A Visit to Angkor Wat During Wartime

Threatening Storms and Armed Guerrillas on the Way to a Great Ruin.

Visiting Angkor Wat during the Vietnam War was a problem. Centuries of enmity between Thailand and Cambodia caused the two countries to suspend diplomatic ties in 1959. Thailand accused Cambodia of being a Chinese satellite. Cambodia accused Thailand of being an imperialistic American state. Landmines had just killed 18 Thais on the border.

I took a train from Bangkok in May 1966 to the same border and watched my step. Once in Cambodia, I caught buses to Siem Reap on a cloudy, wet day, bouncing along once-dusty roads that were now muddy. Our bus splashed through puddles of rainwater that pocked the road, making it difficult for the driver to get out of second gear. The bus was an overflowing sardine can of a motor vehicle, so I chose to ride on the rear bumper, which I shared with two other men. Even with the rain, it was preferable to riding squeezed inside. 

We arrived at an unfinished bridge, and our driver followed ruts showing a path around it. He was able to ford the stream but got stuck climbing out. I learned how to swear in Cambodian, hearing the same oaths repeated over and over as everyone got out to help push us out of the mud and others threw bushes, branches, and refuse underneath the tires to add purchase. After half an hour, my language lesson was over, and we washed the splattered mud off ourselves in the stream and climbed back in and on the bus.

In full: https://www.independent.com/2022/01/22/a-visit-to-angkor-wat-during-wartime/

Related Stories

Latest News