It’s early morning, the sun barely makes a presence in the sky. Yet, here we stand, pausing at the approach to Angkor Wat. Just the guide and us. The feint outline of the temple against an ink blue sky. We soak up the privilege of having this moment to ourselves. As the sky lightens, the spires become more visible, silhouetting the breaking dawn. We delight at the pleasure of this experience. We’re not sure what we were expecting but this is serene. Angkor Wat at sunrise! Our very early arrival gives us a sense of tranquillity.
The sunrise trip to Angkor Wat is one well travelled. There is a steady stream of traffic from Siem Reap to the Angkor with some travellers walking, families cycling but most being raced along in a procession of tuk-tuks. Almost 3 million people visit Angkor annually. Hordes of tourists and travellers watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. We were all hoping to capture a magnificent sunrise over the temple. We were not disappointed even though there was some scattered cloud.
We entered the complex through the quieter East Gate entrance in darkness, and continued on a long walk along a wide track with only our tiny torch beams to show us the way. The early morning peacefulness was broken with chanting from the nearby temple as locals attend morning prayers and we were startled by monkeys darting across the path in front of us. We settled into listening to our guide’s informative talk and soon accepted that getting up before the roosters was well worth the effort.
It has been described as a spiritual experience – and to some folk, it most surely is. For us, with the morning prayers in the background and the eeriness of a breaking day, this is an experience that will forever remain ingrained in our memories. To stand at the reflection ponds at sunrise and see the silhouetted central spires emerge from the night forms a high point of our visit to the temple complex.
With the temple illuminated in the morning light, reflecting on the lotus pond, within moments the massive crowd disperses. We head into the inner sanctum of Angkor Wat for a little temple admiration and ‘teaching’ from our personal guide. The Angkor temple is incredibly impressive against the dawn, calming. But it’s interior leaves you in awe. It is, without doubt, a terrific testament to the Khmer empire’s artistic capability, resourcefulness and engineering skills.
By the time we left the Angkor Wat, the sky darkened, rain began to fall and the famed silhouette of the temple against the fading light and sunset hues had failed us. But we leave the complex in awe of the sophisticated Khmer civilisation and the wonderful legacy they have left behind.