Angkor Wat at sunrise is a fascinating sight that you can’t miss during your trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our tourist agency recommended that the best time to start exploring the Angkor Wat complex is at dawn. But if it’s your second time to visit the place—perhaps a visit during sunset will let you see a different face of its splendor.
The silhouette of Angkor Wat at dawn is a picturesque view with an element of suspense. As the light gradually takes over, more of Angkor Wat’s details gets unwrapped before your eyes. Its visitors will enjoy the thrill of watching its facade slowly unraveling its beauty as the sun gracefully rises.
Short History of Angkor Wat
Based on archaeological findings, the construction of Angkor Wat started on the first half of the 12th Century. The king of the Khmer Empire intended this to serve as a Hindu Temple that is dedicated to the god Vishnu. As the adherents of Buddhism became more dominant in the country, it was eventually transformed to a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.
A more significant restoration movement was started in the 20th Century. Efforts to move the jungle from the Angkor Wat temple was successful. This allowed a broader view of the temple and a greater sunlight exposure. The eruption of Cambodian Civil War and Khmer Rouge control of the country caused a hiatus on the restoration movement. Some damages were also incurred during the war with Vietnam but far more damages were done by art thieves after the war. The most common is the stealing of the heads of the statues.
Early Morning Trip
We wanted to make sure that we won’t miss the beauty of Angkor Wat at sunrise so we woke up as early as 4:00 AM in the morning. The hotel staff was kind enough to pack up our free breakfast so we can just eat it right after we explore the Angkor Wat. It was our first time to ride a tuk-tuk which is the equivalent of a tricycle here in the Philippines. I found the tuk-tuk more convenient to explore the tourist spots because it lets you sit up straight and it has a greater height for better viewing.
We went straight to the Angkor Pass to buy a ticket. They open at 5:00 AM but despite arriving early, we saw a short queue of other tourists preparing to buy tickets as well. The ticket looks great because it has our picture, allowed date, code and the cost. It was still dark when we arrived at Angkor Wat yet there were plenty of tourists already.
Viewing Angkor Wat at Sunrise
A restored naga and a headless lion statue welcomed us as we entered the Angkor Wat complex. Several security guards were diligently checking everyone’s ticket because the tourists were coming in groups. We realized that even the tip of the iconic conifer-shaped roofs of Angkor Wat can’t be seen from the entrance. We had to pass through its large gate after crossing the bridge.
We were surprised at how large the Angkor Wat complex is. We had a fairly long walk to reach the part where the temple is partly visible. Perhaps it’s because we’re used to seeing Christian churches in small lot areas here in the Philippines. During our walk, our excitement kept building up as we look at the nearby structures because it was our first time to see ancient structures like these.
Best Spot to Take Photos
We later saw the crowd hanging out at the northern pond of the temple complex. That particular spot will give you the best angle to take a picture of the Angkor Wat that’s why the tourists were early to get a good position there. We joined the pack and ended up getting a position on the left side of the pond. Looking at the Angkor Wat’s silhouette while the sky is still dim got us very excited.
As the light gets brighter, the beauty of the Angkor Wat’s ornate design is also getting clearer. It’s truly a majestic ancient wonder. The temple’s glorious image is definitely fitting to be included in Cambodia’s flag. Its picturesque view has a quality that you would want to put on a house painting or postcard. It will make you wonder how it was constructed with just basic tools. Our tour guide told us that elephants were used to help with the construction.
Exploring the Complex
After getting a good look at the facade of the Angkor Wat and taking as many pictures as we can, we continued to explore the complex. The sturdy and towering pillars of the structures was an amazing sight. I personally think that those can actually rival the ones in ancient Europe. The intricate design of the murals, statues and roofs looked ahead of its time.
The architectural quality and robustness of the entire temple are really fascinating. It’s amazing how its major parts are still intact despite the number of years that filled with earthquakes and storms. The distinctness of ancient Cambodian art and culture is simply marvelous. Since my wife and I are both fascinated with ancient civilizations, seeing the actual places that we only read in books is a very meaningful experience for us.
Angkor Archaeological Park Entrance Fee:
1-day pass: $37.00
3-day pass: $62.00
7-day pass: $72.00
Children under 12 years old: Free! (Show passport as evidence)
3-day pass – valid for 10 days from issue date
7-day pass – valid for 1 month from issue date
This covers all of the temples within the Angkor Archaeological site
Credit card payment is accepted