Angkor Wat is undoubtedly the crown jewel of sights that Cambodia has to offer. Arriving there for sunrise is the recommend option even though this meant getting up at 4.30am. Today’s sunrise must have been slightly earlier than usual, judging by how Panya had us running through the ticket office. Although we made it to the main attraction of Angkor Wat in time I got the feeling that this wasn’t a classic sunrise. The view of the temple in silhouette behind the water is still stunning though. Despite throngs of people standing on the bank enjoying the sunrise view, this time of year is classed as low season. Apparently between November and January when temperatures are a much milder 25C (rather than approaching 40C at the moment), the place is absolutely packed.
There’s a lot more to Angkor Wat than the main temple seen in all the photographs. It’s a huge complex of temples covering something like 100 square miles. The sheer scale of the construction project undertaken by the Khmer Empire during the 12th Century is mind-boggling. We visited a couple of the other temple highlights. Bayon was perhaps my personal favourite. This temple contains a series of towers where faces are depicted on the stone. The carvings are beautiful. Having never previously heard of Bayon this was a beautiful surprise. Our final stop was Ta Prohm. This is a popular temple on the tourist circuit, having featured in the Tomb Raider film. It’s in a bit of a state of disrepair with crumbling stones all over the place. What’s left of the temple is intertwined with roots from huge trees, although the jungle location somewhat enhances Ta Prohm’s charm.
Some people then went zip lining around Angkor Wat this afternoon but I gave it a miss. I didn’t have a particular urge to participate. Instead I had a walk around the pleasant city centre of Siem Reap.
During the evening we visited Phare, the Cambodian Circus. This wouldn’t usually be my cup of tea but it was highly recommended. Labelling it a circus is perhaps slightly misleading. There were no clowns, sideshows nor performing animals (thankfully). Instead it is a performance by former street children who have been trained in performing arts. There was live music and a video screen provided a narrative, although I lost track of the story due to being mesmerised by some of the amazing acrobatics on display. Proceeds from the show go back into the school and it seemed an extremely worthwhile cause, as well as a cracking hour’s worth of entertainment.
After the circus there was still time to head over to Pub Street. We found a nice rooftop bar where you could relax on some bean bags while watching a live band. Despite this only being the second day of the tour, a pattern seems to have emerged where Shape Of You, Wonderwall and (slightly strangely) John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads seemed to be played everywhere, much to the annoyance of a certain member of the group of the group (Jackie). To be fair I agree with her about Ed Sheeran, having heard that song at least ten times a day for the past month.
When the rooftop bar closed we stumbled across another hostelry that was still in full swing, the wonderfully named Angkor What? Bar. After a couple of drinks there, the next thing we knew it was approaching 5am! This meant that we’d been up for over 24 hours, a decent achievement in terms of stamina. On the tuk tuk home we must have passed a fair few of Saturday’s visitors to Angkor Wat! All in all it was a tremendous day, one of the best I’ve had while travelling.