Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Since I started my trip I repeatedly heard people ask “Have you photographed Angkor Wat yet?”. When I arrived at Angkor Wat I understood why – the place is a total zoo and everyone has a camera. I arrived before sunrise and found hundreds of people crowded up against the famous reflecting pool with flashes going crazy: it felt like I was surrounded by paparazzi. Never in I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many flashes going off at once despite the fact that the flash photos were blowing out the lotus paddies in the foreground and not even reach the temple which was easily 150 meters away.


Whenever I see beautiful potted flowers in South East Asia they always turn out to be plastic so I was thrilled to see these vibrant lotus flowers all over the Angkor moats.


The upside of visiting Cambodia in the dry season is that you don’t slog through muddy roads and visit temples in the rain. The downside is that you don’t get dramatic clouds at sunrise. Instead of going for a more traditional shot I grabbed a silhouette.


Many people saw the back of my camera and said “nice photo!” before either standing right in front of me or placing their cameras in front of mine. I tried to explain “just because I have a big camera doesn’t mean I have the best angle” but that didn’t stop them, they assumed I must have camped out and chose that spot for a reason but the reality was that I was late to the game and crammed into the corner. I didn’t pass up the opportunity to grab this shot though!


After sunrise thousands of people poured into the front of the temple so I ran around back only to find construction. The famous Churning of the Milk Sea bas relief was being restored which was really disappointing as I was excited to see it after learning about Buddhism and Hinduism on my travels.


Angkor Wat was not built with all of the same stone. Some of the building materials have stood up to the weather while others have eroded.


The sunrise light painted some beautifully warm shapes on the walls.


I stood in this hallway for a good half an hour waiting for it to clear and caught this flexible girl photographing is boyfriend. I usually get funny looks when I sit on the floor or lay down to get photos so it always puts a smile on my face to see others doing the same.


By the time the hallway cleared out the light was a bit more harsh but still cast some beautiful lines.


Another hallway that took a long time to clear so I could photograph the headless Buddha statues. One secret of photography (especially travel photography) is to make the places you photograph look serene and empty. Don’t be fooled by these photos, this place felt more like Disneyland.


My friend Ashley pokes her head out as I experiment with ridiculously low depth of field.


I tried to get away from the crowds and explore the side gates and found this monk was rocking out to his MP3 player.


Since the crowds were so intense in the front of the temple I swung by the back and found this cute Cambodian girl wandering around in her pajamas. She kept looking back at the camera and smiling.


Once she saw that I was willing to take photos of her she ran up and posed for a few before laughing and running off. Adorable.


Good luck finding a bathroom on your way out. I followed four different bathroom signs and was led here. I think I was just trolled by Angkor Wat.


Fooled you! You fell for the oldest trick in the book, I can’t believe you man!


Bonus: Monkey Thief

Monkeys are all over South East Asia and they seem to be always eating or up to no good. This little monkey was no exception. He was just hanging out, enjoying his banana, and minding his own business when another monkey suddenly jumps in, swipes the banana, and runs off in the blink of an eye.


I could see the monkey thinking to himself… “That was so not cool. That was my banana!”


To the victor go the spoils.


That’s right monkey, I see you with your stolen banana! Keep running!


I looked back to see the first monkey still in shock and pondering the loss of his banana.


Despite the hoards of tourists, Angkor Wat was still an absolutely beautiful place to visit and I even came back a second time without my camera to just soak it all in. If you want to avoid crowds and the heat I strongly suggest you arrive before sunrise and check out the temple while everyone waits outside to take sunrise reflecting pool photos. As tourists start pouring in you can hop back on your bicycle and make your way over to the other nearby temples such as Bayon and Angkor Thom.