To be honest... it wasn't really worth the early start. It was cool and wet and crowded; and the clouds made for a very unspectacular sunrise. But on the flip side, it was good to get an early start on the day as we would be heading down to Phnom Penh in the afternoon. (I was right about the whole trip being tourist friendly. Our hotel arranged both the Angkor Wat tuk-tuk ride - $12/day, and the bus down to Phenom Penh - $8 per person.) And it was nice to do all our climbing around before the heat of the day would make us a sweaty stinky mess.
Just wandering around the ruins.
Angkor was more restricted than the previous temples we'd visited, which was comforting. The bas reliefs were roped off, and there were wooden steps built over the stone steps. There were also signs warning tourists not to sit on the Naga railing along the entry way. The most impressive feature of Angkor Wat, in relation to the other ruins, was it's size... it's just gigantic with four concentric areas symbolizing the four eras of creation in Hindu ideology. As we walked towards the center of the complex we were going back in time to the beginning of the cosmos. Well, in theory anyway. As with many of the temples I felt very much as though I were too ignorant to really enjoy it. But we did our best, reading out the descriptions of the bas reliefs as we walked past them...and occasionally reading one that actually pertained to the wall we were looking at!
Bunny and Bobby looking ancient and ruined.
After Angkor Wat we went to Bayon, which ended up being my favorite. It's one of the smaller temples, but by far the most unique. Although all the temples are made from sandstone, this temple looked darker and more blue/green. Maybe it was the overcast sky... but it was just really cool.
There were tons of doors and windows and each of the towers had four huge faces carved into them looking in each of the four cardinal directions. So you'd be walking around and look through a window and see faces looking back at you. You don't have to understand the symbolism to appreciate it as just awesome.
After these two show-stoppers, we were ready to go back to the hotel to pack everything up and wait for the bus to the capitol. This was an experience itself. First we were picked up by this tiny rickety looking mosquito filled bus and driven all over town picking up other people. We were really very worried that we were about to spend 6 hours on this tiny thing and I briefly wished we'd splurged for the $12 bus. But eventually it became clear that it was only the bus to pick up passengers & take us to the bus depot... then we'd take a big modern air conditioned bus for the real trip.
PS - did you really think I would leave without a decent picture of Angkor Wat? ;)