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Tripods at the ready for sunrise over Angkor


Angkor by nightIt is night. Aside from the sounds of crickets, everything is quite still. I am huddled in a corner of a flight of stairs. Ahead of me is a long stretch of grass and shimmering pond; beyond these rise the spires of a mammoth temple, a temple so huge, its wall and towers so gigantic that it is hard to take it in at once.

We are all waiting for dawn to break at Angkor Vat, Cambodia. Angkor, the largest temple on earth is a feast for the eyes, but a greater treat is watching the sun rise behind its spires. At this moment it now lies drenched in moonlight. It is a full moon night and every bit of the stairs and other ledges are filled with people. Hundreds more are milling around the courtyard.

I have always been fascinated by the rising and setting Sun and seek it everywhere. From the Ganges to the Nile and the flowing Danube and Volga, chasing the sun as it rises or sets on the distant horizon has been my passion. Having arrived a few days earlier at Phnom Penh the capital of Cambodia, sunrise over the Mekong had me all fired up. As we watched from the hotel balcony on Phnom Penh’s main avenue, the sky turned a light pink hue while a light orange disk steadily appeared behind the fishing boats. That disk, so serene and soft one moment soon turned into a hulk of fire by midday so that one had to make a quick retreat to the hotel room. On this trip I would get to watch this beautiful visual many times over; from the lounge of Frankfurt airport as the first soft rays broke through the gray horizon and from the towers of New Delhi. Here too the orange purple hue that appeared like a finely crafted jewel on the city skyline and would sear the city by midday.

As we wait patiently for daybreak on the ramparts of this great temple with its huge moat and causeway and layers upon layers of colossal walls, pillars and towers, we hear the first sounds of chirping birds as the inky black sky turns a dark blue. From the movements of the people around me and it becomes clear that the magic moment is fast approaching. Hundreds of people are pouring in every minute. Angkor is quite touristy and the sunrise is a big selling point. Everyone (and their dog) is armed with a camera and seeking good vantage point. Glad that I came in early, I quickly position my camera, stand and all on a flight of stairs just beyond the large pool off the causeway that leads into the main temple entrance. With this crowd I wonder if I would be able to get any good shots at all.

There is a small commotion as a large contingent of cows wanders into the courtyard. And suddenly without ado light golden rays appear against the temple spires. It is so spectacular and ethereal that the entire crowd lets off a collective gasp! I am so mesmerized and dumbstruck at this beautiful sight, the pinkish rays framing the spires of the towers and the reflection of the silhouette in the waters that I almost forget my camera mounted on its tripod stand, waiting for me to capture this moment. The moment when I saw the most beautiful sunrise. EVER.

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