This morning was the earliest wakeup call of the entire expedition so far. At 4:00am my iPhone played one of my favourite songs as I dragged myself out of bed. I was planning on putting the Temples off for a few days to give my body and mind a rest after the whirlwind that was China. The problem is that it is the Lunar New Year in a few days and the traffic at the temples will be insane as every Cambodian makes their way to Siem Reap, the cultural heart of the country.
Two cans of Nescafe coffee and a multivitamin later, I arrive at the gates. I shower myself in insect repellent and head into the pitch black morning. The walk over the moat surrounding Angkor Watt was an experience in itself. You could hardly see a thing but in an instant, the light came over the horizon and outlined the gate of the temple. That is the panoramic first picture below. Imagine a black sky turns to that in a few seconds. It was incredible.
The long walk to the reflecting pool was peaceful, even with the other tourists and photographers around me. You could hear millions of insects filling the air with their calls. As I arrived at the reflecting pool, it looked like a camera show. In addition to all of the tourist class cameras, there were tons of professionally equipped photogs out there. All the major brands were represented. Canon, Nikon, Manfrotto, Lowepro and many more. I even saw someone shooting with the 17mm Canon Tilt Shift I have my eye on!
As the sun broke over the horizon, you could actually see the colours changing, both in the sky and on the temple itself. The perfect mirror of the reflecting pool made for some great shots. After blowing through about 8GB of memory in the first 20 minutes, I stopped and reflected as I just checked off another bucket list item, “Watch the sunrise over Angkor Watt”. It was more beautiful than I had imagined.
After exploring the complex, my driver took me to the next temple, Angkor Thom. I found some traditionally dressed locals that I was able to photograph and I loved the colourful images. From there it was off to Ta Prohm, the location they used to shoot the movie Tomb Raider. This is where I felt like Indiana Jones. Around every corner, there were moss covered statues, relics and walls. Images of the opening sequence from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” ran through my head I walked through the giant trees and collapsed and weathered structures.
By this time it was only 9:30am but I had already been up and running around for 5 hours. I needed some gas in the old tank and my driver promised to take me to a traditional restaurant for a great meal. I was treated to fragrant Beef Lok Lok and a fried egg served with steamed rice.
Being around thousands of tourists all morning left me feeling a little ripped off from the real cultural experience, so I asked my driver to take me to somewhere off the beaten path. We visited a lotus flower farm and then a village about 20km from Siem Reap. Children were playing in the streets and locals were harvesting and drying rice. It made for some great shots.
By the time the clock struck high noon, I was completely spent. I rested for a while and then got right to work on the images. As you will see, there are tons of them and I could not wait to get them up on the Blog to share them!