Phnom Bakheng Sunset | Cambodia

After almost 7 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh, we finally rolled into Siem Reap with my excitement swelling into a massive wave inside my body. My mind is painting a picture of the vast Angkor Wat complex and its nearby and equally impressive temple ruins. Comparing what I had imagined and read before to what I will see in a short while, mirrors every adolescent boy's first foray into a lovemaking session with a beautiful girl.

I've been obsessing about visiting the ancient Khmer capital of Angkor for a very long time and to have that moment laid out a few minutes in between, is like what every climber feels when one sees the towering peak of a mountain. There's this absolute moment of finality, the long journey of dreaming, planning and the eventual trip itself has finally come.

After settling in at River Garden Guesthouse - which took our tuktuk driver to locate for a while, we went down to business and hurriedly headed straight to the ticket booth located near the entrance of Angkor. We waited for the ticket booths to open at 4:45 PM and along with other tourists we bought ourselves a pass for one day which costed us $20.00 each. By using this ticket, we were told that we can right-away enter  Phnom Bakheng temple for free to watch the sunset.

Going to the Hindu temple of Phnom Bakheng requires a modest 15 minute hike atop a hill where the temple–built under the rule of King Yasovarman, who ruled the Khmer empire from 889 until 910– stands like a figure 'of a temple mountain'. It has been resting there since the end of the 9th century. 

Moments earlier as our "tuk-tuk" ride was breezing the long highway en route to Angkor, I saw a glimpse of the main Angkor Wat temple with its thick forests and a scenic lake surrounding it. Like consuming a drug that flowed smoothly through my veins, I feel a sensation that is more powerful than any known LSDs could offer. 

Upon reaching the top of the hill, I saw the towers of Phnom Bakheng covered with visitors lining up to climb the steep and narrow stairs. I stood motionless for a minute as I stare at my very first temple in Angkor. It must have been an awesome sight and atmosphere 1200 years ago. This was a temple that was built more than 200 years ahead of Angkor Wat, which of course, I considered as the main dish of the whole trip.

Celine Murillo with Gretchen Filart, Levy Amosin and Mujee Gonzales

The Angkor tourists staff manning the line kept on reminding us that the stairs will be closed exactly at 5:30 PM, this is to ensure that people atop the temple wont become too crowded. I looked at my watch and it says 5:25 PM, i was resigned to the fact that I wont see the sunset atop the Phnom Bakheng temple. However, after a minute they allowed more people to climb and soon I found myself stepping on the steep stairs and slowly making my way atop the temple.

I had arrived indeed! A eureka moment just happened. The first thing I saw when I looked up at the sky was the sun bursting with fiery inferno-like ball and at the opposite direction was a rainbow beaming down on the direction of Angkor Wat. It was like a threesome of sorts, myself the rainbow and the magnificent sunset. 

Some tourists, French I assume by the language they speak, started prancing and dancing around. Soon, a vibe of togetherness collared the place with each one nodding at each other as good gesture. As the sun continues its grand exit from the light of the day, I felt the wonderful embrace of the temple. The brewing wonderful atmosphere around evokes a higher form of peace. Right now, I told myself; is a singular moment that should been multiplied and shared in earnest with one another on any place on Earth.

Then the sun was gone but the smiles on people's faces remains. After delighting ourselves witnessing a regular occurrence that happens everyday, I see the significance of that afternoon as I was able to view the sunset in a place with so much history. The symbolic representation of the home of Hindu Gods, Mount Meru and mostly, from a a place I've so longed to visit.

Siem Reap travel guide

Tired and restless from walking around Saigon for 2 days, the bus trip from Saigon to Phnom Penh, the next day's trip to Siem Reap was all dissolved by that seemingly routine movement of the sun. As the light went out in a puff and night time arrives, we walked back down and I carried with me another indescribable experience I would willingly recommend to other people to also experience for themselves.