A: Angkor Wat
They opened the photo album. My friends. On the dining table as we drank tea. In DC. In their house. The Center for Endless Tea. And told me about their visit to Angkor Wat. They had gone around on motorbikes. To magnificent temples. With jungle all around. And talked about how it would be developed soon. And it was best to get there before that happened.
It became. My dream destination.
It took me. Ten years to get there.
I arrived in Siem Reap with no plan. I walked across the hot tarmac and out of the airport. And there were 20 car drivers. Vying for fares. To hotels. To Angkor Wat. I picked one for no reason at all, except I needed a ride. To take me to a hotel. When I asked him if he knew anyone who could change the $100 of Vietnamese dong I forgot I had crammed in my pocket, he assured me that he knew a guy who knew a guy. And he did.
While I wandered the ruins, he snoozed in the car. Tripping through magnificent Khmer architecture. Stunning bas-relief carving. There are pictures. Of me. Smiling in a white shirt. And a black cap. I don’t know who took those photos. I expect I asked American. Or Canadian tourists. Who happily obliged. Sweaty. Avoiding anything off the beaten path. Landmines. I was warned.
A girl, not more than 7 years old, asked if I wanted to buy a bag. Deep maroon with gold elephants woven in. She walked next to me insisting it would cost the equivalent of $3. I still am not sure. Why I offered her $2. And she took it. I wish I could find her. And give her the dollar.