04:30 and the alarm goes off, I wake with the excitement of knowing we are going to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

As we drive in the pitch black I have no idea what to expect, we are taken down a dirt track, no one else in sight. How can this be that this, the largest temple in the world there is no one around. My guide grabs the torch and we get out of the car, I follow his footsteps and try to find my way in the fading light.

I ask why there is no one else around, we have entered from the east he tells me, everyone else enters from the west. I gradually make out the faint silhouette of the temple as my eyes adjust to the light, realising we are entering the walls surrounding Angkor Wat, it is only then I begin to realise the scale of the temple, it is magnificent. We pass pieces of the temple lying dormant on the grass, they may one day be placed back, or they may remain, untouched.

We head to the west and watch as hundreds of torches appear, everyone is wanting to catch the magical moment the sun rises behind the temple. Quickly, my guide ushers me to a spot in front of the water from where I do not move for forty minutes waiting, poised with my camera. As the sun creeps up I can see the trees framing the temple, showcasing five of the nine towers of the temple.

The colours in the sky transform before my eyes as the sun appears. The reflection hits the water creating a mirror image, my guide was right, I am in the perfect position. Crowds form around me, everyone wanting to be in the best spot, I smile knowing I have it, overwhelmed by how incredible this morning has been already. Little did I know this was only the beginning and the wonders lived within the temple walls. Every wall has intricate carvings, each telling a wonderful mythical story. My eyes are transfixed to every chiselled piece of sandstone, creating interesting and unique three-dimensional drawings, each telling a unique story. I am left staggered trying to figure out how many years this must have taken, let alone the number of people, to create. It is at this point I realise that the inside of the temple is actually more magical than the outside.

Siem Reap in the company of experts

An expert guide can be the difference between a great holiday and an amazing one. Mr Po-Thai is just that; a local Cambodian and one of the country’s top archaeologists, he has featured in documentaries by the BBC and National Geographic as an expert on the temples of Angkor. A day spent exploring Angkor with him will surely be a highlight of any holiday to Cambodia.

Beyond Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor is some beautiful rural countryside, much of which is rarely explored by visitors to the country. Join former tuk-tuk driver and self-taught photographer Mr Kimleng for a day hearing about his life in Cambodia and capturing images of vibrant villages, lush paddy fields and local people working the land.

Thanks for reading

Author: Steppes Travel