Photo Essay: Sunrise to Sunset at the Temples of Angkor

by Ekua on March 28, 2013 in Cambodia,captured on memory card,why i travel

As the sun rose, I noticed that the pictures hadn’t really told the story. They didn’t explain how watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat meant arriving in the dark, completely unaware of the temples nearby, hidden in the darkness. They didn’t tell of someone selling sunrise viewings from an air balloon and how tempting it would sound before deciding that it made more sense to view the sunrise from the ground.

In the pictures, there was no man selling cups of coffee unexpectedly filled with sweetened condensed milk that you’d sip as you waited for the sun to come up.  The pictures did not play the unbelievably powerful sounds of the cicadas piercing through the pinkening sky or the even more powerful serenity that somehow drowned out their racket as the sun revealed itself between the peaks of Angkor Wat.

They did not tell of the vendors rushing up at the entrance of each temple and their drawl, “Excuse meee. Miiiss. You buuuy?” They did not tell you how their charm and persistence could make your heart break for Cambodia and its struggles and fall in love with the country at the same time.

You could not feel the heat of the Cambodian sun through those pictures and they didn’t foretell the breaks you’d take throughout the day to get out of the sun. You couldn’t tell from the pictures how infectious the smiling faces of the Bayon Temple would be. The pictures did not tell of the profound reverence experienced at a Ta Prohm sunset and the beauty of nature reclaiming what humans built, the scene humbling and all aglow as the sun dropped behind the temples and the trees.


I remember the the first time I saw pictures of the stripped down, crumbled temples of Angkor. “Where is this?!” I asked the person who’d posted them. Not knowing much about the region at the time, they became the first impetus for my Southeast Asia trip.

Those pictures only told part of the story, but they piqued my interest and inspired me to visit not only a country, but a whole region. Those first pictures I saw did not sum up Cambodia or even Angkor Wat as the photographs below also do not. But was grateful for those pictures doing what pictures do, capturing neatly bordered snapshots of a place, inviting me to come experience it for myself with surround sound and a 360 degree view.

Angkor Wat Sunrise, Cambodia Angkor Wat Sunrise, Cambodia Angkor Wat Bas Reliefs, Cambodia Angkor Wat, Cambodia Angkor Wat, Cambodia Angkor Wat, Cambodia Angkor Wat Bas Reliefs, Cambodia Angkor Thom Gate, Cambodia Road to Angkor Thom, Cambodia Road to Angkor Thom, Cambodia Angkor Thom Gate, Cambodia Angkor Thom, Cambodia Angkor Thom, Cambodia Angkor Thom, Cambodia Angkor Thom, Cambodia Angkor Thom, Cambodia Ta Prohm at Angkor, Cambodia Ta Prohm, Cambodia Ta Prohm, Cambodia Ta Prohm, Cambodia

Author’s note: I am not currently in Southeast Asia and I’m not planning on traveling in the region any time soon. I visited Southeast Asia in 2008 and recorded my stories from that trip on another site before I started blogging independently. I’m rewriting and sharing my favorite stories here.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen March 29, 2013 at 1:52 am

It’s definitely on my list, thanks for sharing such great pictures.


emma@gottakeepmovin March 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I’ve always wanted to go to Angkor Wat, and this post has made me want to go even more! Inspiring words and beautiful photos, thanks for sharing.


Andi of My Beautiful Adventures March 29, 2013 at 2:44 pm

These photos are outstanding! I’m DYING to visit!!!!


Ekua April 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm

@ Jen, Emma, and Andi – Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Angkor Wat was an awesome experience and it quickly became my favorite historical site!


Mindy and Ligeia April 2, 2013 at 3:08 am

We have visited Cambodia yet but we can’t wait until we do! These pictures are fantastic! We particularly love the ones where the trees have grown up around the buildings. Nature always prevails in the end. 🙂


herbsees April 3, 2013 at 4:45 am

Great post and pics, as always. It is so true, pictures never tell the whole story.


Sunanda April 3, 2013 at 6:56 am

You’re so right! The smiling faces are so infectious. Hope to be there, someday. Moving words!


Oneika the Traveller April 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Love your pics, Ekua!


Vanessa April 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Gorgeous photos – it looks so peaceful! I think I need to start planning a trip myself!!


Cindy April 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm

What a lovely post – both your essay and the photos capture the experience so well.


Daniel @ A Cruising Couple April 14, 2013 at 2:50 am

Beautiful pics! They say pictures are worth a thousand words, but they never do tell the whole story do they? My first ancient temples were in Indonesia and I was absolutely blown away. Very impressive stuff.


Ekua April 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm

@ Mindy and Ligeia, Oneika, and Vanessa – Thanks, this was really fun place to photograph.
@ Herb – Always fun to see you resurface, hope you are doing well!
@ Sunanda, Cindy, and Daniel – I think it’s especially easy to look at pictures of well known places beforehand and not think about the actual experience so I enjoy adding a bit of the real experience in posts famous site. Glad that you enjoyed both the photos and the write up.


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