I wrote previously about New Year 2011, which I spent in New York, and commented that although it was a spectacular evening, the sunrise the following morning was not as spectacular as that the previous year: New Year Sunrise in Cambodia. I had arrived in Siem Reap early on the morning of the 31st, having spent the previous evening in Bangkok, having arrived there from Delhi, which in turn was a stop off en route from London, after having spent the Christmas period in Suffolk. All in all, we were a little tired from all the travel, but spent New Year’s Eve looking around some of the Angkor temples near Siem Reap. Most people have heard of Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples in the area, however, there are a large number of other temples and cities in the area that are stunning. We spent the morning looking around various temples.
After lunch near the Royal Baths, we headed off to the very beautiful Banteay Srei. The temple is known as the “precious gem”, or “jewel of Khmer art”, or “The Beautiful Temple”. We were told that the literal name – “the citadel of women” – came from a belief that a place so beautiful could only have been created by women.
We climbed to the top of another temple, where we could watch some local farm work in progress.
From the top of the temple, we watched the sun set. Watching the sun go down behind the trees whilst surrounded by the splendour of the Angkor Temples on New Years Eve was quite something.
We spent that evening at a rather interesting New Years Eve party, full of traditional Khmer dancing and entertainment. The entertainers included those in masks and costumes. We even took part in some dancing, which did lead to us being not only invited to another party a few days later, but to me giving out some awards. That’s a whole other story.
However, the whole point of this story is to talk about New Year’s Day. It had been quite a late night after a few hours travelling, and getting up very early did not seem a good idea at the time. However, we persevered and headed to the Royal Baths to watch the sun rise. It was spectacular. There was no one else to be seen.
From there, we headed to Ta Prohm. This temple is famous not just because of the trees that grow through the walls of the ancient structure, but also because of its appearance in the film Tomb Raider.
The temple is normally packed full of people, but no one else had ventured there before six o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Day, which gave us the place entirely to ourselves. It was stunning. The silence of the temple added an eerie but wonderful feeling to the place. In walking through the ruins, we heard an odd noise, which transpired to be a bat trapped in a net. We rescued the bat, and released it back to the wild. Not only had we witnessed something quite special, we had also helped a creature out.
We spent a long time just sitting, watching and listening to the birds start their dawn chorus, enjoying New Year’s Sunrise in Cambodia. It is a morning that I will remember for a very long time to come.