The air practically drips its so humid. It only takes a couple of minutes of walking before you’re coated in sweat. You’d think with it being the rainy season, the heat would break but if anything it swells more and more as the day progresses.
The day I saw Angkor Wat was quite possibly the sweatiest day of my life.
Angkor Wat was voted the number one place in the world to visit by Lonely Planet in 2015.
I’d heard mixed reactions about it, from sheer amazement to a scrunched up face saying it’s over-hyped. I’d read to be wary of the huge crowds and paparazzi camera flashes. I thought I would constantly have to duck to avoid selfie sticks. Nonetheless I was unbelievably excited to get to see the sight for myself.
We arrived, crossing a bridge to get in to the temple complex, it was still so dark and it took me a while to distinguish the blackness alongside as water.
I could see ghostly grey structures of the temple, daylight would bring them to life.
Yes, there were crowds gathering but not the festival levels I had been picturing in my head. The number of people there couldn’t distract from the increasingly impressive scenery surrounding us. The sky was beginning to lighten and I kept turning my head, trying to take in the sights and telling myself to remember this moment.
I didn’t see the sun physically rise as it was cloudy but I saw it blearily through the clouds, creating a glorious golden haze around the temple.
We walked back down to meet up with the group and begin exploring Angkor Wat.
Our guide explained the history, pausing at the engravings to tell us the story behind them. I tried my best to listen, I honestly did, but it was just so hot, even though the day had barely scraped its way into morning. I tried to focus on the information rather than the quick relief of my wafting fan.
As it was so early, it was fairly quiet as we braved the heat and walked around. There was such a serene and respectful atmosphere. Despite Angkor Wat being such a major attraction now, it did not feel like a tourist trap. At least, to me it didn’t. Even though I was one of thousands of visitors that day, I felt like I was a part of something special.
One of my favourite moments, other than the sunrise, was this view:
In the middle of such a large, lush landscape, it could be hard for a manmade structure to be impressive but Angkor Wat was absolutely astounding.
All this sightseeing, plus the increasing temperature proved to be too much. One member of the group valiantly tried to make himself a comfortable temperature by lying completely still on a wall.
During the day we saw two more temples.
Bayon Temple (also known as Four faced Buddha Temple)
Ta Prohm Temple (also known as known as Tomb Raider Temple)
It was overwhelming in the best possible way. I struggled to take it all in. It felt like I was on some sort of film set, but it was all so wonderfully real.
I was in awe of it all but at the same time, I think I got the sense of what it feels like to be a roast potato. There’s only so much sun my pasty skin can handle. My British senses took over and I simply had to find a spot to sit in the shade.
If you’re wondering, that spot was an alcove in a temple, looking at one of the faces of the Buddha. I deemed it acceptable, still admiring the beauty of the place but in a marginally cooler place.
Later that evening, after a very much needed shower, we went quad biking around the countryside, which was exhilarating. Me being my usual coordinated self had to be with a guide as I did not well in the test drive. It was a great way to go sightseeing and take in the lush Cambodian countryside. I never would have considered doing it by myself.
And of course, the perfect way to end a day of temple sightseeing and being up at 4:30 in the morning is to stay up until two in the morning, drinking beers and singing karaoke. We were accompanied by a local with a pony tail, a toothy grin and a love of what I assume are popular Cambodia ballads. For every song we sang, he was ready with at least two more.
I’d like to thank beer and a lack of sleep for the songs I chose to sing: Dizzee Rascal – Holiday and Kanye West – Heartless.
You are welcome karaoke bar audience.
The Cambodian entries aren’t written in chronological order.
We travelled: Siem Reap – Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville
This was part of the G Adventures Indochina Discovery Tour. If you have any questions about this tour, I would be more than happy to answer them.