After enduring years of bloodshed and oppression under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia now hosts growing numbers of nature-seeking tourists who come to discover some of the largest wilderness areas remaining in Asia.
On the ride back to Siem Reap, Chhoam takes a road through the scrubland, stopping so I can inspect an Angkor-era stone bridge built to span a muddy, 50-foot-wide stream. More than 800 years old, this corbelled arch was originally part of a royal road from Angkor Wat to what is now Thailand. While Mony scans the sere landscape for birds, I'm already contemplating another trip. This road leads to Banteay Chhmar temple, a 12th century masterpiece of face-towers and bas-reliefs, including a lintel featuring two sarus cranes. And there's always the giant ibis, out of scope but never far from mind.