Secret Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Siem Reap road sign

Everybody goes to the west gate watch the sunrise in front of Angkor Wat.

E-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y (and their tripods).

But watch the sunrise from Angkor Wat? That requires sneaking around in the dark and paying a small… *cough*… “fee.” Ahem.

East facade at dawn

Our hearts raced with nervous energy as we entered the 900 year old temple alone, in pitch blackness. At one point, we stepped into a courtyard and paused because we thought we heard monks chanting. (Nope… we had just awakened all the mosquitoes in Cambodia.) Alicia wavered, sure that the instructions that a fellow traveler gave us would get us arrested, but Tony kept us on mission.

cobwebs

We made it up to the third, final, most sacred tier, the Bakan, just in time to hear the jungle come alive with the calls of strange birds and to see the bas reliefs illuminated by the red morning sun.

Sun peeking over the jungle canopy

Orange sunrise

Sun peeking over the jungle canopy

Wildflowers

Empty courtyard

We looked down at the hundreds of people gathered at the far end of the pond, grateful that we were not among them.

Hundreds of people gathered for sunrise

Tony waves

As soon as the sun was up, the guards quickly shooed us back down, presumably to avoid the scrutiny of the people who began filtering into the courtyard who might wonder why the posted opening times didn’t apply to us.

Apsaras at Angkor

Steep steps up Angkor

Facade lit by the morning sun

Empty corridor

Chedi along the east wall of Angkor

Us at east gate of Angkor Wat

After that great start, we were not too frustrated with the tour groups clogging the pathways through Ta Prohm (a.k.a. the Tomb Raider temple).

Big tour group at Ta Prohm

Poky straw hats

Goofy selfie

Ta Prohm corridor

Looking up

We experienced another peaceful (albeit more conventionally achieved) sunrise at Bayon Temple the following morning.

Bayon silhouette

Sun coming through the trees

Pink sun

Buddha at Bayon

Spider at Bayon

Bayon tree trunk

Apsaras on columns

Linga at Bayon

Bayon east facade

Buddha altar inside Bayon

Bayon face

Bayon face - vertical

Lens flare

Bayon face with jungle

Apsara at Bayon

Us at Bayon

We visited many other ancient Khmer temples around Siem Reap, but those two sunrise experiences were the best.

Kid sleeping

Tree roots

Interior shot

Colorful banner

One head left on the bridge

Disembodied feet at Preah Khan

Back entrance to Preah Khan

Tree through a hole at Preah Khan

Monkey and baby at Angkor

Terrace of the Leper King

Girls selling souvenirs

Angkor pass

Beard pass