Today was an early and fun-filled touring day, We got up around 4:30am in time to take the 5am shuttle tour to Angor Wat. We came prepared with our flashlights, 3 day tour pass, water, cameras, long bus comfortable pants, and of course gobs of insect repellant. We lathered up with the bug spray before we left the hotel as we were warned that the mosquitos would be out in force at sunrise. Fortunately the bug spray worked and even wearing short sleeved shirts we were not bitten.
As it was completely dark at 5am, a flashlight was a necessity as we had about a mile and a quarter walk from where the bus parked, to the main entrance site. We went thru the West gate entrance, and our guide ‘Woody’ steered us as best he could away from the massive 5am crowds. Even at this early hour this best known Temple complex was swarmed with others like us hoping for a good sunrise photo or two.
Woody took us to the front of the main Temple to the left side of the pond in front of it, saying this was the best view of the sunrise. We stood around with the other thousands of people for about an hour, and even though still dark, we could see people were gathered most of the way around the pond, with the largest concentration of people at the far end of the pond facing the Temple.
As the darkness gave way to brightness, we could gradually see the crowds of people, as well as the Temple. At this point, people started moving around vs the stationary stance everyone had prior to sunrise . I compared it to waiting for the parade at Disney World, as people didn’t want to lose their space in line
We took many photos at this point, but never could get a good photo of the Temple’s reflection in the pond. It actually had many flowers growing on it, and never could see the reflection of the Temple clearly, although we could see the crowd reflected in the pond ok.
And as soon as sunrise ‘rose’, so did the throngs of street vendors. This we had not prepared for, and it was a bit overwhelming! It doesn’t help when DOS starts buying a few postcards, and the vendors multiplied by the dozens it seemed! They were coming up to everyone, and I steered them to DOS as I didn’t bring any money with me, but even still felt overwhelmed with the persistence of the vendors. Meanwhile, DOS was having a field day! He bought scarfs from one day, an Angor Wat book from another man, Elephant pants, Elephant table runners, Angor prints, etc – I’m not even sure he knows what all he bought! People were taking pictures of us in the midst of the feeding frenzy!
One funny moment was after he finished shopping, we were standing with others from our group, and I joke to DOS, ’Now we need a bag to carry it all in’. And of the lady vendors (who spoke good English) heard this and ran to the nearby shop and brought us an Elephant carrying bag to buy! So what does DOS do? He buys two! Wow – better and quicker service than Macy’s back home!
We then toured the Temple, (you can wear shorts but they must cover your knees, and shirt must cover your shoulders) by daylight now, which while crowded, was not nearly as bad as what it would be later in the day, not to mention much hotter. We wore lightweight long Covington pants which were ideal for the day as they covered our legs from the morning mosquitos, and satisfied the Temple requirements of dress.
The Temple has three levels, and was quite a bit of walking, so we were wise to wear comfortable sneakers. The first two levels were a fairly easy climb, however the third level is definitely not for everyone as the stairs are quite steep, and a line forms for a walk to the top, as they only let a 100 people up there at a time for crowd control. We waited in line for perhaps half an hour, but were rewarded with beautiful views from the top.
The top level also has several different Buddhas, including standing, reclining etc, and were added later as the Temple was originally built as a Hindu Temple. Angkor Wat is the only temple archeologists know how long it took to be built (37 years) based on markings on the walls. There is a moat around the Temple and four pools inside the Temple that wee not for swimming, but to hold rain water, and drain to the moat, especially in rainy season. It’s quite fascinating to realize these temple’s were built over a thousand years ago, and how detailed and symmetrical they are, without modern technologies and labor, and yet they are still standing today.
Angkor by the way means city, as virtually everything in town is Angor something. Tip: Remember the name of your hotel, not just Angkor something as they are all called Angkor something; i.e. Sofitel Angkor.
The internet is quite slow here, no doubt to the network infrastructure, so I will upload additional pics when I get home. For now, here are just a few of the many photos taken at Angor Wat.
After touring Angkor Wat in the morning, we went back to our hotel, the Sofitel Angkor, around 9:30am. We now then a nice buffet breakfast at the hotel. The Sofitel is a First Class hotel in every way, and the meals, facilities, and staff are all truly outstanding. Like other hotels we’ve stayed at on our trip, there are both local dishes, and those catering to the American tourist taste as well; i.e. pancakes, bacon, sausage, hame, fruits etc.
After walking around the property a bit for photos, DOS and I took a refreshing dip n the pool, which was just outside our ground floor terrace. The pool was virtually empty as many people from the tour were probably napping after the early tour departure.
After showering, we took a nap; mine longer than DOS’s, before meeting for our afternoon privately arranged tour at 2pm.
The adventure continues after our nap!