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Sunrise at Angkor Wat – worth getting up for?

The pros and cons of missing a couple of hours sleep for sunrise (which may or may not be spectacular but is pretty good at any time) at one of the wonders of the world

We’d have thought it was fairly obvious that dawn – whether sunrise at Angkor Wat, The Taj Mahal or anywhere else you can think of vary enormously. Some – spectacular explosions of vibrant colours whilst others – just plain, grey, overcast and however fantastic the setting is for the dawn is it has no influence at all over how dramatic or otherwise the actual sunrise will be.

Some are like this.....
Some are like this…..

…..whilst other mornings could be like this….

Sunrise at Angkor Wat. No colours but good anyway
No colours but looks good anyway

Now we realise watching sunrise unavoidably involves getting up at some ungodly hour in the morning, (well unless you haven’t gone to bed yet),  and if you are expecting, or at least hoping for, a dramatic red and orange backdrop to your view of the famous towers and you get a  dull grey one you may be disappointed but…

Despite what certain may infer we at All Points East are not responsible for early morning weather conditions in Siem Reap and firstly no-one is obliged to take the ‘risk’ of an early rise and secondly we reckon the view as the iconic silhouette emerges from the darkness – even if it is lacking bright colours – is still worth missing a couple of hours kip for.

Surise at Angkor Wat, Star-lit Angkor
Star-lit Angkor Wat

Anyway, one of the best sunrise at Angkor Wat images we’ve seen (with no sun at all) of the famous 12th-century frontage is Gary Latham’s star-lit photo above where he hadn’t even waited to see how the sunrise would shape up let alone wished afterwards he’d stayed in bed but just used a bit of imagination, (and very slow shutter speed), and took that awesome shot.

Now though we pride ourselves on avoiding the crowds on our itineraries sunrise at Angkor Wat can get, especially during high season, very crowded but, since you’re probably only going to experience Angkor once then it’s got to be done, hasn’t it? (We do occasionally get asked – “what happens if it rains?” Brilliant! The temple glistens in the rain – nobody else there – and that’s what we’ve got umbrellas for!)

Bagan sunrise
Bagan sunrise

We’ve used Angkor Wat as an example but there are plenty more dawn visits on our various itineraries – again all of which are optional. We reckon another must is Bagan on our Burma tour where the early morning light across the temple-strewn plain shows the site at its most spectacular.  A convenient advantage at Bagan is that, unlike Angkor, there is no single dawn vantage point and a wide choice of possibilities makes it easy to find an uncrowded spot.Burma (Myanmar) dawn

Lake Inle’s another Burma site that definitely merits a dawn visit and a big plus here is that for whatever reason not many other visitors seem to do it. Checking out the views and iconic fishing boats on the serene lake before anyone else gets there is certainly well worth getting up early for.


Sigiriya on the Sri Lanka tour is another World Heritage Site best sampled at dawn and the winding climb up to the summit in the dark is pretty exciting stuff!

Plenty more dawn visits to be taken into consideration include; the Can Tho floating market in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, Mandalay’s early morning fish market, early morning wildlife spotting expeditions at Kinabantang and Danum in Borneo or the optional sunrise over the rice terraces in Yunnan Province’s Yuanyang.

Early morning at the Can Tho floating market
Early morning at the Can Tho floating market by Gary Latham

As one of our guests said, (thanks Carrie), “…no problems – there’s so much to see – I’ll sleep when I get home instead!”