The most popular place to observe sunset is the top of Phnom Bakheng looking back at Angkor Wat. But honestly, by the time sunset rolled around on my first day I was just over the big crowds and I asked my guide if there was somewhere else he would recommend. Also Phnom Bakheng requires that your shoulders and knees be covered and I had long since changed into cooler clothes than the ones I wore to Angkor Wat. The idea of pulling them back on was just too much to bear. Did I mention it was like 40C—over 100F–and I’d been outside and was feeling the effects of heat stroke by the point? It was and I was.
My guide said that we would go to Pre Rup Temple, which is a quiet but growing in popularity location. You can’t see Angkor Wat, but there is a spectacular view.
I realized, going through my photos, that I didn’t have a wide view of the temple, so I found this photo here.
The first thing you should know about Pre Rup is that the stairs are seriously steep. The stairs are so steep I was clinging to the wall, and using cracks in the wall to anchor my fingers so I would feel safe going up and down. If you have mobility issues of any sort–and arguably, given my knee I should have taken the advice I’m about to dispense–you should probably skip this temple, or at the least skip climbing to the top level.
We reached the top a bit before sunset and there weren’t that meany people there. By the time the sun set a small crowd had formed, but nothing on the scale of Phnom Bakheng, which has throngs of people from what every website and person told me. Since we were there, I was able to set up my tripod and pick my spot. This was the day I had a guide, so he hung by my tripod and I walked around the top level a bit.
But you’re here for the sunset photos, so let’s get to that. I’ll start with a shot of what I saw when I first got there and progress though some of my favorite shots. Full set will be linked at the bottom.
I’m starting with this photo to give you an idea of the light I was dealing with just before sunset. After this shot, I mounted my camera and got the series of shots I’m about to show you by messing around with things like longer shutter speed, lower ISO etc. If you look at the set on flickr, you can see what my fstop/ISO/shutter speed etc I was using in each shot if you care.
Somewhere between the last two photos I noticed the person to my left shooting behind us, which seemed odd. So I glanced back and saw that you could see the moon rising. I turned my camera and a did a few shots. But my battery was dying so I’ll include a camera phone shot there, too.
I know that I definitely am guilty of the “nothing impresses me” / “I must be sarcastic or ironic at all times” and so forth that plague my generation. But after we finished watching the sunset, we were all so happy and impressed by nature that we spontaneously applauded. And it felt right to do so, although I don’t think I’ve ever done something like that before.
You might be interested to know that as the sun set a security guard came to the top to ensure that everyone got off the building before the light was gone and we were trapped or someone got hurt trying to get down. Getting down those narrow, high stairs in the semi dark was unnerving. My guide gave me the occasional hand. Perhaps I should’ve just gone down the stairs on my butt like little kids do before they feel confident going down the stairs. But I’m still really glad that I did it. However, if you go through my zillion Cambodia albums, you’ll notice this is my only sunset photography, and there is a reason for that.
As I was getting in the tuk tuk I looked back and the sky was almost uniformly pink and purple, as in the last sunset photo but even more saturated. However, my camera and my phone were dying, so I only have a mental picture.
I definitely recommend Pre Rup for sunset photography and watching. Full set of photos here. Feel free to look, and to share–but please do credit me (either as Crystal or Expat Bostonians) as the photographer and drop me a line (expat bostonians at gmail) if you use the photos on your blog, tumblr, pinterest, etc.