The Temples of Angkor... at 4am

Angkor Travel Blog

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4:30am and ‘BASH, BASH, BASH’.  Slightly confused, I got out of bed realising it was my wake up call to get to Angkor Wat for sunrise.  The stars were still twinkling with the shimmering effect when I climbed on the back of the moped! 


As morning was creeping closes and closer, I paid the $20 entrance fee and headed on into Angkor Wat Temple.  It’s freakin’ massive!  Apparently it is the World’s biggest religious building and the crowds were gathering, armed with cameras at the ready, by the waterfront.  I got a touch bored with the waiting, and given that was bright enough to get some great photos, I decided to beat the crowds into the complex and get more photos before the people poured in (I did this because at a glance to the side, I noticed the Cambodian guides taking their groups away from the crowd and onto alternative views – I gathered they must know something the average tourist didn’t and followed them around the outskirt of the ruin). 


I quickly started to appreciate what all the fuss was about, but I didn’t want to stick to one temple when there was so many to see in just a day.  I got back on the moped and was taken through the South Gate of Angkor Thom (an enclosed small city of temples) Bayon.  Now this was a spectacular temple.  It is still used today as a main prayer centre for Buddhist monks!  It is also known as the ‘Temple of 1,000 Faces’ for reasons unknown….


I took so many photos of the gigantic heads and stood in awe of how the people must have achieved this and time consuming effort put in to create such a wonder back in the 13th century.  I loved this temple and it was easily my clear favourite. 


Baphoun was my next stop, and I didn’t know what to make of this one.  It must have clear importance, being inside Angkor Thom, but all it is, in absolute terms, is a giant walkway to the main temple, which is a bit of anti-climax given its elaborate entrance.  Unfortunately I could get more information on the temple as it was closed off for restoration. 


Still within Angkor Thom, I walked to the Terrace of Elephants and Som, my driver, told me stories about how the Chinese bought an elephant annually to bight against a Cambodian elephant one-on-one, with the winner taking several gifts from the other.  The carvings of elephants, warriors, and women are stunning.  They have been preserved so well, that local people take rice paper to them, moulding and colouring the shapes to make extravagant souvenirs for the tourists.  I would have bought one if this was a holiday, but travelling around and keeping something so delicate nice would have been a bit too tough.


The next stop was out the East Gate to Ta Keo.  This was the temple I had been told about, and so I asked Som to stop so I could climb it and judge the steepness of the steps for myself.  Getting up was quite draining, but easy enough; getting down was another matter!  A thigh strain later, and was back on the bike!  Those steps are steep, be warned.


I was taken to the temple where Tomb Raider was filmed, Ta Prahm (also known as Old Brahma).  This was just incredible!  There were trees doing their level best to grow into and destroy the ruins, but that just adds to its enigma.  This certainly was in trend with each temple being very different from the last and justifying a visit. 


Banteay Kdei was my last stop, but I pretty much raced through this one.  I was tired, hot, and so full of information, that all I wanted to do was go back, rest, and take it all in.  On exiting, I bought a book on the whole grounds, so I could read at my leisure and understand more about what I had witnessed first-hand. 


Wayne and Steph had left for Bangkok as they had both been to Angkor in the past, so I took a nice steady evening and went to book onto a bus for the next day so I could re-join them.

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photo by: ulysses