Eyes of SWILD

  Wander the Ancient Temples of Angkor Wat in War Infested Cambodia, 1993

UN helicopters

In 1993, Cambodia was at war with the Khmer Rouge. The United Nations was participating in full skirmishes with rebels in the north of the country. During Paul's visit, by the UN's count, there were only eight 'vacationing' travelers in Cambodia. This country just started issuing movie permits in 2000.


Phnom Penh and Siem Reap were crawling with the French UNITAC UN division. Throughout the burnt out capital, fire destroyed, upturned cars were littered along the city streets. The situation was a little tense, but for Cambodia it was business as usual.

Land mine notice

Upon my arrival at the airport (all commercial traffic had been halted), I was escorted to a UN briefing on the various land mines being used by the Khmer Rouge. The Bouncing Bettys were the worst. If you stepped on one, they bounce up and explode at waist level.

ANgkor Wat temple

The temples of Angkor Wat are incredible. I have never seen so many stone temples with such magnificent carvings. Until you are there in person, the magnitude of the site is indescribable.


Littered through the jungle paths, soldiers have their bazookas and grenade launchers ready for action. One mortar attack occurred off in the distance during the second day I was there. The thump, thump explosions were pretty intense.


The children, as always, were selling trinkets. This one had a wooden crossbow that I scoffed at. He demonstrated its effectiveness by shooting the wooden dart over a inch into a nearby tree.

Overgrown temple

So many of the temples have been overgrown with enormous trees. The roots over the centuries have draped themselves down the stone temples. It's quite a surreal site.

Angkor Wat

Many of the stone faces have survived the ravages of the weather and jungle. Unfortunately, many carvings were being removed by soldiers and locals trying to make a buck.

Street food

Street food was pretty good and very inexpensive. I always attracted a crowd when I sat down for my meals. Trying to figure out what was cooking in the bubbling cauldrons was also a challenge.

Sand bag fortifications

The Paul's guest house was on the main road from the jungle to Siem Reap, the provincial capital close to Angkor Wat. Opposite the bedroom window, was the sand bagged position above of the UN forces, entrenched in case of an attack.

Angkor Wat

Here's another photo illustrating the immense size of the trees that have overgrown the temples. The roots are just amazing.


This guy reminds me of Yoda, from Star Wars. Throughout my jungle treks, I met many locals and children, oblivious to the Khmer Rouge fighting going on around them.

Local monks

The local monks were a delight to see. Always colorful, and always shy. With the language barrier, it was difficult to communicate. We did manage to share a few laughs. My Walkman was of great interest - they all would queue to listen to the music.