When visiting Angkor archaeological park, most sightseers enjoy the sunrise on the most famous Angkorian temple – Angkor Wat. It surely is spectacular and a must. But, outside the grand and petit circles of Angkor archaeological park, there are other beautiful sunrise-spots.
We found our favourite one – more or less by accident – at Banteay Srei. The temple looks like a miniature of the big Angkorian temples. We were amazed by the detailed ornamental carvings. When we went there, no other visitors were “in our way”. That was incredible.
Here is how we did it
The hotel we stayed in – Memoire d’Angkor – organised our tuk-tuk for visiting the sights. On the second day, after we already had gotten up at 4 am to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat the day before, we wanted to take it easy, relax at the pool and maybe visit some temples at sunset. However, our tuk-tuk driver recommended he would take us to Banteay Srei instead. He was very persuasive, so we agreed.
Once again, we woke up very early, rode the tuk-tuk for more than an hour through darkness and arrived at Banteay Srei around 6:30 just in time for sunrise. We were the first ones there! No buses, no tourist groups. The guards just started arriving, because the official opening time was at 7:30. They let us in anyway, and we had the whole temple for ourselves.
The sun was illuminating engravings of the sandstone walls, and the whole place was glowing in almost mystical orange-red tones. We felt as if we had travelled back in time. The whole spectacle lasted only a few minutes. When the sun gets a little higher, the temple changes its colour to faded red.
After our “private” visit of Banteay Srei, we enjoyed our packed breakfast under the trees in the temple’s picnic area and took a walk on a well-marked path around the temple. Striking swamplands full of rice plants and lotus flowers surround the area.
By the time we enjoyed our late morning tea on the terrace of a close-by restaurant, the first tour bus had arrived. We, on the other hand, got on our tuk-tuk and headed back to Siem Reap. On the way, we were stunned by views of the magnificent Cambodian countryside.
Sometimes we caught a glimpse of a tuk-tuk coming from the opposite direction and were surprised by all things a vehicle like this can carry.
We arrived back to Siem Reap just in time for lunch and had to admit: postponing our chill out time, was the best idea ever. So, if your plan for Angkor visit contains Banteay Srei – and we strongly suggest it should – go very early in the morning to get the most of it.