First Sunrise of the Year

After going to bed early the night before, we woke up early for the experience we had been planning for the trip, seeing the first sunrise of the year 2011 at Angkor Wat. We were ready to go before 6 am when it’s still dark. Our tour guide Vanna and Hour came on time to pick us up. They looked quite sleepy; it turned out that they actually went to celebrate New Year’s Eve in downtown Siem Reap as well, and they stayed there until after midnight.

The short drive from the hotel to Angkor Wat went like the day before — we waited a little bit at the entrance of the Angkor Archaeological Park to get our entrance passes checked. When we arrived at Angkor Wat, however, we realized that there were significantly more people compared to the previous morning. We’re not the only ones with the idea of going to see the first sunrise of the year at Angkor Wat. Perhaps some people even went directly from celebrating in downtown Siem Reap to end their New Year’s celebration with watching sunrise at Angkor Wat.

The picturesque north pond near the temple was already surrounded by the crowd waiting for the sun to rise and seeing the reflection of the temple on the pond. We decided to go to the south pond across the walkway instead. It was less picturesque as the pond’s water surface seemed a little murky, but there were not that many people there. So I set up my tripod and camera to wait for the sunrise. As we waited for the sunrise, we saw a group of Cambodian children with some adult chaperones gathering near us. It seemed like they were a group doing a field trip — perhaps children from villages or from an orphanage. They seemed to have fun; entertaining and great to see on the first day of the year.

The sun finally came up. The sky was a little cloudy, so the sunrise was not as clear as the day before. I was glad we were there the previous day and got the nicer photos already, but it’s still nice to fulfill our plan of celebrating the beginning of the year at Angkor Wat. It’s definitely a New Year’s Day to remember.

The photo below was taken after we took some photos on the south pond. We walked to the other side to watch people watching the sunrise there. You can see the crowd waiting to see the magical moment near the pond.

New Year's crowd

Southeast Asia

I spent this New Year at home — a low key one. But to start the new year for this blog, I thought I would begin with a series of posts based on my trip last year around the New Year’s Day to several Southeast Asian countries.

This trip started initially with an idea to go to Australia to visit my cousin who was studying in Melbourne. I was planning on going home to Indonesia, and I thought it would be nice to piggy back on that trip with ‘a trip within the trip’ to go somewhere near Indonesia. Well, the Australia trip ended up not working out, so I had to look for an alternative. The timing was at the end of December and beginning of January, as that was the time that would work best for my cousin Kristi who would be my traveling partner. We looked at several ideas: New Zealand (too expensive), China (too cold), and Japan (both too expensive and cold). Then we started thinking about where we would like to celebrate the New Year’s Day to make it memorable (with the original Australia trip, we were thinking about being in Sydney for the end of the year). One place came up to mind: Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Neither of us had been to Cambodia, it’s close to Indonesia, it’s relatively cheaper to travel there, and the weather should be pretty good at the end of December.

So that was the ‘anchor’ for the plan — New Year’s Day at Angkor Wat. Then we started building an itinerary around it. We thought of going for two weeks, so we started thinking about places in Cambodia and nearby countries that we would like to visit and the one that Kristi had not been before. I had never been to any of these countries, so any place we pick would be new to me.

Finally we settled on the following itinerary: starting with a couple of days in Bangkok, Thailand, then continued to Cambodia with visits to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (timed to be in Siem Reap for the New Year’s Day), then continued to Northern Vietnam with visits to the capital city of Hanoi, the mountain region of Sapa, and the famous Ha Long Bay, and finally ending with short stop in Singapore. So this series of posts will follow this trip and I will highlight places we visited and some unique travel experience from this trip.

The photo below was taken on the New Year’s Day at Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia. We decided to skip the New Year’s Eve celebration and went to bed early so we could get up early in the morning and experience the first sunrise of 2011 at Angkor Wat. So there it was… the most memorable New Year’s Day morning in my life to date.

First sunrise of the year