About ROV


email Glenn

Angkor Wat
The Cambodian Legacy

The Angkor Wat Complex

In the jungles of Cambodia, there is a temple complex that is the epitome of (in fact, probably the inspiration of) every Indiana Jones-type fantasy we've ever had.

Shrouded in mystery and danger; rich with history; ripe with treasures:
It is a wonder known as Angkor Wat.
Yet, despite its' glory, you may not know of it.
For the same reason that you probably do know of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge, or the Killing Fields.

Death, Destruction, and War have been near-constant guests in Cambodia for the past 25 to 30 years, making Angkor Wat a risky venture for the average tourist.

cam_01.tif (71770 bytes)

Like the beckoning hand of a graceful Khmer dancer, Cambodia has been calling me to visit for a number of years.

However, the destructive political instability has prevented us from actually making the journey - until recently.

In late 1997 and early 1998, things have settled down quite a bit - though the US government still recommends against a visit, because no one knows how long the quiet will last.

We'd been monitoring the situation for awhile, though, and decided the time was right for a quick weekend tour of Siem Reap and the nearby temples.

While the area was pretty quiet during our visit, and we had no problems at all, there were visual reminders of the dangers of Cambodia.

Like the sight of men who still search for unexploded land mines (some say 10 million remain in the Cambodian landscape).
Or skulls from the killing fields, stacked as reminders of the cost of war.

Once you are in the temples, however, it's easy to forget about the problems of recent years, because you are immediately transported back to the 12th century.

There are dozens of these temples, situated 7 kilometers north of Siem Reap.

cam_11.tif (223134 bytes)
A Bunch of Reasons Why Tourism isn't big in Cambodia

cam_21.tif (245104 bytes)
Angkor Thom

Each site is stunning for its' architectural design, thought-provoking for its' religious connotations, spectacular in its' carved detail, and steeped in mystery and legend.

One event during our visit contributed, in a small way, to the enduring legend of Angkor Wat.

We were walking through the main courtyard, where tall steep staircases lead to the central towers.
Our guide, Chiven, had pointed out to us that the stairs were dangerous. He would take us to a set that were safer.
As we stood at the corner of the tower taking pictures, we heard a loud, dull thud.
Turning, we saw a dog lying on an opposite staircase. The dog had fallen about 50 feet from the steep staircase, and landed on the opposite one, on his back.

He laid there, with one leg twitching towards the sky. Eventually, the motion stopped, with the paw still grasping at air.

A guard walked over, grabbed the dog by the leg, and threw the limp body into a corner.
We shook our heads at this graphic display of unsure footing, and slowly climbed to the top. After twenty minutes of viewing the tower, we came to the staircase from which the dog had fallen.
We looked down to see a dog sitting in the corner. The guard shouted to Chiven
Chiven turned and said, "That is the dog. He's better now."
I laughed and told Chiven that the guard was pulling his leg. That dog was clearly dead. This was a different dog.

Chiven called down to the guard and then turned to me, "No. This is the dog that fell. The guard tried to clean the blood away from the dead dog, but the water woke up the dog. This is the same one."
I shook my head and said it was impossible. Chiven shrugged and led us to view the upper galleries.

When we finished, I told Chiven I wanted to see the dog. He thought I was joking, but I was not.
"If that dog is alive", I said, "I want to touch his head for luck".
We came down the tower, and rounded the corner to find the dog - yes the same dog - walking now.

He could't walk well, but his walk was not the walk of a dog that had a broken back, or a broken leg, or even serious internal damage.
His walk was the walk of a stunned dog. The look on his face was probably not unlike the look on my face.
When he turned his head, however, the damage was clear. The right side of his face and jaw was bloodied, and his eye had basically exploded. It was white and filmy.
As I realized that the dog had probably suffered some brain damage, I decided that he might not be lucky after all.
Rubbing his head was no longer on my agenda.

A nun came up to Chiven and started speaking to him.
"Nothing," she told him, "can die inside these temple walls. Nothing has ever died here, and nothing will."

Kevin and I looked at the dog, looked at the stairs, looked at the nun, and slowly shook our heads.
As we left the courtyard, wondering about the mystery of Angkor Wat, I turned back to look at this dog. He too stood bewildered, and slowly shook his head.

Continue to Angkor Wat 2