Over 6,000 tourists descended on Angkor Wat on March 21 to catch the Spring equinox, where visitors and photography enthusiasts were treated to rare sights of the sun rising directly over the top of the temple.
APSARA National Authority (ANA) spokesman Long Kosal told The Post that the twice-yearly event is an important one for Angkor Wat, as it demonstrates the interest of tourists in the “amazing” capabilities of ancient Khmer architects who “gathered their creative ideas” to build a temple that interacted precisely with natural phenomena.
“It shows the amazing way of thinking of previous generations of Cambodians. Our ancestors were incredibly innovative, and that is why so many tourists yearn to come and visit the temple,” he said, adding that the event also reliably brings large numbers of national and international tourists to Siem Reap.
This year, the sun emerged at 6:30am under slightly cloudy conditions, but the searing red sphere could still be observed rising behind the centre of the temple, garnering shrieks of joy from the thousands of visitors gathered at the complex.
The equinox sunrise at Angkor Wat is a significant draw for tourists annually, who visit to take pictures. A twice yearly event, the next equinox will take place on September 22.
The Ministry of Tourism said it considered this year’s visitor figures a sign of “significant recovery” after the Covid-19 crisis caused tourist numbers to plummet for two years.
It noted that the size of the crowd “clearly demonstrates the success of the government’s control of Covid-19 and that Siem Reap is a safe destination for tourists”, it said.
Im Sokrithy, archaeologist and director of the Department of Preservation of Temples in Angkor Archaeological Park, explained that the spectacular image of the sun rising at Angkor Wat was not a coincidence, but a feature of the temple’s design by 12th-century Khmer architects and mathematicians “who prepared the architecture of the temple layout with the intention of adjusting for the natural phenomena”.
Angkor Wat ranks as the number-one best place to watch the sunrise and sunset, with the Haleakala Crater in the US state of Hawaii coming in at number two, according to a recent study by the British sleep website mornings.co.uk.
A Ministry of Tourism report revealed that Siem Reap province received 27,543 national and international tourists in the second weekend of March, an increase from the 18,609 visitors recorded in the week prior.