Sunday, October 29, 2017


Children play in a Vietnamese park. They are growing up in a country at peace.
I’m back in Saigon, and I can’t believe my journey is finished.

My three country odyssey through the former war zones of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia is finally over.

Back in my old District 1 haunts, I’m spending one of my final nights in Southeast Asia in my favorite hangout: Godmother's Bar. I had made friends here, while enjoying food, drink and Vietnamese hospitality. Sadly, it’s the end of the road for Godmother’s Bar too.

While the pub is popular, the building’s owners have decided to turn the bar into a tiny tourist hotel, like dozens of others crowded into the Pham Ngu Lao neighborhood. So the Godmother, the Vietnamese staff and my foreign friends are having a bittersweet celebration for closing night.

“It’s the end of an era,” says my teacher friend Jeff. Indeed.

As my favorite night spot closes, I reflect on the close of my long journey, and search for knowledge about life in post-war Southeast Asia. I wasn’t disappointed.

I traveled far and wide on jets, planes, motorboats, rowboats, ferries, buses, motorbikes, cyclos, tut-tuks, and even traveled across a river on the back of an elephant! 

I traveled to distant, remote former battlefields from the Vietnam War years, places that today's young people never heard of, and that old veterans will never forget.

I met veterans from so many armies: Viet Cong, North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese,  Pathet Lao, Khmer Rouge, and of course, American veterans of the war who had returned to Vietnam.

An elephant walks on a path in the Hue imperial palace complex.
One of them had become a buddy of mine. And now he’s gone too.

While I was away in Cambodia only weeks before, my friend Kenny Harris, a former US Marine Corps veteran, had died at sea.

Kenny had been away leading one of his scuba diving tours of Southeast Asia. One night their charter boat was anchored off the coast of Malaysia, when out of nowhere, their boat was rammed by a freighter. The tourists and crew were up on deck, and they all managed to swim to safety. Kenny was below deck sleeping. He didn’t have a chance.

I didn’t learn of this tragedy until I got back to Saigon. While I was away, they held a memorial night at Godmother’s Bar, dedicated to Kenny. They sat by a framed picture of the tall former Marine. Kenny had a lot of friends and they were there; with toasts all around from both foreigners and Vietnamese. Kenny would have approved. 

Rest In Peace Kenny. 

Now Kenny's gone, Godmother’s is closing, my journey is finished, and my story is ends. It's time to turn the page.

That’s how it has been here in Vietnam not just for my journey but in the decades since the war; life has moved on. There's been tragedy here, but no longer. The Vietnamese picked themselves up, rebuilt their country, and moved on.

The people I met here, young and old, generally had been hospitable, helpful, and patient. As I'm American, I was expecting to encounter anger and hostility in my forays through these former war zones. I never encountered that once, as far as I could see. It’s a fact that many Americans are far more bitter about the Vietnam War today, then the Vietnamese are. For them, the war is past, and they look to the future.

“The war was a long time ago,” I once heard from Ho, an ex-Viet Cong fighter. “No hate. No hate.” Those were wise words.

Both Ho, and the current Vietnamese government want to put the war behind them. They are welcoming Americans again, and they want to make friends.

We should do the same. 

Goodbye Vietnam.

I'll never forget you. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Thousands of Khmers crowd the riverfront for the dragon boat races
I’m leaving Cambodia soon, and a huge crowd has gathered. A mass of humanity stretches for several blocks. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Southeast Asia.

But this isn’t a riot. And it’s not a political rally. Thousands and thousands of Khmers, many with their families, have come to the Phnom Penh riverside to watch the dragon boat races.

Over 300 colorful dragon boats, resembling long outrigger canoes, from all over the country will race and compete for glory and honor on the river. Farmers from far flung provinces have just completed harvesting their fields, and traveled all the way here to celebrate or participate.

2 - 3 dozen men crowd into each dragon boat, all wearing matching colored t-shirts. A flag bearing the number of their rowing team flies off the back of each, flapping in the wind as each strong stroke by the crew drives them towards the finish line.

The dragon boat races are part of the annual Water Festival in Phnom Penh
Dragon boats have a long history in Cambodia. The event commemorates a legendary naval battle during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. This Khmer King that reigned over Angkor Wat led them to victory on the waters against the neighboring Cham empire.

Taking place over 3 days in November, the dragon boat races are part of the annual Water Festival, marking the time when the Mekong River downriver swells, and the Tonle Sap River that meets it reverses its course. Upriver becomes downriver.

Like everything else that was popular, fun and traditional in Cambodia, this festival was banned during the Khmer Rouge communist years. It was revived in 1990, and the festival and races have grown exponentially ever since.

I attended a wedding in Phnom Penh before, and that was also a joyous occasion. But this huge festival gives me a different feeling.

More than 300 dragon boats take part in the races on the Tonle Sap River
As I watch families enjoy the festival, I get a vibe that I have never felt in Cambodia before.

Mass happiness.

In my six months here in Cambodia, I had spent much of my time traveling through the old war zones, speaking to survivors. These people had survived oppression under the French, the civil war with the Lon Nol dictatorship, war against the Vietnamese, and worst of all, the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Talking to these resilient survivors about those horrible days was not cheerful work.

But here at the dragon boat races, I sense the happiness that the people of Cambodia truly deserve. This is their festival. Done by them, for them. It’s a purely Khmer tradition that they can all enjoy.

That night, I return to the riverside, and see another unexpected sight. Elaborately lighted boats. Decorated with thousands of what westerners would call ‘Christmas tree lights’, thousands of bulbs form huge floating figures, such as nagas and other Buddhist icons. Impressive.

Lighted boats illuminate the river at night during the Water Festival
To close the event, the night sky lights up with fireworks over the lighted boats and barges.

As I leave Cambodia, I’m glad that this festival is my last experience in this fascinating country. 

The Khmer people I’ve met during my time here have endured the worst, but this country is on the upturn.

There are problems, to be sure. But they are at peace.

Their darkest days are behind them. I hope so. I pray so.

I can feel it. There is hope for the future here.

Monday, April 17, 2017


The roof collapsed on this old temple building in Preah Vihear
I’m at the ancient Preah Vihear temple site, where Thai troops have recently had gun battles with Cambodia soldiers over control of the temple. There’s no shooting today. So far.

It’s a long climb up the ancient stone block steps, and eventually I reach the top. To Khmer worshipers of old, perhaps this was a metaphorical climb towards heaven.
With sore legs after the climb, I reach the top, The old temple sits on a stone platform, and it’s somewhat ruined. The roof has totally collapsed, leaving immense stone pillars and beams. Some stones are jacked up by strong wooden supports, to keep them from collapsing further. 

The style is obviously the same as the temples at Angkor Wat. It makes me wonder why the Thais would want to fight for this temple, when it was so obviously built for a Khmer king.

As I look around, a Cambodian policeman walks up. I discover that he speaks a fair amount of English; his name is Kuhn. He says there’s no fighting here today, (at least not yet,) so he offers to show me around the temple.

Barbed wire blocks the border to Thailand
From high up on here the hill, I can see well over the line of control onto the Thai side of the border. On the horizon is a vast green plain, eastern Thailand. On a nearby hill, I can make out a couple of Thai civilians walking down a modern paved road that ends at the closed border. No wonder so many Thais used to come here before, they didn’t have to endure the long trip on a nasty dirt road I just traveled. They could take nice air conditioned buses all the way here, walk across the border, visit the temple, walk back to the bus, and be way back in Thailand before dinner. But not anymore, the border is closed due to the recent fighting.

There are few buildings visible on the Thai side, it’s mostly trees and brush.
Kuhn points to a prominent white government border building flying the Thai flag. “Ta Mok’s house was there,” he tells me. This is the third house I’ve seen that belonged to the murderous Khmer Rouge war chief. I wonder how many more houses he had.

From this high vantage point, I can look down on the Cambodian Army’s dugouts and bunkers. Trenches cross over the hill, and out of sight. I don’t see any such fortifications on the Thai side, but they are over there somewhere, well camouflaged.

Kuhn takes me behind the temple, onto a long, wide walkway reaching up the hill. It’s made entirely of heavy stone blocks, and has many more stones than the temple I just saw. It must have been a monumental effort to haul these blocks up the mountains, all those centuries ago.

View of conflict zone. On left: Thailand. On right: path for Cambodia soldiers along trench line.
Continuing up the hill, we reach another temple building, bigger than the first. I discover that Preah Vihear isn’t one temple building, but several, with adjacent shrines and a pool. This place is bigger than I thought.

I explore two more temple buildings, one has elaborate carvings and a collapsed roof above. The other is a stone Khmer style tower. Curiously, a large green tree is growing out of the roof.

Kuhn points out his temporary house off to the side, not 100m from the temples. Between the trees are some lean-tos, and flimsy buildings. “I live there with my wife and daughter,” he tells me.

For years, nobody could live on that land, as it’s a former minefield.

Heavy stone blocks make a path connecting the temples
Back in the 1980’s when the Vietnamese communists occupied Cambodia, many Khmer Rouge fighters were crossing back and forth from sanctuary in Thailand, so the Vietnamese laid more than 2 MILLION landmines along the Cambodian border, known as the K5 belt, where they continue to kill and maim today.

Many of the minefields close to the temples have been cleared, but with the current border conflict, I wonder if they are laying more mines elsewhere. One step forward, two steps back…

Along the wall of this old temple complex, is a tunnel opening. It opens into a large military shelter; an artillery casing sits at the entrance. Close by is another bunker for the soldiers, and parts of the wall were made from ancient stones they took from the temple. Preservationists would be horrified. These were originally built by the Khmer Rouge; this religious site that was sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists, became a military base for communist atheists.

A tree grows atop a temple tower
Some of the walls on the last temple building are peppered with bullet holes. This was the last holdout of the Khmer Rouge. Even after the communists laid down their weapons near Anlong Veng, hardliners still held out here. The Cambodian Army perhaps could have beaten them here, but they were restrained, as they didn’t want to destroy the temple. They could have used heavy artillery, but they didn’t; one artillery barrage could have irreparably destroyed the entire temple complex. The last communist holdouts finally agreed to peace with the Cambodian government in 1998.

Looking from up high to the east, I can see far along the Dangkrek mountain chain. Not far away in that direction, the opposite side of the border changes from Thailand, to Laos.

I enter the last highest temple building near the cliff: the Central Sanctuary.

Within are Angkor era carvings and architecture, familiar to me by now. There’s an inner courtyard, with some collapses surrounding walls, and others still intact. Impressive hallways and arched ceilings are made entirely of stone. I wonder how many of the ceilings have collapsed over the years from age, or from the violence of men.

While some stones have collapsed, other temple walls are still standing strong
In the courtyard’s center is the innermost shrine. Much of it is still intact. The intricate decorative carvings have survived, though the colors and paint have faded from time, leaving faded grey and white stone underneath. Ducking inside, I see a Buddhist statue through the shadows. Some old offerings from rare pilgrims are left at its feet.

Walking out behind the last temple, a dirt path leads to bare bedrock on the edge of a cliff, it’s well over 1,500 feet down. There are no trees blocking my view. In front of me is the most amazing view in Cambodia. Far beneath me is a vast carpet of a greenery, a flat plain that stretches to the horizon. Only a couple of dirt roads cut across the green scene. 

From atop the cliff I get a fantastic scenic view of Cambodia
Small dots clumped together by a crossroads are the village houses of Kor Muy, where my driver Shanghai awaits me.

I’m in awe of this view. No wonder the Thais are fighting them for it.

I bid goodbye to Kuhn, and mount a motorbike taxi for the trip down the mountain. On the way down, we pass a convoy of government officials on their way up, with journalists in tow, carrying cameras and camcorders.

Soon I’m down the mountain, and the motorbike driver drops me in Kor Muy. Word is going around the village that while I was up by the temple, there was another border incursion by Thai soldiers. The conflict here isn’t over yet.

I find Shanghai, and we head back to his muddy car. He fills his old Toyota Corolla’s radiator with water, and we start the long drive back to Anlong Veng.

Landmine warning sign. Stay on the path, or your next step might be your last.
After the long journey, I’m back at my hotel, and I flip on the news. CNN is reporting, “Tensions along the Cambodia – Thailand border”. They are saying that 100 Thai troops crossed ‘briefly’ into Cambodian territory. The Thai government says that the situation is 'calm', and denies the border breach.

It’s calm all right, as this time there wasn’t any shooting. Fortunately.

Two weeks after I leave Preah Vihear, fighting erupted again near the temple. When the shooting stopped, 2 Thai soldiers were dead, and 9 were wounded. 12 Cambodian soldiers were injured.

As Cambodia is a country still recovering from several wars, I really hope that the Thais will finally leave them in peace.

*NOTE* - The events described above took place in 2009. Violent conflict between Cambodian and Thai soldiers in the region surrounding the temple has continued to occur sporadically in the years since then.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


A Cambodian soldier looks for Thai soldiers in front of a bunker at Preah Vihear
I'm about to head into the disputed territory of Preah Vihear temple, in remote northern Cambodia. This is no longer a visit to an old war zone, there has been fighting here only days ago between the Cambodian Army and encroaching Thai soldiers. This historic place was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, and both countries claim this centuries old temple.

There hasn't been any shooting yet today, so I'm about to head up. As I prepare to leave nearby Kor Muy village, I am quickly mobbed by desperate motorbike drivers offering to drive me to the top. There are few visitors with the recent fighting, and they are all anxious for my business. After negotiating a price, I’m on my way up.

We start motoring up the mountain, and I’m surprised to see we’re climbing a new, well made road, a rarity in this remote region. It’s not even blacktop, it’s concrete. I bet it was paid for with UNESCO money, though at some points it looks so steep, that I wonder if any vehicles have flipped over backwards on the way up. Now I know why there are no taxis here, only motorbikes.

As we curve around a switchback, I spot sandbag bunkers, manned by Khmer soldiers armed with Kalashnikovs and light machine guns. They look tense; all of them are peering into the jungle, and the mountain directly across from us. They are looking for Thai troops; perhaps some of them have infiltrated the Cambodian side of the border again. The jungle in front of us is so thick, it would be easy for them to stay out of view.

After the fighting, the market was rebuilt by temple stairs
My driver slows, and as we are out in the open on the road, I realize we're dangerously exposed. The soldiers in front of us are in bunkers, so if shooting starts we would be a sniper’s easiest target.

Fortunately, with their eyes searching for infiltrating Thai troops, the Cambodian soldiers don’t bother with us, and we continue on up the disputed hill. I'm glad; I don't want to be here if another firefight breaks out.

We finish our climb without incident, and soon I find myself at the bottom of an ancient temple stairway, with remnants of destruction nearby. There used to be a small guest house only steps away. It did not survive the recent attack by the Thai military; most of it burned down. Conflict is nothing new to Preah Vihear; this old temple has been occupied by several different armies over the centuries. 

The first temple was built here over 1000 years ago in the 9th century by the Khmer Kingdom. Over the next two centuries, larger temples were built by succeeding kings. It was originally a Hindu temple, and much like Angkor Wat, it is now used mainly for Buddhist worship.

Thousands of Khmers died from landmines when they were forced across the border by Thai army
Later the French took over Indochina, and with Cambodia as a colony, the French gave Preah Vihear to Thailand, which took over the temple in 1958. An outraged King Sihanouk protested to the World Court, who awarded it back to Cambodia in 1962. But the worst period of conflict here was just beginning. 

When the Khmer Rouge took overran Cambodia, some of that war's last shots were fired here. Government troops held out in the temple longer than anywhere else against the communists. While the capital of Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge on April 17, 1975, the Cambodian Army Lieutenant in charge of Preah Vihear continued to defended for days after, including an attack on April 21. They held it another 2 days, until this ancient hill also fell to the communists.

Surrounding me at the base of the long temple steps, is a small rebuilt market. I walk past one table selling meat, it has pigs feet, and a pigs head for sale. A group of ducks are on adjacent grass, preening themselves. Most of the shops here were destroyed by the fighting with the Thais. The rebuilt stalls are now tables under umbrellas and temporary shelters. The Thais still claim that this market land where I’m standing is actually Thai territory. Never mind that the temple steps are only a few steps away, or that the current unused border post is even farther away towards Thailand. A blue sign in the temple reaffirms Cambodia’s claim. “Preah Vihear is Our Temple”. Another says, “Determination to protect Preah Vihear forever”. Even more serious, are the many signs all around the area, warning of landmines.

The front line: rolls of razor wire cover the border crossing stairway to Thailand
Here back in 1979, there were even more landmines here, and they were killing civilians, not soldiers. Back then masses of Cambodian refugees were fleeing across the border, and the Thai dictator Kriangsak Chomanan decided that Thailand had enough refugees, and he ordered the forced return of 42,000 refugees back at the border here. Thai soldiers shot some refugees during their return, and pushed some refugees over nearby cliffs. Thousands more died as they were forced to cross the deadly minefields surrounding the temple. Between 3,000 – 10,000 refugees died. 

Thailand was never held to account for this crime against humanity, and there is no historical marker to remember the dead. It remains one of the most horrific cases of forced repatriation in world history.

I shuffle around the market, getting curious looks, as I’m the only foreign visitor here today. Three lady vendors are seated chatting, with one of their sons wandering nearby. A few Cambodian soldiers walk about the stalls, but they don’t earn enough money to buy anything. The marketplace gets few customers now. With no Thai tourists, the vendors are struggling to get by.

I buy some crackers at a stall, my weak attempt to support the local economy. I ask how much, and the Khmer vendor answers, “20 Baht.”

She wants Thai Baht? The border with Thailand has been closed since the fighting here, and she thinks that I have Thai money. Strange.

Stepping away from the market, I walk right into the conflict zone.

Here there are many trenches, fox holes and military bunkers dug into the earth. Rolls of razor wire are laid in front of them. A Cambodian flag flies from a small flagpole, sitting almost at the line of control. A lone soldier stands atop a bunker, looking for any encroaching Thai soldiers. Beyond the razor wire is thick brush; somewhere beyond is the Thai Army, staring back at us. All the land surrounding me is in dispute. There are sandbags everywhere, with the trenches stretched both directions. It looks as though the Cambodians are getting ready to fight World War I.

A Khmer soldier and local boy in the market
“Hallo! Hallo!” I hear, and I spot a soldier waving me towards him. I’m invited into a primitive shelter.

I find 5 Cambodian soldiers inside; one who speaks a smattering of English seems to be a Non-Commisioned Officer. He offers me beer. This is the liveliest group of people I’ve seen up at the temple yet, they are joking and drinking. Their commander has joined them; he’s a Captain. He’s the drunkest of all, and  
it’s only 10:30 in the morning. The Cambodian Army is not known for its discipline.

He offers me what looks like homemade wine in a clear bottle with no label. I decline the offer. I don’t want to offend their hospitality, but I consider it an extremely bad idea to drink with drunk soldiers, that have loaded guns.

I leave the shelter, and walk back along the trench towards the temple. It’s a relaxed mood here, as opposed to the bunkers and machine gun nests I saw on the road coming up. Most soldiers here are not carrying their weapons. Some in the bunkers are lounging in hammocks, right next to their loaded machine guns.

Nearing the temple, I go to what used to be the border crossing. Before the shooting started, Thai Buddhists were allowed to cross the border to visit the temple, without a passport or visa. But that’s over; now rolls and rolls of razor wire are rolled all the way up the border crossing steps. A young Khmer in a straw hat shuffles around in front of me, staring at the barbed wire. Perhaps he works in the market. The razor wire ends at the now closed gates, marked simply “IN” and “OUT”. There will be no Thai tourists crossing this border today, or for a long time into the foreseeable future.

Up the hill, not 150 yards away, is a shelter that is now an armed Thai bunker. Long dark sandbags line the front. The interior is dark, so I don’t see any Thai soldiers. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there though, they are probably watching me right now.

As I turn to walk back, I pass one of the frontline Khmer bunkers. Leaning against the wall is a handheld rocket propelled grenade launcher, and five rockets, all ready for trouble.

I sincerely hope that those rockets will never be fired. There have been too many senseless deaths at this temple already.

I head for the temple. At least there are no weapons in there.

*NOTE* There has been fighting at Preah Vihear several times over the years since this visit to the temple. Sadly, the conflict continues. 

Monday, December 26, 2016


It doesn't get much more remote than this
I'm riding shotgun with my faithful driver Shanghai, heading out on another road trip across northern Cambodia. We're headed to the ancient temple of Preah Vihear, which is still a conflict zone. Local news has been dominated by a recent battle there between the Cambodian Army, and the even more powerful Thailand Army. Both countries claim the old temple.

But it's far from Anlong Veng, and first I have to get there. As soon as we leave the former Khmer Rouge stronghold, the blacktop runs out, becoming bumpy dirt road. Our ride for this long haul is Shanghai's ancient rickety ’85 Toyota Corolla. Bouncing over the ruts, I ask him if we'd be better off with another vehicle.

No problem,” Shanghai says in his heavy accent. I’m not so confident. I’ve heard some of these roads are best covered only with a 4X4.

After two hours, we swing through the junction town of Sra Em, and turn north. The countryside is flat, scattered with brush and trees. This remote region is sparsely inhabited; dotted with thatched shacks and simple stilt homes. There’s neither cell phone coverage, nor electricity. This is one of the poorest provinces of Cambodia.

Soon, it starts to rain. Shanghai has already warned that if it rains, this road gets really bad. Uh oh, I will soon find out what he means.

We start swerving, and Shanghai slows down. It’s not the ruts or potholes causing problems anymore, we're on a flat stretch. But here the road is under construction, being prepped for blacktop. Now the problem is the reddish, clayish soil. When wet, it’s like driving on snow or ice! Shanghai isn't even driving very fast, and we’re sliding and fish tailing all over the road. In all my years driving on dirt roads in poor countries, I’ve never seen anything like it!

Cambodian Army soldiers slog through the muddy road
Now I'm really worried. We pass a parked convoy of government SUV’s, and a deminer's truck. They're worried about the slick roads, so they parked their four wheel drives! And we're only in a two wheel drive, decades old Toyota Corolla. Shanghai says again, “No problem!

The rain continues, and after sliding from one side to the other down the highway for a few kilometers, the government convoy of fancy SUV’s passes us. I can see that we’re not the only ones with traction problems. Even though they have 4X4's, they’re spinning wheels and sliding all over the road just as badly as we are. Finally a white SUV swerves sharply, nearly ending up in the ditch. Everyone stops for a few minutes. The driver slowly pulls back from the edge, and we continue.

Then the rain worsens. Uh oh. As Shanghai shifts gears, the Corolla stalls. Then it won’t start!

No problem,” Shanghai says again, repeating one of his few complete English phrases. With the rain still pouring down, he gets out, pops the hood, and the trunk. I breathe a sigh of relief; he’s brought a spare battery.

But my relief doesn't last long. He hooks up the spare, and turns over the engine. It doesn’t start! That extra battery isn’t powerful enough either. Now we’re really in a fix. Those other SUV's we were tailing are now long gone. We’ll be here a while. I won't make it to Preah Vihear.

Then a white pickup stops behind us. They’re Cambodian Army! Shanghai talks to them, and they agree to give us a jump start. They pull up next to us, almost hitting our car from the slick road. Out come the jumper cables, the Toyota breathe to life, and we’re off again.

Troops on a truck head for the temple
We round a hilly curve near bridge construction, to find more ruts and puddles, and soon we’re stuck in a rut.

Uh oh,” he says. We’ve had lots of 'uh ohs' today; we’re really stuck this time. But he quickly slams into reverse and guns it. The engine whines as we inch back, wheels spinning, mud spitting in front of us. Then he slams it into first, and slowly, the Corolla climbs the small hill, up and over. I clap my hands in applause. Shanghai laughs. I love this car.

Driving on we pass Cambodian soldiers lugging heavy packs trudging along in the rain. An overloaded pickup truck passes, packed with more soldiers in combat fatigues. They are all headed for the temple. We pass several Cambodian Army bases, some with buildings, others with tents. More are under construction. I see Russian, Chinese, and US made army trucks parked in makeshift shelters. We're getting close.

I spot bunkers made of dirt and logs. I wonder why they aren’t manned, until I see signs warning of landmines. Nearby trees have red marks painted on them, another common warning for mines. There is still a lot of demining needed here.

The rain reduces to a sprinkle, and Shanghai points to a far off ridge, saying, “There it is.” A tree covered ridgeline known as the Dangkrek Mountains rises off the horizon. At the highest point, 550 meters up atop a cliff, is the Preah Vihear temple.

Arriving at my destination - the Dangrek Mountains
We arrive at the village of Kor Muy near the bottom of the mountain ridge. Kor Muy doesn’t have much to offer visitors except a few simple guesthouses and primitive restaurants. It’s a ramshackle village, built in the shadow of Preah Vihear. Shanghai says this is as far as he will go; I think he's afraid of more shooting up by the temple.

We climb out of the old Corolla, to find its silver color has turned brown. Speckles of dirt and clumps of mud cover the car from one end to the other. I'm thankful; somehow, it got me here.

Since the fire fights started between the Khmers and the Thai Army, all of the tourists and many of the villagers left. Still, the village population has increased five fold, from the arrival of Cambodian Army reinforcements.

I look up at the ridgeline, and wonder if there will be more gunfire today. Should I continue on? I've come a long way to get here, and it's a long way back. 

I'm heading up. 

(*NOTE*- This post was written several years ago when the temple conflict occurred.)