“It was sunsets that taught me that beauty sometimes only lasts for a couple of moments, and it was sunrises that showed me that all it takes is patience to experience it all over again.” — A.J. Lawless
In a pre-pandemic world, when millions of tourists used to flock to Angkor every year, watching the sunrise over the reflection pools in front of Angkor Wat was famously on everyones ‘must do’ list. It’s gorgeous… now when there are no tourists but normally you are with thousands of other eager hopefuls vying for a spot in front of the reflection pools to capture the perfect insta-worthy shot or video of the sunrise.
The thing is, the Angkor Archeological park is huge. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, the Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire dating back from the 9th to the 15th century. They obviously include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations but the park also contains lesser visited sites such as Srah Srang (the Royal Bath) – a small but incredibly picturesque baray located to the east of Banteay Kdei.
A baray (Khmer: បារាយណ៍) is man made reservoir which is a common element of the architectural style of the Khmer Empire of Southeast Asia. Built at the end of the 12th century, by King Jayavarman VII, Srah Srang has a gorgeous platform leading to the pond or reservoir. Built of laterite with sandstone moulding, the platform is in the shape of a cross with serpent balustrades flanked by two lions. At the front there is an enormous Garuda riding a three-headed serpent and at the back there is a mythical creature comprising a three-headed serpent.
Srah Srang is also a perfect (but often forgotten) place to visit pre-dawn to watch the rising sun. Hopping on the scooters before sunrise and making our way to Srah Srang also provides the prefect backdrop a quiet moment of introspection (and an opportunity for David and I to pause and reflect on the last couple of months and how incredibly privileged we are to be here).