Angkor Wat - sunrise to sunset


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Asia » Cambodia » North » Angkor
January 7th 2019
Published: January 11th 2019
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Despite my earplugs our room last night was rather noisy with the terrible karaoke from next door. Hearing the same songs for the 3rd night in a row is driving me slightly crazy and I struggled to sleep. This was a particular problem as our alarm went off around 5am and we were at Angkor Wat, in position for the sunrise by 550am.

In order to get a prime spot to get good photos (by the pond on the left) you need to be there as the gates open at 5am. Since neither of us have particularly good cameras or photographic ability we decided we only needed to be able to see it.
We expected it to be busy. What I had forgotten was that if you’re not on the front row your beautiful, romantic view, becomes a sea of camera screens. This did rather detract from the view and atmosphere.
So was it worth getting up early for? Everyone else who’s blog or review I’ve read certainly seems to think so. Personally I’m not so sure. If you’re into photography and get there early, then yes. Otherwise the sunrises here are poor compared to many back in the UK and nothing compared to most of the ones I’ve seen in Southern African countries. There was a brief red glow and then it gets light.
That said it’s much cooler earlier, and slightly less busy. And the only way to find out whether or not it’s worth it for you is to go and see for yourself so I’m glad we went.

There are plenty of stalls inside the walls of Angkor Wat so once we’d seen most of the sunrise we sat and watched the temple with a hot chocolate and some brioche we’d bought the night before (don’t rely on the stalls for food - they do everything from pancakes to cereal but a $5 bowl of Alpen seems a little excessive to me!).

Wondering in to the temple it was busy as expected but no where near as crowded as we had feared. The complex is large and there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Angkor Wat is surrounded by a huge moat with causeways in on the East and West sides. The west side is the main entrance. There’s currently a floating pontoon to cross as the causeway is undergoing restoration.
After crossing the 190m wide moat you pass through the outer wall. This wall is 1000m x 800m.
You walk down a causeway towards the temple itself, with 2 libraries and 2 ponds either side. It’s a magnificent setting.

We started by heading straight up, past the hall of 1000 Buddhas (most now missing) to the top. Here we joined the queue to see the upper level. The queue was long but fast moving. There isn’t a timed ticketing system as mentioned in some guidebooks. It opened around 7am (earlier than we’d read). They are strict about attire - shoulders & knees need to be covered. They happily let you queue and then turn you away as you’re about to enter if you’re not compliant. I was surprised to see that pregnant women and babies aren’t allowed up.

The view from the top is stunning, looking out over the jungle and the rest of the temple. The cool breeze is most welcome even early in the morning.
The top level consists of 4 corners towers surrounding a central tower. The temple was originally Hindu, dedicated to Vishnu. It has, however, become a site of Buddhist pilgrimage since the 16th century and there are a number of Buddhas in the central sanctum where once a statue of Lord Vishnu resided.

Heading back down we wondered around the galleries of the second level before descending to the first level. Wondering around this level took much longer as the walls are covered in bas reliefs of different stories. These reliefs are read in an anti-clockwise manner and include scenes from Heaven & Hell and battles that Krishna and Vishnu were involved in. The detail is amazing and I found them fascinating. Fortunately most people don’t seem to have time for them or interest in them and there were very quiet.

We wondered around the outside of the temple before heading down to the South side of the moat. From here we headed back to our bike and went back to the hotel for a nap! (We got back to the hotel at 1045am)

After a bit of sleep and some lunch we swapped our ebike for a fully charged one and headed back.
This time we went back to Angkor Thom to see the North and South Kelang and other temples and towers opposite the Elephant terrace we saw yesterday.
Again, these ruins seem very unpopular and we got to explore them pretty much on our own. They were more interesting than expected and so took longer than we had planned.
This meant that instead of going to see another temple we wanted to we headed back to Angkor Wat and enjoyed sunset there. The soft light is beautiful and it was worth going back.

Tired, but happy, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and some much needed rest.


Additional photos below
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Angkor Wat - Bas reliefAngkor Wat - Bas relief
Angkor Wat - Bas relief

I was shocked to find an empty bit of the temple!


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