The alarm sounds! It's 4.30am! The last time I was up this early I was going to bed!
Time to rise and whine!
By 5am I am outside the hostel waiting for my traveling companion and the Tuk Tuk to pick me up. It's pitch dark and something kinda weird is happening. Although it's the middle of the night the activity on the street is like it's the middle of the day! Travelers and Tuk Tuk's abound - and not just milling about willy nilly but doing so with purpose! All with only one thing in mind - Sunrise at Angkor Wat!
It reminded me of that scene from 'The Night of the Living Dead!' Seriously!
My 'carriage' arrived with my travel companion, our driver and the guide already aboard. Still dark, we headed out into the street and joined the Tuk Tuk parade heading for the temples.
After 10 minutes or so we were in the countryside chug-chug-ing alongside the river close to our destination - the string of Tuk Tuk's - jockeying for position - all with their lights of different colours. If you swapped horse for horsepower it could have been a scenario from ages ago.
On the day before we had traipsed around town visiting travel agents and pricing the temple trip.
Finally we approached a Tuk Tuk driver we liked the look of. His price was no cheaper than the agents quote and one could argue that it most certainly should have been but - very hot and bothered - we did a deal with him and he organized us a guide for the next day.
By then it was 4pm and because we knew about the "buy your day pass the afternoon before and get a free sunset" setup - we asked him to take us directly to the Wat.
It goes like this -
The whole site closes at sunset - which is around 6.30 these days - but the ticket office opens at 4.45pm and starts selling passes for the next day. You can then use that pass, without forfeit, for the remaining time available on the day of purchase . So - if you get there around 4.15 the lineup is pretty small. You gotta wait cos the ticket office opens at 4.45. But, as they say here in Asia, it only takes one bus load of Chinese tourists to completely change the game and those busses start arriving around 4.30 transforming the lineup into a long wait.
The guys in the ticket office are on the ball but they have to take your photo and imprint it on your pass which means each sale takes a little longer. Time, tide and sunsets waits for no man - so the sooner you get your pass the greater your chance of getting a buckshe sunset! Ya get me ?
Our deal with the driver was that he would wait to take us back to town.
And so it was the next morning at 5.15am that all four of us trundled - Raj like - towards the world famous site.
Still pitch dark when we got there - we made our way over the causeway by torchlight and towards the place of the rising sun.
Already it was getting crowded. So we perched ourselves on the steps of one of the buildings and awaited the dawn.
This account is deliberately less glib than normal. I feel that my opinion of the Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples need not be expressed here. It is clear to me that peoples feelings on the experience differ - and so they should! Some love it and some don't, etc. You should make up your own mind. But know this - at least at this time of year (March 31) - the weather is very hot. Not such a big deal - some might say - but the humidity is full on! We spent 12 hours on the site and by the end of it we were on our last legs. Yes, even me!
I should say that I had no intention of visiting the Wat when I came up from Phnom Penh - it's not really my thing. But you know how sometimes when you go upstairs at home and you can't remember what you went up for? - that's how I started to feel. The solution, they tell me, is to go back downstairs and start again. On balance - I thought it easier to just go to the Wat rather than go back down to Phnom Penh.
Was it the right decision? Mums the word!