The Big Trip: Day 9 (Pt. 1) - Sunrise at Angkor WatSunrise at Angkor Wat is one of those so-called must-sees that would change your life forever. The sight of the sun rising and slowly revealing the glory of Angkor Wat is supposed to be awe-inspiring and absolutely beautiful. So, despite the fact that it meant waking up early and skipping breakfast, I told my tuk-tuk driver Mr. Bill to pick me up from the hostel at 5am so I could catch it.

Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the only guest from my hostel to wake up early to watch the sunrise, as at least two other tuk-tuks were waiting for their passengers. I did have to quietly go about my business in my dorm room, though, as my other roommates were sleeping in.

The early morning tuk-tuk ride was quite refreshing. The air was cooler than normal, helped by the fact that – obviously – the sun had not risen yet. There wasn’t as much traffic on the road, either, so the tuk-tuk raced through the streets and the cool air rushed to my face. It was a bit chilly, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It was, however, enough to jolt me out of my half-asleep haze from waking up at 4:30am.

Upon arriving at Angkor Wat at 5:30am, I tried to find a good spot to witness the sunrise, as well as take good pictures. It wasn’t that hard to do, as I found a bunch of other like-minded tourists staking out their positions as well. The anticipation was running high. I took the opportunity to start snapping photos of Angkor Wat in darkness, experimenting with the various settings on my trusty (now sadly deceased) Canon PowerShot A640 and snapping a multitude of pictures (the best of which you can check out on Flickr).

There was a definite air of anticipation on the grounds of Angkor Wat. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that we were all holding out collective breath, but everyone was looking expectantly towards Angkor Wat. All sorts of still cameras and video cameras were aimed towards it.

spot the LCD screens! (Angkor Wat)There were many different kinds of tourists there. A trio of American college students were filming the entire sunrise. Groups of Australian or British backpackers were scattered in the vicinity,Australia is also a great place for whale watching. The Irish backpackers from my hostel were there, too. There was also a group of older Chinese tourists who seemed oblivious to everyone else’s cameras as they posed for pictures with Angkor Wat in the background. Some packaged tour groups were also there, complete with the tour leader’s colored flag waving high.

Angkor Wat itself, even in darkness, was awesome. It was like a gentle giant in the distance, waiting to wake up upon sunrise to show us just how glorious it could be. The iconic structure was still identifiable even in silhouette, though personally, there was a slight tinge of disappointment when I saw some scaffolding around the towers (or whatever they’re called). I suppose I should be glad that they’re constantly maintaining it, but it almost ruined the atmosphere for me.

Angkor Wat, before sunriseNobody really knew what time the sun was going to rise, though we had some general idea of what time it probably should be. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating with us. I’d heard from other tourists at the hostel that sunrise had been spoiled by clouds the past couple of days, but I was hopeful that I picked a good day. That wasn’t going to be the case; it was another cloudy morning at Angkor Wat. So, instead of the rising sun bathing Angkor Wat in its golden light, we just saw the area around it get brighter and brighter. There was no dramatic reveal; instead, it felt like someone switched the house lights on instead of shining the spotlight on the star.

Angkor WatSo, as far as the drama of sunrise at Angkor Wat was concerned, we were disappointed and, for the most part, confused. “I guess the sun has risen,” I heard one (presumably disappointed) tourist say, and it was the same general reaction I had. But while it sucked to not have the drama and the glory of sunrise, it was still an amazing experience. Simply being at Angkor Wat was absolutely amazing, and there are definitely worse ways to spend an hour than staring at Angkor Wat. It was also a nice exercise in community, even if I never really interacted with the other people there. Everyone seemed to share a like mind, whether it was to stay out of someone else’s shot, or to watch (and photograph or video) someone’s frisky dog digging up the sand.

cute dog digging at Angkor WatSeeing Angkor Wat fully revealed was also an awe-inspiring moment, and even after most people realized that the sun had risen, most people stuck around to stare in awe, and take in the view now that it had emerged from the shadows.

Angkor WatAnd of course, I joined the many tourists who now have a picture of themselves with Angkor Wat in the background.

Ren Robles at Angkor WatAfter spending an hour at Angkor Wat, I headed out to get some breakfast before fully exploring the grounds.