Sunrise is an hour away as I make my way along the wide pathway to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, located just north of Siem Reap. I am joined by 15 other Exodus Travels tourists and our guide, Vanney. On the edge of a reflecting pool, hundreds of other visitors jockey for position to get the best photo of the sun rising over the temple.
Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century. Estimated construction time is 30 years. Built by King Suryavarman II and dedicated to Vishnu, a Hindu god, it later became a Buddhist temple.
Time passes quickly as I chat with other tour members, all from America and the UK, and all friendly, funny, and curious about the past and this spectacular, 900-year-old, religious destination.
Although it is cloudy, the sun offers a few streaks of tangerine, gold and crimson. As soon as the light transforms into bright yellow sunshine, we all follow our guide to the temple.
Monkeys dart everywhere, stealing whatever food they can snatch from unsuspecting visitors. The beauty of the temple, its unbelievable intricacy and preservation, are awe inspiring. Through the first temple, we come out again to yet another and another.
The final temple is the most elaborate, with swimming pools on two floors. Buddhist monks bless visitors, tourists click off thousands of pictures, and everyone wonders at its very existence.