Sunrise and evening at Angkor Wat

“Timeless yet timeworn, grand but intimate, oblivious to the passing centuries even as the jungle devours its huge stone walls, Angkor Wat and the scores of temples that surround it hint at eternity, only to remind us that nothing is eternal.” – Seth Mydans, NYT

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Angkor Wat (nickname City of Temples).
A 12th century temple built by King Suryavarman II. The height of classical Khmer architecture. A symbol of Cambodia, appearing on her national flag.

Amazing.
Extensive bas-reliefs and devatas (divine nymphs; celestial dancing girls) adorning its wall. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers.

Astonishing.
Forming a rectangle area of about 1,500 by 1,300 metres, covers an area – including its 190 metre wide moats – of nearly 200 hectares. The quincunx of towers rising 65 m from the ground. Water moat surrounding the temple has a perimeter of 5.5 km.

Unmissable.
Take several days. If you only have one day, it’s a must to visit Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.

Angkor Temple Map

Angkor Temple map. Credit to Tourism Cambodia

We stayed at Mekong Angkor Palace (RM80 for a room inclusive of air-conditioning, wifi, hot shower, complimentary breakfast and pickup from bus station) and hired Mr. San Borin as our tuk-tuk driver who customised the day tour for us. San Borin’s price of $20 for a day was a steal for the four of us. You may contact him here, according to him the website was setup by a passenger who admires his friendly service.

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The best time to visit Angkor Wat is perhaps sunrise, the sun rises over the ancient temple.

He picked us before dawn, at 5 a.m., to shuttle us to the entry gate to buy the 1-Day ticket ($20) and came prepared with a cooler filled with bottles of ice-cold water to keep us hydrated and wet tissue.

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The Naga (a semi-deity, a serpent-god of the waters, depicted with several heads) greeted us at the entrance.

Pick up any guide book, read any online resources, any visitors recommendation on Lonely Planet or Trip Advisor, and your head will be spinning. Thankfully San Borin suggested us a route for us to conquer the significant sites and enjoy our day in Angkor.

The Angkor Wat Temple Complex for Sunrise
* Breakfast and a cup of Cambodian coffee

The “Great City” of Angkor Thom for Morning
(including Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of Elephants, and Preah Palilay)
* Water, cap, small change for donations

Thommanon, Chao Say Tevada, and Ta Prohm for the Afternoon
* Lunch break and beer, water

Angkor Wat again for the Evening
* Plastic raincoat and umbrella

shutterstock_110917883

Aerial view of Angkor Wat, showing the moat and causeway and the central tower surrounded by four smaller towers. Credit to Shutterstock @ Alexey Stiop.

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It was September, the peak of wet season, the sky decided to pour down showers of blessing to tame the scorching ground. We have our plastic raincoats and umbrella handy. Clouds hovered above the sky, hiding away the sun and blue sky, giving us a rather gloomy looking scene.

Angkor Wat Proper

The entrance to Angkor Wat is from the west, we started with the south wing of West Gallery, going counter clockwise.

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The few minutes walk across the 200 metres sandstone paved causeway is the start of my jaw-dropping experience, I can’t help but exclaim the magnificent of this building.

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At the western gopura (an elaborate gateway to a temple), the visitor is presented with the incomparable looming perspective of Angkor Wat and its causeway. Three hundred and fifty metres long, paved in sandstone it is bordered by naga-balustrades on each sides.

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Towards the middle and on either side are two elegant buildings, elevated and lying lengthways, are two “libraries”.

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Angkor Wat reveals itself in full grandeur.

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I removed my shoes and walked barefoot around the temple in hope to connect with the temple when my skin touched the stones of the temple, but I was unsuccessful.

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This is the south wing of the West gallery.

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The hallway has a plain inner wall and columns to the outside. Devata, female deities who are depicted standing about rather than dancing .

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Nearly 2000 Aspara (celestial nymph or dancer) carvings decorate the walls of Angkor Wat.

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Epic battle stories carved onto walls at Angkor Wat temple complex. Bas relief depicting the battle of Kurukshetra.

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Bas relief is a kind of sculpture in which shapes are carved so that they are only slightly higher than the flat background.

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(Top Left) Bishma on bed arrow – southwest wall, facing west. (Top Right) Mahabharata War – West gallery, south section. (Bottom Right) Army of King Suryavarman II – South gallery.

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The inner compound. Stones built with bare hands, carvings that decorate the structure in all corners.

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The inner gallery is a sanctuary (60 metre square) called Bakan. Very steep stairways must be gone up to come there, it represents the difficulty of ascending to the kingdom of gods. There are guards manning the entrance, proper attire must be adhered to.

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The central tower (symbolic representation of the mythical Mount Meru) is surrounded by four smaller ones. And each tower has a lotus bud shape.

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View from the top. See the causeway? That’s where we came from.

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Children dressed up in Cambodian costume.

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Decapitated sculptures, horrible act done by Khmer Rouge and looters.

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A day full of impressions – walking back to our tuk tuk, tired but happy!

For those who are serious about Angkor Wat, here are some very useful sources:
1. Angkor Temple Guide.
2. The Angkor Guide.
3. Tourism Cambodia.

About Daniel Liew

Hails from Kuching. Life is good. This blog serves as collection of his recollection for his life and things he saw.