DAWN has broken as we approach the largest temple on earth, the sky glowing molten gold. It has rained overnight and puddles reflect the rising sun like splashes of liquid mercury.
This is the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex in North West Cambodia, one of the most mysterious and evocative places on the planet. To add to the atmosphere, it’s the Autumnal Equinox.
Soon, the sun will rise over the centre of the 400-acre complex – an iconic sight usually greeted by hundreds of spectators who crowd to the temple close to the city of Siem Reap.
But this morning is different. We walk along the temporary bridge over the moat with local guide Samneang Ty – known to friends as Mr Sam – and nobody else. It is a rare and magical moment.
Gradually, the sun rises, revealing the temple and its libraries in more detail. The global Covid-19 pandemic has put paid to the usual crowds, meaning we have an unprecedented view.
And all from my armchair in the English Midlands, because this is a live streamed tour on the heygo.com platform. It’s one minute past midnight British Summer Time as we join Mr Sam.
Despite a proud ten-year career as a licensed local guide, this is his first live stream tour and he is anxious that he should do this wonderful World Heritage Site justice.
He need not worry. There’s the jaw-dropping ‘Wow!’ moment of the sunrise, the magnificent sight of the temple, the feeling of splendid isolation and, hey, he’s such a nice guy, too.
After making our way to the temple, we get to explore the interior, wandering through corridors and unexpected open spaces, listening to the stories behind the bas-relief carvings.
The temple was built at the behest of Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in what was then named Yaśodharapura, the capital of the Khmer Empire, as the state temple.
Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu in the early 12th century, it was converted to a Buddhist temple towards the end of that century, and remains so to this day.
Mr Sam, who lives in Siem Reap, has more than 20 years of experience in the tourism industry, and has led in-person tours for people from all around the world.
He’s one of the senior tour guides within Journey Cambodia and has earned many five-star reviews on TripAdvisor, GetYourGuide, Expedia and others.
He’ll be heading back to Angkor Wat to live stream the sunrise again at 12am BST on Saturday October 9, with a 10am daytime tour later the same day.
Heygo was founded in March 2020 and guests can enjoy HD streaming, subject to signal strength, take and download ‘postcard’ screenshots, chat live with guides and fellow travellers, and follow progress on a map.
Trips are free to join but travellers are invited to leave a voluntary tip – typically from £5 in the UK – although any amount is appreciated. See the tour calendar at heygo.com.
All the images used in this feature are ‘postcard’ snapshots taken on my laptop during the trip, apart from the crowded temple scene, which is courtesy of fellow Heygoer Boret Ream.