I got up early again, even earlier than yesterday, in order to enjoy the sunrise at Angkor Wat from the first settle illuminations in the sky to the moment when the sun finally shows. The sky was cloudier than the last time and there was no mist, so I won’t be able to beat the shots I uploaded yesterday. Instead I want to write about an interesting observation I made today.
Even though Angkor Wat is huge and offers enough place for the masses of tourists that arrive daily to experience the sunrise, they tend to gather in a few distinct spots. The most popular are the ponds that are situated on the left and right hand side in front of the temple as these offer the opportunity to catch Angkor Wat with a nice reflection. However, the tourists distribution among those two ponds is, lets call it uneven:
Map of Angkor Wat (used under CC license by WikiVoyage) Red circle indicates the crowded left side spectactor point
To be honest, I get goosebumbs from looking at the crowd. I could hardly imagine a more unrelaxed and more unatmospheric place to shoot a sunset from than this. This is why I decided to head to the right hand side instead. I was more than amazed to realize that I was the ONLY person there for the first 45 minutes of my stay. Both shots were taken around 5:45AM, around 15 minutes before the sunrise, at this time the right hand side had gathered a total of 4(!) spectators, while the left hand site might add up to 150 people (ballpark guess).
Now, it might be that the images you can get on the left hand side are a tad better (I did not check this yet but will certainly do in the coming days), if that is the case the difference can’t be too big. As the temple is symmetrical and the ponds are about the same size, the situation is more or less the same. It might be that the sun comes up a bit more to the left, which would still give you plenty of photo opportunities from the other side. You also need to remember that dozens of people in such a crowd have no idea how to use their camera, which leads to a high frequence of camera flashes fired permantly. If you plan to shoot long exposures, this can easily ruin your shots.
I personally really enjoyed the sunrise from the right hand side. It was quiet, it was serene and it was easy to believe that I was the only person on the temple ground. I guess in the end it all comes down to whether you want to experience this moment or whether you want to capture it from what is said to be the best angle. I can only recommend to give it a shot and head to the right.
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