One of the things that Andy and I knew that we wanted to do on our honeymoon was to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. The pictures that I had seen online left my breathless – a huge, beautiful temple that was hundreds of years old with the brightly colored sky behind it all reflected upon itself in a pond.
Even though I’m not one to get excited about waking up early, I knew that this was one thing that I could get out of bed for.
Getting to Angkor Wat for the Sunrise
The day before we decided to go, we worked with our hotel, the MotherHome Inn to get a tuk tuk driver set up for the following morning. The pricing for a driver to watch the sunrise is a few dollars more expensive than a standard temple circuit – this cost is minimal and to be expected. The hotel also packed us breakfast to go since we would miss the amazing breakfast spread that they offer every morning.
We showed up in the lobby about 10 minutes before 5, when our driver was scheduled to arrive. We grabbed our breakfast and took a seat and waited. After about 5 minutes we started inquiring where our driver was since we wanted to get there early so we could get in a good position to take photos. The front desk was apologetic and was on the phone trying to get in touch with the driver. Finally at 5am we called it, getting another driver to take us around for the day.
The ride to Angkor Wat was very refreshing that early in the morning. The sun had not yet risen so everything was cool and the breeze from the tuk tuk was great. Once we arrived, we rushed to the gate so we could get the best possible spot.
What to Expect When Watching the Sun Rise at Angkor Wat
I had read a few articles about what to expect but it was far crazier than I had read. We weren’t there during high season and there were already hundreds of people in place when we arrived, a good hour before sunrise. We would be about 20 rows back from the front of the pond which wasn’t ideal. We decided to cheat and go along the side of the pond. It seemed like a smart idea until people kept funneling in, some of them in front of us, blocking our shot of the sunrise.
Admitting defeat, we moved up closer to the temple, omitting the reflection pond from our shots and found a nice place that we could watch the sunrise and take a series of photos without people all around us. Even though the sunrise was not that great the morning we were there, I think Andy was maybe a little more disappointed than I was. I know he really wanted to get some amazing shots of a sunrize over Angkor Wat. It didn’t matter though because we both agreed that we had a lot of fun setting up the camera timer to take pictures of us in front of Angkor Wat… this was of course after we left the crowds of people by the reflection pond.
Although we didn’t see it when we were there, we read that some people will push their way up to the front, and throw large stones into the reflecting pond. From there they’ll cut in front of the people that arrived first thing in the morning to get the best position. I couldn’t even express how upset I would be if that were to happen to me.
Going back to all of the beautiful pictures that I saw on google images before my trip. They are amazing but they are also heavily photoshopped. Your pictures will likely not look anything like that unless you have an amazing camera, the perfect settings and a great knowledge of Photoshop.
If you are going to go to Angkor Wat, I highly recommend waking up early and watching the sunrise. If nothing else, it will give you a few hours where you can enjoy the cooler weather before the Cambodian heat comes in full force.
Even though there were a ton of people watching the sunrise, the temple itself did not seem crowded afterward, likely due to the sheer size of the place. We spent about 1.5 hours walking around Angkor war before we continued went back to our tuk tuk and visited more temples. Around 2pm we finally threw in the towel as we were exhausted and wanted to relax by the pool where we would be off of our feet.