Now getting up at 3.30 a.m. is not my idea of fun and the concept of dragging myself out of a deep sleep to go and watch the sunrise doesn’t really hit the spot. Unless of course you link sunrise with the mystical Angkor Wat and then it becomes a more attractive proposition. We managed to get up and ready in good time and made our way to the hotel’s small car-park where we found our driver but no guide. It seems that if anyone had over-slept it was our guide, but after several phone calls the driver, who had limited English, indicated that we should get into the vehicle.
We assumed that he would guide us but as we progressed down the road and he continued to gabble on the phone we got the feeling that things were not quite right. Then we saw a person frantically waving to us – it was our guide – and he jumped into the vehicle full of apologies. Apparently his motor-cycle had broken down and he’d had to cadge a lift from a friend and then run to meet us on route to Angkor Wat.
Nothing had been lost as it was still almost pitch black outside and Angkor Wat was only a short distance away. Soon we were in sight of the complex, disembarked the mini-bus and headed to the entrance. Our guide knew exactly where he wanted us to be to enjoy the "best view" of the sunrise and he led us off the main tourist trail (there were a number of early risers on the sun-rise trail) and onto a narrow ledge. Negotiating our way around the edge of this ancient building with a 6 foot drop on one side, a building’s wall on the other and hardly any light was difficult but we managed it and settled down to wait for the guaranteed sunrise.
Whilst waiting our guide gave us some background about Angkor Wat. It was built for King Suriyavarman II in the 12th Century. It was to be the Capital City of his domain and as importantly his state temple. Throughout its life it has continued to be a significant religious centre starting off as Hindu and dedicated to Vishnu and then Buddhist. It is believed that it survived the days of Pol Pot untouched because of his trading links with China and their strong connection with Buddhism.
We had an unimpeded view of the main domes of Angkor Wat and we hadn’t been there long when the sun started its steady rising over the distant Wat. Initially a light orange hue formed and then the silhouetted building took on its iconic form against the ever brighter backcloth. There was a stage when the skyline was just perfect and then all was lost as the sun gained momentum and then there was daylight and all the magical colours in the sky had gone. The viewing of the spectacular sunrise had a "limited window" and now we set off to explore the building in detail, pausing to enjoy its reflection in the lake. A reflection that was only interrupted by the water lilies that stood proudly in its waters.
As we moved on and saw a group of monks brushing out their temple. Their orange robes were resplendent in the half light, but as we tarried our guide hurried us along as he was anxious that we beat the crowd that would form when the first bus loads arrived at Angkor Wat.
He was certainly right because as we were vacating the site having seen the sunrise and toured the building the previously empty car-park was choc-a-bloc full with tour buses. My tip get their early and enjoy the peace and serenity that this site can still offer.