Angkor sunset

After a few days in Phnom Penh, and a sorrowful exploration of Cambodia’s recent history, It’s time for us to move to Siem Reap and discover a more beautiful part of the country’s past : Angkor.
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The city of Angkor was once the capital of the Khmer Empire, spread across a 1000 square kilometers. Between the years 800 and 1400, successive emperors had a huge amount of temples built. Each one of them wanted something bigger and more magnificent than their predecessors, resulting in of the most splendid archaeological areas in the world.

If you want to visit the Angkor domain, you’ve got to pay an entrance fee, one day is 20$ and three days cost 40$. This is already quite an expense (regarding the regular Cambodian prices), but what you can do is buy a ticket after 5pm. It will be valid for the next day and you’ll also be able to access Angkor and enjoy the sunset there, for free. 😉

My friend Aurélien joined us since Phnom Penh, and we met two very friendly girls in Siem Reap, Mathilda and Tamar. Together we look for a place to have a good sight on Angkor at sunset. Several of them are well located, like Prea Roup or Phimeanakas, but we decide to go for a higher point of view : Phnom Bok.

This hill is pretty far away from the main entrance (+20km), so it takes a 45 minutes tuktuk ride to reach it. After a long series of negotiations, we find someone willing to take us to Phnom Bok and back for 3-4$ each.

We’re just in time to buy our tickets, enter the site, and get to the hill as the sun is starting to set. Someone tries to stop us, telling the hill is closed and he is a policeman, but as soon as he starts talking about money we just keep on moving. There, pretty big stairs await us. You’ve got around 600 steps to climb to the top, and it’s still 30°C at this time of the day. The good thing is, we’re all alone here, we’ve got the whole hill for ourselves.
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As we’re approaching the top, an awesome view of the surrounding countryside unveils. It’s very rewarding once you reach the summit, there’s those gorgeous temples invaded by trees and still no living soul in sight. We enjoy a little pause and start looking for point of view from which we could see Angkor Wat, and the sun setting behind it. Unfortunately the top of the hill is covered with thick trees and it’s impossible to see what’s going on to the west. The nearest vantage points are the nearby temples, they’re around 10 meters high and seem pretty easy to climb, it’s hard to resist the urge 😅
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At this point we can’t really get higher. We still can’t get a clear sight of the west, but now unveils a new perspective on the north, with mountains in the horizon, and the south, completely flat. We settle there for a few minutes, and enjoy the light until the sun is completely set.

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We walk our way down with the help of flashlights, it’s all dark now. At the foot of the hill still waits our tuktuk driver, and the pretended policeman from earlier with him. It turns out he’s a real officer and he’s a bit unhappy about us. It feels kind of sad, because he waited all this time just to make sure we’re safe.

During our ride back, it seems we’re the only visitors left in Angkor. All we can see is the lit houses and campfires from the people who live here, spots of light here and there. It was an awesome evening, we’re all tired but fulfilled by this experience. We agree to rest for the night, because tomorrow we have to wake up at 4am. We’re going to attend the sunrise in front of Angkor Wat.

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