the grandeur of the event. Angkor Wat was built in the early 1100’s as a burial tomb for Khmer King Suryarvaraman ll (although, according to our temple guide, his remains were never actually buried here).
After experiencing the sunrise- two hours after waking up and about four hours before I would usually grace the waking world with my presence- the tour group clambered back onto the bus to head back to the hotel for some much needed breakfast and a rest before returning to Angkor later that morning for further temple tours and adventures.