|Sunset at Angkor Wat is a major
attraction. In four days of visiting the site, we managed three sunsets
and one sunrise. This is a fascinating place.
|Angkor Wat has been
on my Places to go to list for as long as I can remember.
I was actually getting goosebumps as we rode out to the site for the first
time. This is a big place, one of the world's truly magnificent archeological
Fortunately, it's a huge site. Although there were several thousand visitors there every day, there were many times when Carol and I had the forest and ruins all to ourselves. You could easily spend a week in Angkor Wat.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat lies in a national park, just outside of Siem Reap in north central Cambodia. The Angkor ruins, including the ancient city of Angkor Thom and the Angkor Wat temple, actually include several dozen temples covering an area of close to one hundred square kilometers.
We decided to make the trip up the Tonle Sap River from Phnom Penh by boat, rather than take the bus. Not only was the boat ride a lot less bumpy, it only took about half as long as the bus. Mind you, the final ten kilometers from the boat landing into the town of Siem Reap contained enough rocks and potholes for a full day's journey.
November 24 -- It was still pretty dark as we walked across the stone causeway into the main temple at Angkor Wat, and the steps through the entrance were hard to make out. Already, dozens of people had made their way out to the park, though it was a quiet crowd. The planet Venus shone brightly in the eastern sky.
When Seng, our tuk-tuk driver, had come to pick us up at our guesthouse at 5 am, the waning moon hung high in the sky. In Siem Reap, streetlights are about as plentiful as smooth roads. It's about eight kilometers from town out to the ruins, and though it was well before dawn, the countryside was already active: roosters, cicadas, bullfrogs, wild birds -- it's not a quiet jungle here.
The towers ahead were silhouetted in the brightening pre-dawn light. They were still about half a kilometer away. We stopped for a while by a large pond where the towers were reflecting nicely in the water, the water lilies were starting to unfold, and a small crowd was gathering, looking for good photo angles. This was too predictable, we moved on.
As we made our way through and past the central terraces and main towers, the sun was just hitting the top of the ruins. Finally, on the east side of the temple, we had the place to ourselves. It was a calm and peaceful moment.
It really was only a moment though, because a voice from above called out "Hello!" and we looked up some steep steps to see Michael from Montreal and his partner Suzy from Sudbury. This was okay. We had met them about five weeks earlier on our trip to Halong Bay in northern Vietnam. In these remote parts, it's always nice to see a familiar face.
Every time we came out of a temple, roving gangs of kids and teenagers would scurry over: "Hello papa, you buy cold drink, postcards, scarf? Where you from?" When we told them Canada, they would usually respond, "Canada has ten provinces and its capital is Ottawa."
We were impressed. We asked them if they had learned that in school.
"No," they said, "from other tourists."
|At Ta Prohm, one of the many temples within
Angkor Wat, the jungle was still invading and hiding the ruins.
|The central terraces and main towers of the
Angkor Wat temple at sunrise. Built during the early part of the
12th century, they are the most elaborate and fully restored temples in
the whole Ankor park area.
|The temples at Angkor Wat attracted a fair number of locals as well as international travellers. Buddhist monks were regular visitors, coming out to pay homage to the history and spirituality of the place, and to practice their English.|