As we rode out to Angkor Thom our tuk-tuk driver informed us that not many people go out there for sunrise. "No good view, are you sure you want to go there?" "Yes, we are sure!" But it didn't take us long to figure out why no one goes there for sunrise; as we approached the entrance to Angkor Thom, we were met with a road block.
Technically, the temple is closed to the public before sunrise! For a moment, I thought we were going to have to turn back and meet the masses at Angkor Wat. Without skipping a beat, our tuk-tuk driver moved the gates out of the way and we passed through with ease. (I love countries where rules are more like suggestions than actual laws.)
Angkor Thom is actually an ancient city complex encompassing several different temples. We hadn't really done our homework so we weren't sure where to go. Thankfully we had a tuk-tuk driver who, although a bit lazy, knew what he was doing. He took us straight to the gem of Angkor Thom: the Bayon Temple.
From a distance, Bayon looks like a big pile of rocks, but up close you can see that all of the towers are covered in huge stone faces. Every tower has 4 faces, one facing each cardinal direction.
serene and smiling faces surround you at the Bayon Temple
Save for one lone photographer, we were all by ourselves in the temple. For a half an hour, we crept though the dark corridors, unsure what we would find around each corner.
The temple was completely silent, except for the occasional squeaks of bats getting ready for their dawn feast.
our first glimpse of the faces in the dark
As the first light broke through the darkness, the bats came out in full force. They were flying so fast that we could barely catch a glimpse of them, but we could hear them. It was a deep, bass sound a bit like a heart beat "vhoomp, vhoomp.... vhoomp vhoomp" zooming past us.
elaborate base reliefs of the apsara dancers that adorn all Khmer temples
The Bayon Temple in the early morning light
me and my favorite Bayon face