Siem Reap: Sunrise at Angkor Wat


Watching the sun slowly creep up from behind Angkor Wat is definitely a must-do in Siem Reap. That was why I decided to wake up at 4am to witness this amazing spectacle.

Angkor Wat is definitely one of the most well-known temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park and in the world. It has always been my lifelong dream to visit the place, ever since I came across its rich historical background when I was back in primary school. 

My tuktuk driver advised to leave the hotel at 5am as we have already gotten the entrance pass a few days ago. However, you should leave earlier if you want to catch the first light of dawn as I had to run/do a fast walk into the inner structure.

By the time I got there, the skies were already coloured. 
Pros? It wasn't that dark so a flashlight wasn't needed. 
Cons? There are just too many tourists around, even in the low season.

Note: the photos below were taken on two different days, one in the late morning and the other one the morning after (sunrise).

Still managed to get a good spot before the rest of the tourists came in on buses. 
It has been ages since I witnessed a sunrise as magical as this. Had to deal with tourists taller than me (truth be told, almost everyone else).

All I could see was everyone busily snapping away with phones and DSLRs but maybe it was a stroke of luck that my camera broke down.

Of course, the malfunctioned camera stressed me out at first. 
"What do I do now?" "How do I get nice photos for the rest of my trip? My phone camera sucks!"
Little did I know that that was my chance to experiment with different techniques and compositions using an okay-ish phone camera.

Attached above is a hastily-taken panorama shot of the viewing area. There are viewing areas on both sides of the bridge into the inner temple.

Vendors selling artpieces, handmade crafts, and also food popped up in the area surrounding the site so it is convenient to get some breakfast before starting the day.
Food stall owners bargain and appeal to tourists with names such as "James Bond" from stall 07. I guess that's a smart marketing strategy...

I decided to leave the crowded area and went to explore on my own while trying out different-angled shots. Was able to take photos that I am quite pleased with, which was highly unexpected of my phone camera. The lighting over those few days helped a lot.

Structures facing the sunlight are also highlighted perfectly during the golden hour. Stayed for a little while longer until the sun is completely up. It was about 8am when I left the area that morning (for breakfast and prepared for departure).

Continue reading about my trip within the temple walls below!

I wasn't really comfortable asking passers-by to take photos of me during trips but the lack of a tripod had left me with no other choice.
However, it was interesting seeing locals and tourists alike come together in Angkor Wat. There are also those who came to pray as it is also a religious site for Buddhists (and previously Hindus).

The inner courtyard, where there are tourists queuing up to get to the highest point in Angkor Wat. The queue was approximately 30 minutes long and I didn't really had the mood nor intention to stand under the sun for that amount of time so I sat at the sides and did some people watching.

It was also around the time when my camera started to shut down and malfunction. I freaked out and had given up any hope of it being able to work again, at least until I send it to the repair shop.

So, lesson(s) learnt regarding taking photos/cameras during solo travels:
1. Bring an extra camera (or a decent phone camera)
2. Ignore above if you have a lousy phone camera but willing to try new angles and compositions
3. Get a tripod or a selfie stick for nice travel photographs if you're too shy/not willing to ask strangers for help.

But chill, you'd still enjoy your time in Siem Reap even though you don't have awesome photographs to prove it. It's the experience that matters. Just immerse yourself in the local culture.

More posts up soon (I hope!).

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