Photo Focus – Sunrise to Sunset at Angkor Wat

This week’s Photo Focus includes many photos from my day spent at the temples of Angkor. Sunrise to sunset—it was spectacular.

My 4:30am wakeup call came far too early (as I’m sure my five dorm-mates would agree) and I was soon in a tuk-tuk, blazing towards the sunrise at the legendary Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Thankfully, this view made the whole endeavor worth it, and it was only 5:30am.



I had arrived just in time to get a spot amongst the few other tourists who were there to see the spectacle. Really too bad that more people haven’t heard about this place (insert sarcasm font).


As soon as the sun was up, I was one of the first to walk inside to explore. It was quiet and cool and I soaked in the details of the unbelievable architecture.

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About an hour later, I headed to the parking lot to find Voy, my tuk-tuk driver, who became my good friend over the course of the day. His parting line at each drop-off: “I’ll see you when you’re looking at me.” Love it.


We made our way to Angkor Thom, the ancient capitol city, which includes many spectacular temples. My favorite was Bayon, with its 216 faces that patrol every direction.  I was sure to be on my best behavior.DSC_6087


Next was Baphuon.


It was sticky and hot outside, so while I covered my shoulders inside the temples, I relaxed a bit while walking in-between. I’m getting decent at the self-timer, as all solo-travelers must!


The final morning stop was the legendary Ta Prohm, widely known as the “Tomb Raider” temple. I had been looking forward to photographing this location for years, but there was ongoing restoration work and swarms of tourists. Oh well, I still got a few.



At that point it was barely 10:00am and I was beat!  I tuk-tuk’d back to my hostel to rest for a few hours before catching the sunset.

Apparently 4:30PM was too late to make it to the “sunset viewpoint” and so my new tuk-tuk driver advised me to head to the backside of Angkor Wat for photos. I made my way there and was shocked to find that it was just me and eight other people, versus hundreds at sunset point. Huge score.

At first the lighting was underwhelming, but I still got a few nice images. I take photos on angles because it looks cool… and because I can only back up so far with my fixed lens.



I waited and waited and eventually, about 20 minutes after the last peek of sun over the temple, the sky began to turn a beautiful subtle shade of pink. My lens put me at a bit of a disadvantage so close to the temple, but by pasting together several images, I got my “big shot.”


And then this magic happened. The sunburst on the horizon was unlike anything that I had ever seen before—and my Nikon D7000 did not disappoint. The colors have not been doctored at all, just the exposure as it was a bit dark.

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By the end of the day, I had snapped around 400 frames, of which about 200 are worthy of editing. Narrowing them down to the few that you see here was tough, but I think that they do the special day justice. Thanks for checking this out and stay tuned for the upcoming post, “What not to wear to a wat.” So many unfortunate examples.

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  1. Paula

    Beautiful, Ali. I’ve always wanted to go there, so I really enjoyed your photos and commentary!

    1. abiggs9

      Thank you Paula! It is absolutely spectacular, and the pride of all Cambodians.

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