We planned our travels around mostly local culture, flavor, and minor or less-well known sites. Angkor Wat is an exception. I couldn’t rightfully travel through Cambodia with 2 young kids and not take in this historic site. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.
Located about 2 miles north of the city where we were staying, Angkor Wat is only one of the many impressive temple ruins located around the area. Much like Mayan sites spread throughout the Yucatan, Guatemala, and Honduras, the Hindu-turned-Buddhist temples here are mostly undisturbed ruins. For every restored and tourist-overrun temple, there are who knows how many that are vegetation-covered mounds in the jungle, slowly being reclaimed by nature over a thousand years after they were built.
I went out to the site solo at around 5am to try and capture the sunrise over the main temple complex. Well, when I say “solo” – that is if you don’t count the few thousand other tourists who had the same idea. It was insanely crowded, and this was a quiet day – just after Khmer New Year – a major holiday here – saw the park full with 10 times the number of people. Wait – I wasn’t a tourist. I was a photographer. It’s different.
After my early morning sortie, I returned to the hotel for breakfast with the girls, and then headed back out with them to actually tour the temples and ruins.
What follows is only the briefest sampling of the hundreds of photos I took.
First, the sunrise trip:
The walk to the gatehouse…
Now beyond the gatehouse looking at the temples of Angkor Wat. These photos are taken over about a 40 minute timespan as the wolf-dawn light transitions into full-on sunrise.
Believe it or not, just out of frame to the left were about three thousand people all doing the same thing I was doing.
Even with all these people, the atmosphere was every bit as reverent and quiet as it seems as you look at these. You could almost hear a pin drop. In the grass.
And then we went back. We spent another nearly 4 hours touring all the other temples – believe me, this is only a taste. You could easily spend a week here exploring, wandering, reflecting…