Ah the sunrise at Angkor Wat, the most famous time to visit the temple ruins of the ancient kingdom of Angkor.
Generally, it’s on everyone’s ‘to do’ list when they’re in Cambodia because it’s absolutely a beautiful sight to behold. But be warned, being in a mass of people at 5am in the morning can really test the most patient of souls; just imagine what is does to the least patient.
We took it on and lived to tell the tale; if you want to get the most out of this bucket list experience, you might want to follow our guide on how to enjoy the sunrise at Angkor Wat.
1. Take headphones.
Is it just us that thinks you should be quiet as the sun rises (and sunsets too for that matter)?
The sad truth is that the beautiful spectacle of the sun rising over the largest religious monument in the world, is a rather noisy affair due to the culmination of the following:
- Digital camera ‘shutter’ noises that click repeatedly as snap-happy people take the obligatory 4 million photos of the sun coming up.
- People who tell other people (in a loud voice) what they were doing in their hostel at 2 am the previous night.
- Tour group leaders shouting to tour group members (and tour group members loudly passing the message around to each other (did we mention they do this loudly?).
- People instructing other people to retake photos of them, over and over and over…
A simple pair of headphones will happily cancel out the noise of these inconsiderate folk.
As we sat soaking up the noise pollution of a hundred or so chatters, clickers and shouters; we spotted a guy sat blissfully enjoying the sunrise with his noise cancelling headphones clamped firmly to his ears.
If only we had thought of that before.
2. Turn right, not left.
When you get to Angkor Wat, most people turn left before the entrance in an attempt to get the ‘money shot’ of the temple reflection in the pool of water in front. Most guides take people here on their tour and everyone follows along not considering what is on the other side.
If you turn right, and not left, there is another pool of water with a reflection of the temple in it.
In fact, the pool on the left was decidedly more of a puddle when we were there before the rainy season kicked in. The pool on the right however, was full of water being pumped into it which made for a lovely shimmering photo (and there were significantly less people there).
3. Take your own food (not in a polystyrene tray).
Don’t be that person eating a limp sandwich packed in an earth polluting polystyrene tray provided by your hotel.
We repeat, just don’t be that person.
Go to the market and buy yourself a bit of fruit to take with you or make yourself something if you can. You can even order food from one of the local restaurants in front of the temple (for just a few dollars).
There are few things more depressing in life than people eating anaemic looking excuses for food. We find it’s always best to follow the rule that if your food looks the same as the planet polluting container that it’s served in, then it probably isn’t really worth eating.
4. Don’t let your travel experiences become about the photo.
Unless you are a professional photo journalist on a paid shoot, try to take a moment to appreciate what you are looking at using your actual eyes, rather than a camera.
If you are using a camera, try not to be so obsessed with getting your perfect shot that you inconsiderately mount your tripod in front of 50 other people, ruining each and every one of their views in your single act of selfishness.
Just be nice and think of others; maybe take a few photos and then let everyone enjoy what they’ve come to see. Doesn’t seem too unreasonable does it?
5. Stay until the sun actually rises.
Gosh this is a simple tip. It’s funny really but after having got up at stupid o’clock in the morning to arrive in good time to see the sunrise, most people left before the sun has fully come up!
We kid you not; in their hurry to get inside Angkor Wat faster than the thousands of other people who also want to crack on with their sightseeing agenda for the day, the majority of people just stay for a bit of the sunrise and then follow their guides into the temple before the best bit.
There’s always a bit in a sunrise where there’s a lull in the awesomeness and then all of a sudden it cranks up a notch and it changes to amazing incredibleness. Take your time, enjoy the moment. What’s the hurry?
So there you have it, our definitive guide on how to enjoy the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Despite having to get up when it’s still the middle of the night and having to share the experience with a heaving mass of tourists from around the globe, it really is as beautiful as people say it is.
You just need to tweak the experience a little to cope with everyone else there, but then this is sort of just like life isn’t it?
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