Sunrise, Sunset, The Temples at Angkor
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 6 of 15 › view all entries
It's 5AM and still pitch black when I walk across the bridge into Ankor's Wat's gates, the stars reflecting in the waterway below me. The outlines of the temple spires rise ominously over me as I step into the structure's shelter. Out of the darkness, a great Buddha statue appears, swathed in bright orange cloth.
I make my way down to the edge of a long square pool that leads all the way to the main temple, and sit down. Slowly, tourists straggle in and fill out the area. Locals are selling coffee, tea and renting chairs. We wait. The sun rises in 2 hours.
I had flown into Siem Reap the evening before, and moto-ed into town. Siem Reap is a gorgeous little town, calmer, cleaner and more genteel-feeling than Phnom Phen, if also more upscale and touristy.
Bakheng Hill is the temple from which everyone watches the sunset in Angkor. It's a truly beautiful sight, although incredibaly crowded. The temple is at the top of a hill, and though there is a gradual path leading up, security was waiving everyone up a steep shortcut to get us all there in time. It was pretty awesome sight to see my first Angkor temple, complete with elephant grazing in front, appearing in the distance after climbing up through the trees.
Since I bought my one-day Angkor pass late in the afternoon on the 28th, it was still valid for the whole day on the 29th. So here I was, camped out and waiting for the sun to rise over Angkor Wat. Sunrise, I have found out, is much slower and less dramatic than sunset. I only realized this after doing this whole back-to-back sunset/sunrise thing. Sunrise over Angkor Wat is still incredibly beautiful, and yeilds really cool photos, but don't go expecting sunset in reverse. It doesn't really work that way. Nonetheless, the pretty morning light flitting through the temple walls is quite atmospheric, illuminating the temple carvings and intricate spires in a lovely way.
Next, my moto dropped me off at Bayon, from where I explored Angkor Thom at leisure. Bayon is an crumbling complex known for the stone faces that gaze out from its spies. The Angkor Thom complex is emcompasses many temples, and I explored the area's many walkways, tree-lined gates, and intricatedly carved walls on foot. You can climb many of the temples, though some are so steep you climb the great crumbling stones like a giant ladder. As the sun rose high into the sky, I left Angkor Thom and we moto'ed on to several other temples, including the Ta Phrom, as overgrown with tourists asking about Angelina Jolie as it is with trees.
My moto was $13 for the whole day, including a dropoff at airport in the evening, but my moto driver pretty much just took me on the usual tourist route: no far temples, nothing he felt was out of the way.
Crocs are huge! And there were so many of them, lying still next the the pool below me, slowly crawling around in the sun. They're sooo cute. And whenever I think a non-feline animal is cute, it usually ends up with me asking where I can eat said cute animal. So I had my moto driver drop me off at a french restaurant recommended by a tourist who was at the crocodile farm with her kids, where her son had eaten crocodile the day before (see review below).
Wish I had more time in Siem Reap, but that night I was off again, flying to Bangkok on the late night flight. It took forever and a day to get into town on the airport bus (150 baht), and I arrived sometime after 1AM to a part of town the Lonely Planet describes as being chock full of razor artists. Luckily, the placed seemed pretty safe to me, despite my almost being stumbled over by some drunk Thai kid. I got a decent hostel for $250 baht (giant though stiff bed, fan, shared but clean bathrooms, free breakfast, no-hassle and very honest/helpful people). Can't remember the name, but it's in an alley next to the Hualumphung (I can't spell) train station.