September 20, 2018

Siem Reap Travel Diary: Sunrise at Angkor Wat

I’m one of those people who believes that travel breaks down routines, monotony and brings back some adventure, excitement, and exploration to people’s lives. For the most part of last year, my life was just pre-occupied with work, blogging-related events and random brunches and night-outs with friends. Nothing really spectacular or mind-blowing. And that, if not for most people, will cause some burn-out. And nothing can cure that for me than board a plane or a boat or a bus and go somewhere, wherever... You know, to fall in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met. (Yes, I got that from a quote which I like so much.)




Together with three of my friends, we planned for an out-of-the country multi-city trip. And these places were our dream destinations for years now. This trip was supposed to happen last 2016 but got put off for unforeseen reasons. Since June of 2017, after booking our flights, I’ve been looking forward to the day when we finally get to board the plane and start our 6-day journey. 

You know how that can be daunting, waiting for around 6 months for something to finally happen. The main airport in Manila is near where I work, and almost every few minutes I can hear airplanes passing by, and I would be so disconsolate thinking about when I’ll get to board one of those planes again and wishing that I can fast-forward time and make it December already. And then time flew fast and it was December.




I couldn’t be more excited as I’ve already done all that I need to do, bought all that I need to bring, planned even the outfits I’ll wear and started packing 2 weeks before the trip. The destination? Siem Reap, Cambodia and Bangkok, Thailand. For the next several posts, I’ll be writing a series about our Siem Reap trip and then we’ll get to Bangkok later on. These blog post series won't be about our itinerary or a guide or review (because for sure there are a hundreds of that already on the internet) but will tackle about my experience during this trip and all other thoughts. Besides this is written 6 months past that trip so this will be more of a reminiscing journal. 




We board a plane to Siem Reap on a late night flight and arrived around 10 or 11pm. The hotel we were staying at sent a tuktuk to pick us up, and I couldn't be more ecstatic because by the time I set foot on this foreign land I already got a taste of its culture. Siem Reap for me looks just like any rural tourist area in the Philippines, even its people, the only difference is that all the signage et al, is written in Cambodian.




Our tuktuk driver and tour guide, Sarath (who speaks very good English btw) suggested that we take the Angkor Complex tour the first thing the next morning which everyone agreed to. We have to be up by 3am the following day so we were not able to go out of the hotel to get some grub or even check out Pub Street. We just cleaned up and went straight to bed.




Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century (113-5BC). Estimated construction time of the temple is 30 years by King Suryavarman II, dedicated to Vishnu (Hindu), replica of Angkor Thom style of art. It is Angkor Wat, the largest monument of the Angkor group and the best preserved, is an architectural masterpiece. Its perfection in composition, balance, proportions, relief's and sculpture make it one of the finest monuments in the world. Wat is the Khmer name for temple (the French spelling is "vat "), which was probably added to "Angkor "when it became a Theravada Buddhist monument, most likely in the sixteenth century. After 1432 when the capital moved to Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat was cared for by Buddhist monks. It is generally accepted that Angkor Wat was a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II and oriented to the west to conform to the symbolism between the setting sun and death. The bas-reliefs, designed for viewing from left to right in the order of Hindu funereal ritual, support this function.*



A few hours later, we found ourselves inside the tuktuk on the road to Angkor. There were so many other vehicles carrying other tourists to the same place as an Angkor Wat Sunrise visit is one of the most popular things to do there. But first you have to go to the ticketing center to get your day pass as this will be checked in every place that you'll visit inside the complex. Day passes vary in amount depending on how many days you'll avail of. We only got 1 as we only stayed in Siem Reap for only a day and a half.




At around 4:00 am, Sarath dropped us off about a kilometer away from the East entrance since the normal and main entrance was closed and some other roads too, because there was a major festivity on that day where the King of Cambodia was a guest. (We weren’t able to see the King though). In pitch dark we walk with only our mobile phone's torches as our lights, to the forest leading to the Angkor Wat temple. Good thing there were so many other tourists walking with us too, because if not, I would be scared AF in the midst of that unpaved roads with huge trees surrounding us.




Slowly, the temple started to emerge from the distance. It is lit by spotlights at night and it seemed like a golden temple. Even then and from afar it was so majestic. I was in so much awe because this was just my dream and now it is front of me. We looked for a spot in front of the pond where a hundred other tourists also flocked to get the best view as to when the sun slowly rises and reveals the greatness of the Angkor Wat. The stories I have read and heard were true, it was truly a magical experience. Angkor Wat did not disappoint.




When the sun was all up and light already covered the land, people started to explore the rest of the temple complex and so did we. I for one was so impressed with how intricate he details of stone carvings of apsaras and devatas on the walls of the temple. While touching thousands of years old of handmade bas-reliefs I can't help but to hope it's a time portal and that for a few minutes I'll get transported back to the days when this temple was full of life.



When I entered the Angkor Wat, I couldn't help but wonder what it was like during its glory days. Those inner temple courtyards filled with water, Buddhist monks praying in corners, ancient Khmer citizens walking by, in their intricate and beautiful wardrobes that you would only see now in cultural shows. It would have been a lovely scene don't you think?

Waking up at 3:00 am with only 3 hours of sleep and walking 1 km along a pitch dark forest road, with what I saw and experienced, I'd say it was all well worth it!



Read more of my Siem Reap 2017 trip:
Siem Reap 2017 Travel Diary: Tanei Boutique Villas
Siem Reap 2017 Travel Diary: Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Siem Reap 2017 Travel Diary: Prasat Bayon: Temple of the Mysterious Stone Face Towers 
Siem Reap 2017 Travel Diary: Prasat Ta Phrom
Siem Reap 2017 Travel Diary: Banana Tree Restaurant and Bar
Siem Reap 2017 Travel Diary: Old Market
Siem Reap 2017 Travel Diary: Temple Bar at Pub Street



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