Siem Reap Day 2: Sunrise At Angkor Wat And Seeing More Temples
It's 4AM and my phone's alarm has woken me from slumber. My eyes are still shut as I fumbled around my bed, looking for the damn thing so I could hit the snooze button. Then I remembered that we were going to see the sunrise in the Angkor Wat. I slowly got up, rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and started preparing for another morning of walking.
My friend woke up an hour after and started preparing too. It was already past 5AM on my phone's clock and our tuk-tuk driver hasn't arrived yet. He assured us on the previous day that he'll be outside our AirBNB at 5AM. I was beginning to worry that I might have misheard him or that he simply forgot. Turns out, it was still very early. I didn't realize that Cambodia's time is an hour behind the Philippines and my phone wasn't set at their time.
We left our AirBNB around 6:30AM (Manila time). There were tons of tourists that we passed by along the way, all heading to the Angkor Wat with the same agenda we had in mind. I thought there were only a few of them but when we arrived, there were a lot of buses, cars, and tuk-tuks dropping off what seemed like thousands of tourists.
Before we reached the main entrance of the temple, we had to walk through plastic make-shift bridges so we could cross the lake. Then we looked for our spot and waited for the sun to rise.
Indeed, there's nothing like seeing the first light of day wash over the magnificent Angkor Wat. It could have been better if it wasn't overcast but nevertheless, it was still stunning. I honestly wanted to cry. Not just because of the fact that everything is captivating but also because I was there, fully present in the moment. It's not every day that you get to marvel at something as beautiful as that.
After watching the sky change colors outside the temple, we made our way inside and took photos. We didn't have a guide with us so we tried to follow the signages. There were other groups who had English guides and I tried to listen to the explanation of some of the sculptures. Hello freeloader! Haha 😅
Tourists lining up, waiting to be blessed by a monk.
It was already drizzling while were walking back to where we were dropped off. Then the rain started pouring down heavily. We decided to let it pass first before we continue with our tour. My friend took a short nap (lucky guy) while I reviewed the photos on my camera. Our tuk-tuk driver then tried to make small talk with me. The ASEAN summit was being held in the Philippines that time so he told me that their prime minister was in my country. And yup, he asked me questions about the current PH president too. When the heavy rain passed, we were off to see the next temples. We saw the Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, and several other smaller temples. At this point of the tour, lack of sleep and tiredness was starting to catch up with me so I wasn't able to take tons of photos the way I did in Angkor Wat.
We passed through the South Gate of Angkor Thom too where I saw elephants up close for the very first time in my life. Unfortunately, it wasn't a very magical and life-changing experience. Instead, it was heartbreaking to see them pass right in front of me with locals riding on their backs. Elephant riding is a messed up tourist trap. I hope people continue to not support it.
Incredible bas-relief elephant sculptures!
Entrance to Ta Phrom Temple aka the Tomb Raider Temple lol
The last place we went to was the Ta Phrom Temple. If you've seen the Tomb Raider movie (I'm not sure if it's the first or second one), you'll probably recognize this place since this is where some scenes were filmed. It was hard to take good photos without being photobombed by other tourists (and especially if you have a 35mm prime lens lol) because there was a huge crowd already by the time we got inside the temple.
Our patience was wearing thin. We decided to spend about 20 minutes there and then went on to find the exit. We followed a group of American tourists because we were clueless as to where to go. It felt like we were inside a maze. There were a lot of dead ends and wrong turns! We were then joined by two old Japanese men who, like us, didn't know where the exit was. Recalling it now made me compare that moment to that of playing a side quest inside a video game like Temple Run haha!
The next day, we packed our bags, said goodbye to our home in Siem Reap, and headed to the airport to catch our flight back to the Philippines. The fact that the trip was over didn't sink in yet, not until I sat on one of the benches in NAIA and waited for my flight to Cagayan de Oro.
Twelve days, three countries, and four cities after, I felt like an entirely different person. Cheesy, I know, but it's how I truly felt. The trip opened my eyes to the different realities of people's lives; different cultures; and different art expressions. It's one thing to read about it and watch videos of it on the internet. It's a whole new thing to experience it all in person.
Whoever first said that "Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer" can claim his or her free cup of coffee from me. He or she was so damn right. The experiences I had are something I'll never forget. I'll probably never ever get tired of telling these stories over and over again.
I came back home more inspired, energized, and most importantly, more alive. Maybe this is what we're really here for. Our brief moment here on earth must be spent on doing the things that make us feel truly alive, whatever it may be. The lyrics of Sleeping At Last's, Saturn, encapsulates this beautifully in a song:
...The universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes...
With shortness of breath, I’ll explain the infinite
How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.
Whenever I think of the fact that there's still so much to see in the world and so much to learn, it makes me feel very excited being a student of life. Although this trip has ended, I know there are still much more to take.