Ah the 3.45am alarm bell, how I love thee not. Let me tell you when you add into the mix a Cutts and a Diamond to the grumpy, sleep deprived Perry you get one quiet getting ready to go experience as you prepare to visit the temples of Angkor Wat at sunrise.
We’d already sorted our tuktuk driver and sure enough, as we emerged bleary eyed into the pitch black of Siem Reap pre dawn there he was, equally sleepy but smiley none the less.
We were soon our way, the chill of the night air a cruel shock to the system as we sped along. There was little traffic on the road at the ungodly hour of 4.30am and nearly all of it consisted of tuktuks full of tourists of all shapes and sizes heading in the same direction as us.
First stop was the ticket office. People were piling out of their tuktuks, some wandering lazily towards the counters, others speeding head on as if in an episode of The Amazing Race. I was totally hooked on this programme when I lived in China and in my head we were at that point in our journey winners by a mile as we strolled nonchalantly into a queue. And yep, you’ve probably guessed it, it turned out to be the slowest moving queue of them all. That said, before we knew it we were photographed, paid up and heading back to the tuktuk with our passes in hand.
And here’s where the fun began. What was The Amazing Race turned into Wacky Races in a flash. Tuktuks performed seemingly impossible manouveres as each and every one of them tried to escape the parking frenzy and make the journey proper to the temples. All that was missing was the evil laughter of Dick Dsterdly and Muttley as they plotted their sabotage.
Speed was of the essences as we bumped and bashed our way over the potholed route, passing and being passed by others all eager to achieve the holy grail. As we sped along the wind got stronger, it got progressively colder and Auntie Yvonne, in true Penelope Pitstop style, flung a scarf around her shoulders and dropped her sunglasses onto her nose to protect her from the elements.
We were by now on a long straight road along a lake that looped back on itself to reveal a stream of rear lights heading ever onwards.
As we swooped around the bend I looked ahead and there they were – the towers at the gates of Angkor sillhouetted against the black blue of the sky. Prompts to mum to look were met with a “what am I looking at?” followed by an “oh I thought they were trees” and so it was that we reached the end of the road – literally – giggling away. We hopped (or stumbled/clambered/tripped more accurately) out of the tuk tuk to join the throng as we marched onwards towards Nirvana.
The walk was truly wonderful. Light was just starting to appear behind the towers of the temples as we walked the long promenade to the gate that would lead us to the centre and our viewing spot.
Once there we found our spot(s). Me by the mozi infested lake to capture the money shot and mum and auntie Yvonne on the steps of a building to one side to rest (mum later revealed she had excruciating back pain and was struggling to stand) and take in the sunrise.
And as it rose it was truly stunning. The sky turned pink as slowly the towers of Angkor Wat were lit from behind by the sun. The reflection on the lake grew and, apart from the clicking of cameras there was a hush to the place, despite the thousands we shared the event with.
Eventually the sun was high enough that we could see fairly well and so we headed in to explore.
Although it’s my second time to visit, it was no less awe inspiring than before. It beggars belief how, thousands of years ago such amazing feats of engineering and intrecate creative exploits were carried out. Every turn provokes another gasp, your eyes struggling to choose where to focus, such is the quantity and quality of the beautiful art and architecture that surrounds you.
We wandered in and out of libraries and chambers, stepping into huge openings to view the stunning beauty of more temples and carvings that would greet us.
By 7.30am we were ready to move on and so, fortified by extremely strong coffee and antiseptic tasting tea at the Angeleina Jolie (sic) cafe on site we headed back to the carpark to find our tuktuk among the seemingly millions of other, identical tuktuks that scattered the grounds. Eventually we met up and were on our way, this time to visit one of my favourites, Angkor Thom and the great temple of Bayon.