Nearly 9,000 visitors – including 2,226 international tourists – gathered at Angkor Wat on March 21 to view the spring equinox sunrise, according to a senior official of the Siem Reap provinical tourism department.
Ngov Seng Kak, director of the department, said a total of 8,726 people visited Angkor Wat to see the sunrise over the central spire of the temple, at the same time as Cambodia’s torch lighting ceremony for the 32nd Southeast Asian Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games.
“There were 6,500 domestic tourists and 2,226 foreign visitors,” he said.
Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, was happy to see the large crowds of tourists there, describing the scence as a positive sign for the recovery of tourism in the province. He said he expects that there will be even more visitors following the event and natural phenomenon.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, the sunrise aligns with the central spire of Angkor Wat on March 20-23 each year – most precisely on March 21, when the vernal equinox occurs.
The ministry noted that the equinox occurs twice per year, in March and in September. It called on all tourism associations, relevant institutions, journalists, visitors and the general public to help publicise the event and encouraged people to take pictures and post them on social media to help promote its “Visit Cambodia 2023” campaign under the slogan of “Every Day is a Wonder”.
Im Sokrithy – an archaeologist and head of the Department of Research, Training, and Communication at the APSARA National Authority’s (ANA) – said the equinox simply means that the duration of day and night was equal due to the position of the Earth in its orbit around the sun.
Sokrithy said that the alignment of Angkor Wat with the equinox sunrise was not a coincidence and reflected the advanced knowledge of astronomy and the precise building techniques possessed by the Khmer Empire.
He noted that in the bas-relief at Angkor Wat, the 91 asuras in the south represent the 91 days from autumn equinox to the winter solstice, while the 88 northern devas represent the 88 days from spring equinox to summer solstice.