City of Temples
Our tuk-tuk driver arrived at 4am, we could tell because the host of stray dogs outside our hostel started a chorus of barking at him that I think woke up the entire block. We groggily wiped the sleep from our eyes and stumbled outside into the cart and started speeding off into the darkness - we wanted to get to Angkor Wat to see the sun rise up from behind the temples, so we had to get going early.
Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments in the world, a huge complex of temples and statues and intricate stone carvings. We settled into our spot in the lawn as the first light started to paint the sky through the spires of the temple, the colors changed minute-by-minute and we sat enthralled. We snapped a few pictures here and there, but it was one of those experiences you just have to have cameras down, eyes up.
After the sunrise we were free to explore, the complex is huge and we spent hours just wandering. Our driver took us around to all the best spots, telling us the names in Cambodian and giving us the history behind each temple - there was Bayon, a monument covered with a multitude of serene, almost eerie smiling faces; and Ta Keo, an unfinished temple that legend says was struck by lightning before it was completed, which was seen as bad luck thus work was halted; and Ta Phrom, most famous for being where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed, filled with gigantic trees and root systems that are beginning to grow back into the stony walls.
We coasted along the streets of the park, at each turn admiring the intricate reliefs adorning the walls of the temples, the huge spires that overlook the grounds. It is hard, even now, truly to comprehend the magnitude and harmony.