Angkor Wat has been a on my bucket list since I was a child, so traveling to Cambodia was a big deal for me. The visit to Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples was amazing. I could have stayed for ages photographing in there if it wasn’t for the $40/three days entry fee. We’ve all seen the iconic sunrise pictures of Angkor Wat, and since I was there, I decided to take some myself. So I scouted the area for a good place come back to and shoot from the next morning, and started to prepare for the day after. The sun was expected to rise at 06:30am.
But you know those days when everything just seems to go wrong, well, the following day turned out to be one of them. To start with, I overslept. So I got up att around 05:50 and didn’t have nearly as much time as I had planned for. When I was ready to take off from my hotel, which was about 5km (3miles) from the temple, I grabbed my bike only to discover it had a flat tire, I didn’t bother, I was late and therefore continued to bike out to the main road where I figured I could catch a tuk-tuk to the temple instead of biking all the way to save some time. Halfway there, I realised I had forgotten my tripod. Back to the hotel. It’s now less than 30 minutes to sunrise. New attempt. When finally at the main road, it turned out that the lock to my bike had fallen out of the basket on the handlebar somewhere along the road. At this point I started to panic, I should have been there by now. Luckily after only a few minutes of intense waving at tuk-tuk’s passing by, I managed to get hold of one. I tried to explain as best as I could that I couldn’t lock my bike, and that we had to throw it on the tuk-tuk and take it back to the hotel. It finally clicked and we went back at the hotel. Again. I quickly left the bike in the bike stand and rushed out to the tuk-tuk. Finally, I’m thinking, let’s go! But not so fast. As we start negotiating the price, it turns out the driver didn’t have any cash on him, at all, and ergo, no change. He wanted $5, and I only had a $20 bill.
It was no longer dark outside, around 06:10, and to say I was stressed would be the eufemism of the century. So what do we do? He had no cash, I had too much, and there’s not a single atm in sight. He figured we could get some change at the entrance to the temple area, so finally, off we went. He was wrong. It took a great deal of time just to explain to the cashiers at the entrance that I had a $20 bill, and wanted four $5 bills instead, but when they finally understood, it was a big no no. We got back in the tuk-tuk and drove to the parking lot outside the temple and found a small caravan that sold sweets or something. I asked the driver (who could explain things in Khmer) to take my bill and go get some change. He then came back with a mix of dollars and Riel, which to my mind resulted in an exchange rate that was out of this world, but I had to let it go. It was only a few minutes left until the sunrise. I quickly payed the driver and started running into the temple and just as I passed the first big wall and entered Angkor Wat, all the excitement and enthusiasm just disappeared in a heartbeat. There must have been thousands of tourists. At the very spot I had scouted the day before. And to top it all off, the sunrise wasn’t even that pretty.
But here’s the twist. After a while I managed to shake it all off and started to circle the area in pursuit of a new spot. I didn’t want to go home with more or less the same shot as all the tourists, so I tried to find a new angle. And as it turns out, there and then, I managed to take one of the best shots from the entire expedition (first shot in the slide).