Holy cow. I am SHOCKED. I mean completely shocked at how open this sacred religious monument, ancient city, and new world tourist attraction is. You enter the temple complex and enter a land completely unknown to you. The city the Khmer empire created from the 9th to the 14th century is enormous. My mind could never fathom a creation like this. These are the most incredible ruins I have ever seen.
There are hardly any sections unavailable to the public. Nearly every place that we went to you could hike up, walk through, enter, and explore within your own imagination. Most ruins these days are now taped off viewing points as you are ushered from point A to B. Not here. And I am truly thankful we got to experience it before that changes - because it will, it has to. The ruins are approximately 900 years old. They are a wonder of the world (though, not technically). There will come a time when this complex has to be more protected and is not able to be explored in the unmonitored way that we did.
The first day we explored by bike. Everything is more rewarding when you break a little sweat to see it. So, of course we explored by bike. For thirty miles. We are in Cambodia. We must see it by bike! The ride out to the temples was beautiful. The lands are flat and you really get a look inside the locals' lives. Heading to the complex, monkeys play over the tops of your head by the dozens. Pigs roam the roads as well. We stayed the entire first day until the sunset and watched the sunset from the very top of one of the highest temples. Our ride back was dark, dusty, and we got lost. But some local girls on a dirt bike pulled over and pointed us in the right direction.
Our second day exploring Angkor Wat we started our day at 4 am to witness the very legendary Angkor Wat sunrise. Upon our arrival into Siem, we learned the Angkor Wat Half Marathon was happening that weekend. Come on, MAN. Of course my runners envy kicked in. Full throttle 🙄. Hardly containable. I actually went through my mind one hundred times on how to make this half marathon possible. 1) I have my shoes, duh. 2) I have my Garmin, not that that's needed. 3) I have my running legs. Let's do this! 😒 Then logical April kicked in. 1) I am sick, dehydrated, and just rode thirty miles on a bike. 2) The half marathon sold out (duh I checked every website - AND asked then locals). 3) We already paid to enter Angkor Wat at sunrise (which occurs on the dot at the same time the gun sounds). Uhh.
We took a tuk tuk to the entrance of Angkor Wat for the sunrise (which is also the start AND finish of the race). 🙄 Uh, kill me now. Anyone who knows me knows I suffer from a serious condition called "Runners Envy." This condition takes place in any and every moment I see a person running. Doesn't matter if it's in the rain or the snow, one person or 8,000. I see a runner. I want to join.
As we are walking up to Angkor, thousands of runners from all over the world are warming up, music is playing, monkeys are in the trees, a breeze is in the air, my adrenaline was pumpin! The starting point was perfect. I kicked myself in the ass about nine hundred times for not having just warn my running gear to watch the sunrise, then jumping into the streets to finish the run after I saw it come up - even if I wasn't registered, even if I didn't get a medal. I was fine by then. No more body aches, no more cold sweats. Just a serious case of runners envy. Uh.
We went into Angkor and the moat and massive stone walls surrounding slowly drowned out the commotion of the half marathon, silence was in here. Sunrise spectators began inching toward their spots and settling in for the view. The sun slowly began to rise over the five main temples of Angkor Wat. It was really peaceful. The concept of how perfectly the Khmer empire constructed these temples facing the west, so technical, so precise, so beautifully is amazing. Our sunrise was very soothing, but we had an overcast so we didn't witness any colors outside of grays and blues.
After the sunrise we got back in our tuk tuk and our driver took us to the first stop on our day two tour (yes, we had a driver that day - no bikes for us). When we got to the second stop the gates weren't even open. There were only three other people besides me and Zach standing at this gate. They let us in and the others stayed back a bit trying to get a shot of the entrance without tourists.
Zach and I entered the temple at 7:35 am on a Sunday, completely alone. Not a single soul in there. This entire massive structure, not one person here. It was incredible. It's amazing what seeing a monument like that without any crowds is like. People bring energy. And when the people are gone, all you feel is the energy of this creation. It really inspires your mind to mentally retract to this period of time and imagine what it was like to live in it. We spent quite a bit of time slowly strolling through these empty temples on this race day. Admiring the expertise it took to build it. Without any humans around.
At the end of day two I was worried my runners envy was going to drown out the experience I had just had. But it didn't. I am so grateful the Universe placed that half marathon before us that day. 1) There were so many people running the half marathon, no one was visiting the temples we were. And the people who weren't running, were watching. We got to experience this massive landmark in almost complete solitude for a couple of hours. Who can say that?! 2) I will never be unprepared to jump in a half marathon again. Every country we visit from here on out 👉🏻 we will have a list of the races, where, and when.