An Unprincipled Dash to The Sunrise and We Were Not Disappointed


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Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap
August 6th 2019
Published: August 6th 2019
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Angkor Wat SunriseAngkor Wat SunriseAngkor Wat Sunrise

The sunrise from the lakeside inside Angkor Wat.
I had arranged to meet the tuk tuk driver at 4.45am and he was there waiting despite the fact that I was a few minutes early. We headed to Angkor Wat and it soon became apparent that so was half of Siem Reap. Loads of mopeds, tuk tuks and even some coaches were all converging and by the time I got there, a crowd had already gathered waiting for it to open at 5.00am.

My tuk tuk was frustratingly slow as we were being overtaken by quite a few others.

It had also started to rain, so I was not optimistic about the sunrise. The tuk tuk driver kindly lent me an umbrella.

When it did open we all had to funnel through to get our passes checked. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, by the side of one of the lakes, so I stomped there as quickly as I could and by the time I got there, there was only a French family already in position.

Yesterday made a good reconnaissance trip if nothing else.

I set-up my tripod and camera, as did they, and very quickly it got very busy. After just
Sunrise CrowdsSunrise CrowdsSunrise Crowds

Waiting for the Angkor Wat sunrise.
a few minutes, it was several people deep, all us then waiting to see what unfolded.

After the disappointment of yesterday, we were very lucky and it turned into a stunning sunrise right over the temple. Just when we thought it had peaked, it got better.

After a while the crowd started to thin, so I called it a morning and went to find the tuk tuk to head back.

I was worried that I had forgotten some mosquito spray, but there weren’t any. I am sure that Cambodia and Vietnam would have mosquitos, but I have no idea what has happened to them. Not that I am complaining and I also don’t want to speak too soon.

Siem Reap was in full flow as we headed back. The markets were all open and bustling and the roads were full of mopeds, cars and tuk tuks, despite it only being 7.00am.

For once, we could have a calm, leisurely breakfast without a time that we needed to be ready for. Like in Vietnam, there are a lot of baguettes, croissants and pastries in Cambodia, so although they have tried to rid themselves of much of
Preah Promreath PagodaPreah Promreath PagodaPreah Promreath Pagoda

I presume this is something to do with the Killing Fields?
the French colonial influences, some do still remain.

The Cambodians are also so polite, friendly, happy and genuinely lovely people, which makes their traumatic history all the harder to bear. We are always greeted by hands together, in a praying posture, as a sign of welcome. That’s more than could be said for the Chinese, who make up a lot of the tourists and one of whom barged into the hotel lift in front of us after breakfast, and probably more than could be said for me on my mission to get a good spot for the sunrise this morning.

My wife had a morning relaxing and decided to brave the tuk tuks and go for a short walk around Siem Reap. It was mainly the shops and markets, although I wasn’t tempted to buy anything. I came across the Preah Promreath Pagoda, with a particularly gruesome display in the grounds where vultures were picking from the entrails of a corpse.

We had booked our favourite tuk tuk driver again for the afternoon, again for $15, which made the $10 for the early morning jaunt seem a bargain given the unsociable hour.

We went back to
Baphuon TempleBaphuon TempleBaphuon Temple

Spectacular in its own right.
Angkor Thom but rather than going to what was actually just the central Bayon Temple again, stunning as it is, we walked around some other areas still within the Angkor Thom city walls. It was all completely unexpected and there was loads more to see and walk around such as the Baphuon Temple, the Terrace of the Leper King, the Phimeanakas Temple, and the Terrace of Elephants. Whilst not as spectacular as the central temple, it was all worth seeing, not least because there were no where near as many other people, but particularly because we were not sure what we would find next. For us it was our little journey of discovery of hidden treasures, ignoring the fact that there were signs saying “Direction of visit”.

Much like the Bayon Temple, the overall buildings are spectacular, but it is the detail that makes them special. Everywhere, there are murals and other intricacies of design, including on all the pieces scattered all over the ground.

Sadly, we had only scraped the surface of all the lesser well known temples and other buildings in this area.

Strangely, our tuk tuk driver didn’t greet us with a chilled face-wipe
Elephant TerraceElephant TerraceElephant Terrace

Another of the many parts of Angkor Thom to be discovered on our own little adventure.
and bottle of water like we had been getting on the tour previously.

At 7.00pm, it was time to head to the airport. Siem Reap airport definitely wins our award as the nicest and calmest airport that we have ever been through, which I’m sure they will be thrilled to hear. As well as the exterior, which we noticed when we arrived, the interior is inspired by all the history, for example, including the style of windows that were all over Angkor Wat.

Well it was calm and peaceful until we went to the gate. A flight to Wuhan in China was leaving from the gate next to our’s and, **** me, the Chinese are loud! And despite our flight leaving the terminal on time and their’s being scheduled 15 minutes after ours, their plane still somehow managed to barge in front of us.

It was midnight by the time we got to our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City and gratefully received the usual welcome drink.

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