Waking up at 5:30am is never easy. When the reason is to see Angkor Wat at sunrise, you tend not to mind. Paul wasn’t convinced, however, but after 3 hours sleep he was entitled to feel a little grumpy. I knew he’d soon feel better. As a veteran of 2 Angkor Wat sunrises, I knew the sight of one of the most beautiful temples in the world at such a special time would make anyone feel better.
We hopped in the tuk-tuk and sped through the grey streets in the chilly morning air, weaving around other tuk-tuks with tired looking passengers heading the same way, as though it were a race. It was exciting. We had a purpose. At the entrance to the temple complex, we had to pay $25 each for a day pass – a bit steep, but well worth it. Amusingly, we also had to pose for a photograph, which was then printed out and stuck on our pass. Nobody looks their best at 5:30am. This done, we sped off to Angkor Wat.
Paul and I strode purposefully towards the outer gate. We walked through and were confronted with the awesome sight of Angkor Wat in silhouette. A shiver ran down my spine as its form presented itself. Paul and I spent the next 30 minutes going from one side of the lake in front to the other taking photos, the sun rising majestically behind the temple, casting picture-postcard perfect reflections on the water. As the sun rose, the hordes dispersed to the other temples. Paul and I took the opportunity to wander around Angkor Wat in the quiet of the morning, admiring the frescoes and architecture in the morning light. Though Paul didn’t say it (he only voices his complaints and criticisms usually!), I could tell he was impressed. After an hour or so, we went to a small cafe at the side of the moat/lake, and sat down for breakfast. I ordered fried noodles and a cup of tea. Paul ordered what looked like a dog burger and a cup of coffee that smelled, looked, and tasted like tar. You could lay a road with it. Even the cat that had made its home on Paul’s lap wouldn’t touch the stuff. I was delighted. One to me! Hungry, tired, and thirsty, Paul gave up, and we headed back to the tuk tuk to head off to the other temples.
We entered the Angkor Thom temple complex, and Bayon was the first stop, a collection of 54 gothic towers decorated with 216 coldly smiling, enormous faces. It was even more photogenic today as groups of monks were in the area, and the contrast of colours with their burnt-orange robes and the grey faces on the towers was very picturesque indeed. After this amazing sight, we wandered across to the Terrace of Elephants, and walked around Baphuon and Phimeanakas temples behind, the latter of which was being extensively reconstructed. It was 42 degrees now, so we soon retreated back to the shade of the tuk-tuk, and we then headed off to the jungle covered Ta Prohm temple, where Angelina Jolie spent some time filming Tomb Raider. It amazed me the power of the trees – they were busy reclaiming the temple, forcing their roots through most of the walls. It can’t be too long before this temple is lost to the jungle. Following this, we looked around Preah Khan temple and Preah Ko temple, and one or two others. At 2pm, truly exhausted, and already templed-out, we headed back to Siem Reap centre for lunch on pub street.
After a quick massage to rest our weary bodies, we headed back to the hotel for a short sleep before heading out again. It was our second and last night in Siem Reap. The fact that our flight was 6:15am didn’t deter us tonight. We hit the town hard. Buckets of vodka and redbull at Temple Bar were going for $5, and we had quite a few of those. Local girls were on the scene tonight, hogging the pool table and chatting to groups of young male backpackers, delighted at the attention they were receiving. Paul and I went to Angkor Wat? bar, and had more drinks. Concept of time was lost, and we got chatting to groups of backpackers. Oblivious to the time, we drank enough vodka and redbull to bring a dead man back to life, and we somehow returned home at about 3am. We had to be up at 5am. The cycle continued! What a fantastic 2 days in Cambodia!