Second Tour Of Duty
Although the excitement was not as great as the first time on boarding the plane to BKK, I was still looking forward to the trip and also determined to see more of the country and its people. My first trip involved little more than the occasional sightseeing excursion and plenty of time in the Go-Go and beer bars filling up my mental video with as much as I could take in. Although we (my mate and I) planned on seeing more we got caught in the fly paper called Pattaya. After seeing plenty of baht mysteriously disappear to various parts of the LOS via great carnal activity, I realised on returning home that I had not seen much of the country at all.
I planned my 2nd trip meticulously and allowed myself only a few days in BK and Pattaya to avoid being entangled again. What I "missed out on" in pleasures of the flesh, I made up with memories that will last a lifetime. My wallet also seemed strangely full on leaving Sin City. Luckily I remembered your advice and arranged for a lady to join me for the trip to Ko Samet. My mate who considered himself a bit of a ladies man said he would find someone there. WRONG! The short boat trip saw my lady throwing up repeatedly into a plastic bag but she recovered nicely on hitting terra firma. The look on my friend's face when he realised that this was no Pattaya as far as women were concerned and the fact that the weather took a turn for the worse gave me a laugh. There we were stuck in our ridiculously overpriced decrepit hut with little else to do but….mmm! My mate in his hut was definitely not a happy camper! The few respites from the pouring rain saw only a few hippo thighed western women emerging to frolic in the surf with their obscene mammalian glands and grotesque bodies doing injustice to a beautiful island. As the weather wasn't playing along we returned to the mainland and after "thanking" my lady proceeded down the coast through Chanthaburi, Trat and Ban Hat Lek. We had met an American woman who had backpacked the world and she joined us as we crossed the border into Cambodia without any problems, well almost. A smooth talking operator who called himself "Sam the Man" convinced us to use his taxi . We were later to call him "Sam the Sham" because he had scarcely dropped us off at our guest house when he began making moves on the US lady. This was to be my first impression of Khmer men and I still think of them as lizards, crawling out from the rocks to see what was in it for them! The Cambodian women and children are however fantastic and the general friendliness and use of English put them leagues ahead of the Thais. When Sam openly asked Miss US for sex and was promptly rejected, things began to turn nasty. At dinner that night he made a pest of himself and then demanded 600 baht for a 10 minute taxi trip earlier that evening. His rationale was that he had to repair his car and that besides westerners had plenty of money to throw away. We smilingly told him to get fucked and paid what we considered a fair price plus a smoothing over tip. This was still not good enough for Sham and we were introduced to his "friend" who worked at the local clinic and who made a few veiled threats about not wanting to see us at the out patient section of the clinic. We stuck to our guns (literally), paid the bill and walked (fast) back to the hotel. This all happened on our overnight stay in Koh Kong, a rather dangerous place with dangerous people (read men!).
Cambodia started happening for me the next day when we boarded the ferry (actually a fantastic air-conditioned speed boat) for the trip to Sihanoukville/Kampong Saom. The $15, 4-5 hour trip through the Gulf Of Thailand was a fantastic experience and I can highly recommend it considering how we travelled later. If I could sing and Frankie were alive Sihanoukville would be "My kind of town!". Snookies is a bustling small town with Cambodia's only deep water harbour. It is vibrant (in an outback sense) yet laid back and a photogenic dream. Nice beaches and lovely seas, good accommodation, excellent food, fantastic affordable beer (60 US cents!) and great people make this town worth visiting. The nightlife scene is starting to flourish and the whole place has a Pattaya feel to it. Wobbling back to the guesthouse after paying homage to Bacchus one is suddenly surrounded by 5-10 ladies offering their services for $ 5-10! I never made use of these offers though as apparently being a harbour town the prevalence of certain unwanted travelling companions is rather high. The sunsets and nearby islands make Snookies one hellava place. Oh yea..Cambrew Breweries, the home of Angkor Beer is also located a few kms from town. No worry about beer shortages!!! It was therefore with a bit of a sore heart that I left …..I will be back!
Travelling by road through Cambodia is an oxymoron. There are a few decent roads (seriously) but the majority make one wonder if you are driving or flying by the amount of time one spends in the air. This is a combination of potholes, terrible roads and vehicles with shock absorbers that really are a shock to the body. How the bottle of Pinotage I was keeping for a special occasion survived I do not know. It had a sad ending being swilled by a bar girl in Thailand, but that is another tale. The "national" highway to Phnom Penh however is pretty good, albeit narrow, and the rule of the road is bigger (and louder) is best. Forget trying to take a nap as the 5 second hooter blasts would have kept Helen Keller awake. Interesting countryside and the urban build-up on the side of the road more than compensated. The moto taxis started stalking the bus from about 2 kms from the bus station with the drivers pointing and gesticulating that they were the numero uno in PP. And so into the crazy, interesting city of Phnom Penh…..
PP is motorbike city deluxe. Everything seems to revolve around motos. Unlike BK where one takes ones life into ones own hands with tuk-tuks, negotiating PP on the back of a moto for $ 5 a day is a seemingly safe but still exciting event. Small businesses have sprung up around the city catering solely for these modes of transport. I saw this first hand when on the first trip we picked up a nail in the tyre. "No Problem, 5 minutes" said Mr. Rambo my driver and true his word we were mobile shortly after he pushed the bike to a roadside repair shop who removed and patched the tube in the time allocated. Speaking to many of the drivers it seemed that all had lost someone in their family during the Pol Pot madness. After visiting the Genocide Museum and killing fields one has to take your hat off to these people for their positive attitude towards the future. They don't want or expect sympathy. This on top of only earning about $ 500 a year! PP's bad points, and they really are bad, are the amount of beggars, certain FILTHY parts of the city and the oppressive "must make a sale" attitude of the hawkers that has one surrounded and touched all the time. Getting around the city is however far more pleasant than in BK because there is a sense of planning that went into the layout of the streets. Finding decent accommodation is a bit of a hit and miss affair as certain guest houses recommended by guide books can turn the stomach of even hardened travellers. Overall though if one is on a bit of a budget, reasonable places can be found. Always check out rooms before booking in, including sheets and pillow cases as some seem to have been there since opening day! And so night falls……time to check out the nightlife!
When asking around about nightlife one invariably gets the same answer..Martini's. If there's one place that won't be seeing me soon, if ever again, its here. Situated on MV Mao Tse Toung if I remember correctly, Martini's is actually a mixture of an open air beer garden with an undercover bar and dancing area, an outdoor cinema and a food market. One is scarcely through the door when the hordes of attacking barracuda strike! If one thing in life pisses me off, its when a person is being constantly harassed when all you want to do is get a cold beer, find a good place to sit, check out the scene and if one feels like it make your choice of who you want to "talk" to. Here one is not given that choice! The first hostess to you thinks that she has already put in her peg and staked her claim. It took me an hour of removing her hands on my crotch and simply ignoring her before she eventually left. There were some very attractive girls but the whole "hard sell" attitude coupled with expensive drinks made me want to get the fuck out. Another annoying thing which I found throughout Cambodia is that the lizards always seem to accompany their working girlfriends into the clubs and you always feel their beady eyes on you. They will also drink themselves comatose and the pretty lady from the night before will turn up to work the next day with a blue eye or swollen lip. Real Bastards!! Skarky's bar was totally different, reminding me of Gulliver's bar in Khao Sarn road in Bk. A good relaxed ambience, reasonable drink prices, attractive but not pushy ladies and generally a nice place to relax and enjoy the evening. I made it my watering hole for the duration of my stay in PP.
Comparing Cambodian and Thai women is a bit difficult, well for me that is because each has something in them that I enjoy. Overall though I would opt for the Cambodians as they are friendlier, have a better grasp of English, are not so "from the farm" looking and generally seem to carry themselves better. The sight of a Cambodian lady pedalling on her bicycle is actually very sensual, hard to describe unless you actually see it for yourself. The Thai women however have an "in your face" cockiness which I also find refreshing. Very little to choose between. One thing for certain though, Thais will always scoop the acting awards! We had heard a lot about the Vietnamese women working in PP but did not actually meet many until K11 that is. I had planned on visiting Vietnam but my mate picked up travellers trots from a dubious ice cream he ate and K11 was the closest I got to the Viets. As the name says this shanty town of corrugated sheds is 11 km out of PP and worked by mostly Vietnamese hookers. Cambodian men seem to have a penchant for light skinned women as we were repeatedly told that these were very beautiful women we were about to see. What a major disappointment! Driving into the alley the girls all rush to the doorways of the various places . One place seemed as good as the next to stop and on doing so "the one thing that pisses me off" scenario occurred again. Granted, the women were pretty attractive but not overly so. Looking into those eyes reminded me of the way a snake looks at his prey before striking and coupled with the fact that even our moto drivers were looking uncomfortable and nervous made us decide to get the hell out of there ASAP. We were persuaded (forced) to have a drink and a curtain like in a hospital ward was drawn around us. There was no asking what we preferred, 2 women were simply sent in and they immediately set about groping, fondling and sucking that was so mechanical it was irritating. Paid for the beers and left pronto. PP had now started to become claustrophobic and I needed to move on ……..
The next day we boarded a smaller speedboat for the trip up the Tonle Sap river to Siem Reap, and what an interesting trip it turned out to be. All went well for the first few hours until the river started to narrow and become very shallow. The Monsoons had not set in properly and the water level was very low. At times the boat was virtually churning it's way through mud. Where we could pick up speed the boat threw up a large bow wave that knocked many poor Cambodian families off their small boats into the river or smashed those moored on the river bank. The sights on that trip were amazing. To give an indication of how low the water was, when we entered the Tonle Sap lake itself, one could not see land on either side yet fisherman were standing chest deep in the water tending to their nets. Eight hours later we sighted our landing point in the distance when all of a sudden the boat came to a halt. The 2 crew members/ mechanics were quickly down into the engine room and were seen working on the motors while the skipper of the boat contacted land on his cellphone. A small long tailed boat came out to meet us and attempted to tow this large fully laden boat through the mud. Another small boat arrived and tried to push us from the rear. The container of diesel that was passed over secretly explained why we had stopped!! No Juice. Eventually we churned our way to the offloading point a few hundred metres from land and had to disembark into small boats that came very close to capsizing (not that one could drown in that shallow water). A second jetty consisting of a thin plank which we had to balance across with our luggage was the final road to freedom. Being from Africa I've seen some pretty sorry places but this fishing town took the (fish)cake. The stench was unbearable and when we climbed into the mini-bus we spent the next 10 minutes clearing out the flies. The short trip to the town of Siem Reap itself was another torturous event but in a masochistic way rather funny and enjoyable. SR town itself is developing quite rapidly due to it being next to the magnificence of Angor Wat and many large upmarket hotels are operating or being built. There is accommodation to suit all pockets, But I get the feeling things are going to get very expensive very quickly. Even though I was very impressed with the sheer size and grandeur of Angor Wat and it's surrounds, I'm not really a "temple" tourist and found more interest in a small independent land mine museum just out of town. The owner/curator is a Mr. Akira whose parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge when he was 5 years old. At the age of 10 he was given his first rifle and fought with the Khmer Rouge. Captured by the invading Vietnamese he fought against his old allies and later worked for the new Cambodian Army and the UN. Mr. Akira told me he has personally defused 10 000 mines and runs his museum on a donation basis. He still de-mines areas and uses his funding to educate and treat the rural population and mine victims. He has also taken as his own and raised orphans of mine victims. Check out the website www.landmine-museum.com . Mr. Akira is only 27 years old !! His large collection of ordinance was drastically reduced by the Cambodian Government who "confiscated" items and started their own museum for profit. Any donations to this remarkable man can be made via Western Union, details on the website. I for one know all donations will be used to benefit others less fortunate. A section of his small piece of land has been turned into a hands on (or should that be feet on) mine display where one walks through natural bush and attempts to spot various kinds of mines and booby-traps. All are guaranteed 100% safe, but it still gives one the chills.
There is a nightlife of sorts in Siem Reap, but this is limited to some pubs and good streetside restaurants. One pub, the well named Angor What? holds special memories for me in that it was here that I was witness to the ultimate in arguments… A 2 hour heated debate on RICE! This took place between 2 expats and was so stupid as to be hilarious. It started with one innocently stating that he did not enjoy eating rice and ended with all listening well educated on the history and various forms and cultures of rice. Whenever the argument started flagging, one of us spectators would "accidentally" mention something to do with rice and things would flare up again. This was people watching at its best! I do not know and did not try find out about any naughty nightlife but I'm certain that there must be considering the abject poverty around. As a well travelled Swede mentioned to me in Pattaya " In Asia if you want to fuck a crocodile they will find one for you!"
The SHORT 150 km (according to my map!) trip from SR to the border at Poipet should only take us max. 2 hours I reckoned. I RECKONED WRONG!! Leaving early that morning we only arrived at the border in the late afternoon after driving and "flying" across some really atrocious roads. Admittedly work is being done on the roads but this is all by means of women and children manually laying the base layers of rock and was only for short sections. Once again the very interesting scenery and sights made the trip well worthwhile. Imagine seeing 2 large dead pigs on the back of a scooter being whisked off to market with mucous flying out of their noses and feet stuck in the air! I'm sure this will never be seen on the M1 or Autobahn in ones lifetime. The butcheries on the side of the road were also fascinating with haunches of pork and beef simply hung up and slices cut off. Luckily the temperature was only around the 40 degree C mark! The thousands of flies were doing their best to circle the meat and try to keep it cool. Despite missing out on seeing Vietnam and certain parts of Cambodia( there are still bandits and inaccessible roads in certain regions) the area has great tourist potential. As much as I enjoyed Cambodia with its natural beauty and people (again except the men) it was a with a sense of relief that we crossed back into the oasis of Thailand….But that's another tale!
Wow, sounds just like my Cambodian trip early last year. And like you, I found Martini's top be deplorable, but Skarky's to be a very pleasant spot.