DAWN OVER ANGKOR WAT | Sharon Henry
The annoying alarm clock breaks through my foggy dream world. It’s 4am and I just want to roll over and go back to sleep. I briefly contemplate feigning illness, but no! Let’s do this! It is Angkor Wat after all, the famous World Heritage Site and this is an opportunity of a lifetime. We get up bleary eyed, robotically ready ourselves and are out the door by 5.
Nak, our Siam Reap tuk tuk driver is outside waiting and under cover of darkness drives us 30mins to the Angkor Wat entrance.
Excited sunrise watchers are arriving in droves; we can hardly believe how many people are already here. A long line of headlights trail away up the road set against the loud hum of tuk tuks competing with buzzing crickets in the surrounding trees.
After approval from the line of ticket inspectors we set off into the grounds to find a spot for ‘the’ shot. You know, the ‘classic pond shot’ showing a reflection of the temple towers and the sunrise.
Unfortunately it’s the height of summer and the ‘classic pond’ has virtually dried up. This fact doesn’t seem to deter others, however; the place is crowded. There are scores of tripods and serious looking photographers staking a coveted spot around the rim of what is now a patchy, muddy puddle, elbows out guarding their precious space. I wonder what ungodly hour they showed up.
We decide to relocate to the other side (right) of the complex where it’s less crowded and we should get a better angle of the pink-tinged sky, but without a reflecting pool. The selfie sticks are also out in full force.
While Darrin sets up the camera, I can’t help eavesdropping on a conversation between a guide and a tourist. “There’s a hot air balloon ride near Angkor Wat, you can go up for $1, good price right?” asks the tour guide. “It costs $19 to come down. Deal or no deal?” he chuckles. The tourist is not amused. I am and have to hide my own chuckle. The balloon ascends 200m into the air then floats, anchored in place by a wire at the base station.
Access inside Angkor Wat temple itself is closed at this point, although I can see the orange cloth of a monk in the distance taking his position for the doors to open.
Two tethered horses are grazing in a small field in front of us, heads down, oblivious of the spectacle soon to unfold. The sky is cloudless, albeit rather misty but it’s already a sticky 29C and the sun has yet to appear; it’s forecast to reach 38C later.
Everyone is now quiet; waiting, watching and hungry. Stomachs are grumbling, including mine. We left the hotel before breakfast was served. There is a girl touting coffee to the crowds, it sounds tempting and we do fancy a caffeine fix but wary of the water origin. Yesterday we watched a woman dipping water from the unhealthy looking lake at the front of the temple – so we give the coffee a miss.
Now I start to hear yawns and a little girl behind us repeatedly asking her mum, “when is Mr Sun coming?”
Then the sun starts peeping through the lotus towers and cameras go wild. It looks like liquid gold spilling over one of the world’s most revered religious sites. A magnificent structure, built eons ago in the 12th century. It’s so overwhelming I feel we should applaud.
Then, just as quickly as ‘Mr Sun’ arrives the crowds disperse. But we hang around to savour the moment. A truly a magical moment, and so worth getting out of bed for.