Having walked through the darkness at 5am we eventually came to the reflecting pools of Ankor Wat Temple. Only the faint silhouette of its immense structure was visible. Gradually, as the sun rose, the details of Ankor Wat became clearer with the pink hue of the sun rising behind. The first time we saw the temple as a whole was with the rising sun behind it which made the whole experience one that we could never forget. As we ventured into the temple itself, we were met with many atriums, corridors and steps so steep they were almost vertical towards the lilac sky. We learned later that the steepness was purposeful, a test to the monks of their faith.
With 72 major temples and several hundreds of other minor temples making up the Ankor Wat complex, it was impossible to see them all or even describe the 10 that we saw.
Each temple was different in design. Bayon was the most astounding and incredible one that I saw. An audience of Buddha heads and wide-eyed monkeys watch you as you walk up to its immense layout. Full of hidden passageways and atriums, you could easily get lost in the never ending maze.
Banteay Kdei Temple was equally beautiful. It was much quieter, with only us exploring it at the time. The temple consisted of a continuous walkway with atriums and archways on either side. As it was so long and thin it seemed as though we were walking into another world as we moved further down into the temple on eroding stone.
Another highlight was what can only be described as a temple in the trees. At first glance, the top of the temple had 3 turrets. Yet once the almost vertical steps were scaled we were met with 5 turrets. The centre one had windows on each side overlooking the forest. The light from the low sun framed the Buddha statue that stood pride of place in the epicentre of the temple.
All of the temples were ruins and perhaps not as extravagant as they once were. However, the detail of the engravings and the complexity of the buildings created a sense of awe among us. Not only as to how the intricacies had survived since 5BC but how it was built in the first place. Even with the materials and tools that we have today, it would seem impossible to do. There were no joins of different stones. The whole structure seemed to be one. It was as if it had been carved from the ground.