I am not a very religious person neither do I regularly visit any religious monuments.
But just like my visit to the Tanah Lot in Bali, I wanted to visit Angkor to experience the unmistakable aura around this place. Having seen it in pictures, read about it in books/articles and catching glimpses of it on TV, my curiosity levels were at a high and I was inclined to see it for myself.
I booked a sunrise and cycling tour with Grasshopper tours through Viator. That would mean I had to start as early as 4:30 AM. To my surprise there were just three of us in the group which was good in a way. After reaching the ticket booth and getting our passes done by 5, we headed towards Angkor Wat.
That was where we would catch the sunrise. We took a spot by the reservoir located outside of the temple complex. I was told by our guide that this is THE spot to get the best view as opposed to a location by the lake inside the temple complex. It gets very very crowded inside and we would have to jostle for space. So according to him, we got the best spot and it really was good enough for me with not too many people around. Maybe about 10-15 people were seated on the pavilion along with us.
As the dawn started to set,we got busy with our cameras while listening to the tales of history about Angkor city from our guide.Have a look at few of the clicks below. I haven’t seen a sunrise in a very long time and being there watching the sky changing colors just made me forget everything. Around me everybody was quiet and just stared at the view for several minutes without uttering a word.
Once the sunrise time was over, we headed inside the temple complex and the first thought that comes into the mind is – This place is huge, amused it took just 30 years to build. As we explored through the temple and its corridors, a few interesting facts caught my eye.
- There were Buddha statues without heads. All of them.
- Bullet holes all over the temple walls.
- Intricate and detailed wall carvings on the corridor depicting tales from Hindu mythologies and King Suryavarman.
The rest of the next 2 hours we explored the entire temple and all the time our very knowledgeable guide kept providing us with each and every detail of the place.
We took the first climb to the main tower that was 63 meters high and the makeshift stairs were quite steep too.
The temple structure, the wall carvings we could notice there was an amalgamation of Hinduism and Buddhism all over the place. There were headless Buddha statues, statues of Lord Vishnu – the Hindu deity, Sanskrit writing carved on the walls and of course the tales honoring King Suryavarman.
For the first time I have seen the elements of more than one religion at a single religious monument. That made listening to the history of the Cambodian kingdom even more interesting. We could see the pieces of the entire Cambodian history through Angkor Wat – from the rule of King Suryavarman , to the scars of the Khmer Rouge.
It was time to take a parting shot of this majestic place as we took exit from the West gate and headed towards the next leg of the journey – the bike tour.
- Passes to Angkor are not included in the tour package. They have to be bought at the ticket sales booth en route to Angkor Wat. Passes come in 20$ (1 day), 40$(3 days) and 60$(7 days).
- Appropriate clothing required to visit certain sections of the temple complex.
- Water and lots of water needed to spend the whole day exploring the place. Cambodia is humid.