When the alarm went off at 4:30 on New Year’s Day, it was still night outside and I was disoriented. Wha..? Oh yeah, Angkor Wat. Sunrise. The tuk tuk driver would be here at 5. I’m the early riser in the family, so rousing the troops fell to me. We stumbled into the tuk tuk in a surprisingly cold world and off we went. There were many other vehicles heading to the same place, another surprise since so many revellers had been out ringing in the new year. But watching the sun rise over the Angkor Wat towers is a beautiful thing, so we joined the crowds.
We didn’t stay too long but rather returned to the hotel for a nap. Afterwards, the kids were delighted to swim at a nearby hotel while we parents were at least as delighted to rent a motorbike and head off on our own!
Next we went to Banteay Srei, 20 kms away,which was a bit of a drive. We had been aiming for a closer temple but missed a sign and decided to continue to follow the signs we did see. We ended up at a highly recommended temple, built in 967, possibly by the tutor of King Jayavarman V. Interestingly, it is known as ‘Citadel of the Women’ and said to have been built by women, since the carvings are so intricate.
We made the trip back and went to Banteay Samre, a Hindu temple built in the early 12th century and named for the Samre people of early Indochina. We had originally been headed here. It is off the beaten path, but not far from it.
We went by Angkor Wat for the sunset, since it was on our way back and we hoped for smaller crowds. It was still fairly crowded, still gorgeous in the fading light.