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The Remaining Right Side of the Buddha
Part 11: More Angkor

Friday - May 28, 1993

The following morning, we were up early and at the top of the wat for sunrise. The sky was overcast, however, and it was a missed show. Back at the libraries two photographers, one shooting for Time magazine and the other with Magnum were photographing the families that we 'd hung out with the night before.

By 7:00 am we were back at the guest house to wash up. Tim, an American I'd met in Phnom Penh, had just arrived with two other guys; Jeff, also from the States , and Andrew from England. They had taken the commercial flight as we had but it turned out to be a helicopter. They took rooms at Mom's so we had a full house. They told us about a shooting incident just in front of the Capitol. The cops shot a motorbike thief multiple times, killing him and amazing the onlookers which included a traveler who got photos of the bloody episode.

After washing up we returned to the ruins and spent the day exploring, mostly at Angkor Thom.

Saturday - May 29, 1993

On Saturday, Jack & I again hired bikes and spent the day at Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm and Preah Khan.

Preah Khan, north of Angkor Thom's north gate, was less frequently visited. The place was deserted save for a lone government soldier guarding the dirt path that led to the entrance. As we approached, the soldier looked up from loading his rifle and eyed us suspiciously. Expecting him to demand money from us, we avoided eye contact and walked past him towards the ruins barely visible in the encroaching jungle. After we were fifty yards down the path, the solider shouted something at us. We quickened our pace but didn't look back. Now we were alone within the fallen temple walls. Then a gun shot rang out, piercing the ominous silence of the jungle.

The only way out was back the way we'd come past the trigger happy soldier. A second shot rang out. We realized we were being paranoid to think that these gun shots had anything to do with us and determined to enjoy the mystique of our surroundings. We quickly forgot about the soldier as our attention was drawn deeper into the dark magic of the temple ruins.

It was to be my last day in Angkor and my choice for where to spend much of it was Ta Prohm. We spent over 3 hours there mostly alone with the temple kids. A French couple wandered in for a short visit; tourists accompanied by a well-armed Khmer guard. Later, Tim, Jeff and Andrew showed up.

A great thing about visiting these sites is that we were free to go wherever we wanted and to climb in and on the ruins. This, in sharp contrast with the fenced-off, view-from-a-distance situation at tourist spots throughout the western world. The kids climbed with us when we climbed and sat patiently when we sat. We became increasingly facile at non-verbal communication.

After a few hours, we were back in front at the road when we heard a serious sounding explosion unlike anything we'd heard over the past few days. My reaction in these situations was to look to the local people to see how they were reacting. Pete, my driver, appeared calm and looking solemn said it was a land-mine. But when a second and third explosion followed he suddenly looked real worried and, blurting out "let's go", jumped on the bike. I quickly followed suit and we sped off with Jack and San just behind.

By the time we reached Angkor Wat, all seemed calm - the danger seemed to have disappeared as suddenly as it had come. We stopped at the wat to await sunset. Ken and Paul were there with Kom Sothea. When Ken and Paul left, Jack and I went with Kom Sothea to the monastery. I gave him some money to help with his ticket back to Phnom Penh and Jack, who was planning to stay the next two nights at the monastery, promised to do the same.

We climbed the temple for sunset. In the distance, in the direction of the airport, we saw a large column of smoke. A helicopter flew above the smoke with a load suspended from its underside.

We had dinner at a food stall serving Thai style noodles and sweets and then pooled our resources and indulged in a case of Victoria Bitter back at the guest house.

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