6 January 2014, Angkor Pearl Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia
My husband and I got up very early today. I set my alarm at 4:20 am to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Sunrise doesn’t happen here until a couple of hours later but we were told we had to be there really early, as early as 5am, to get a nice spot to marvel the view at the break of dawn.
So we were outside the hotel at exactly 5am. Other tourists were already boarding their vans and tuktuks. I got the feeling that it was imperative to get there as early as possible so imagine my distress when Mr. Thet, our tuktuk driver assigned by the hotel, asked me to change my outfit and wear something more appropriate for visiting Angkor Wat.
Of course, I didn’t think about it much, that certain places in Cambodia would require a dress code. Mr. Thet told me to wear something that would cover my legs. I ran to our room to change into a yellow knee-length dress, perfectly decent for a Sunday mass, but he told me it wont do. My husband was now looking impatient while I was hyperventilating over the time I was losing finding the right outfit that would allow me entry to the temple.
After all my carefully ironed and hanged clothes flew from the closet and landed on the bed, I hurriedly settled into a pair of white pants and a printed top. I ran back to the tuktuk sans belt sweating like crazy at 5:15am. My pants were falling off because I lost weight during this holiday but there was no time to look for a belt. We must get there fast, we must get there fast, this I was mentally telling myself.
And so we joined the exodus towards Cambodia’s, if not the world’s, biggest religious monument. If you didn’t know what was going on, you would think World War Z was happening, that people were running away from zombies, except we were the zombies in varying state of mis-matched clothing.
It was still pitch dark when we entered the temple grounds. Thank goodness for smartphones, we were able to navigate towards the spot. This is when I started thinking if the aliens were watching us with their hi-tech telescopes from some galaxy above, they would probably shake their cone heads in bewilderment. “Alien, the human race is really strange,” is what they would be saying.
And it was strange, at least for my husband and me. Imagine a few thousand people packed like sardines standing before the temple’s lily pond with their cameras and smartphones and DSLRs on tripods snapping left and right at the still dark temple. I’m a sucker for sunrise and sunset, and I’m guilty of taking photos too much sometimes but this is no defining moment. The only thing this whole business of catching the sunrise in Angkor Wat gives me is yet another confirmation that crowds really kill the moment, any moment. It was so crowded that even the mosquitoes probably had their own version of exodus because for once I was not bitten by one. I can just imagine them shrieking “human infiltration!” as they flew away from the madness of it all.
I began to wonder, who started this all? Who started selling the idea that you must catch the sunrise here? And how did the tourists, including us, bought it out so blindingly? I mean, why do we do things we are told we must without asking what’s in it for us?
Don’t get me wrong, Angkor Wat is definitely beautiful and is worth the expensive airfare from anywhere in the world. It is massive, impressive, intricate and jaw-dropping, but I will never recommend catching the sunrise here. There was no dramatic display of colors in the sky, just the usual hue of indigo and blue before the sun rises. Or maybe I am just spoiled. I witnessed far more awesome sunrise growing up in a coastal town somewhere in the Philippines, alone.
So much ado about nothing. We could have slept in and saved ourselves the hassle. After all, Angkor Wat will always be magnificent whatever time of the day it is.
Then again, maybe you should catch the sunrise here and tell me what you think. Laughing at the ridiculousness of it all including my wardrobe woes (which in the end was unnecessary because there were lots of women wearing short shorts), is what makes this whole experience memorable for my husband and me.