Goodbye Pattaya, Hello Pnom Penh
Goodbye Pattaya, Hello Phnom Penh
I had been in Pattaya for the previous 5 months and I was becoming pissed off with the place. I was sick to death of the where you come from, what your name, where's your lady and listening to blue nonsense. I just wanted to go out and have a drink and a chat but this was impossible due to constant interference by bargirls with their gibberish. Early nights were becoming more and more frequent and I can remember one particular night they actually made me physically sick, other nights I just couldn't sum up the courage to go out for a drink at all. I needed a break from Pattaya so I decided to head for Phnom Penh for a holiday.
To save a few baht I decided to travel by road because I’m a bit of a cheap so and so. The night before I was due to leave I didn't have one of my early nights in fact it was one of my rougher nights so I wasn't in great shape getting on the bus. We boarded the bus around 8 outside Burger King and soon me and my travel companion who I managed to talk into coming in the bar the night before were on our way to Aranyaprathet swigging lukewarm big Changs all the way. We arrived at the border around midday, after staggering off the bus in the blistering heat, we made our way to the border crossing point. Marching out of Thailand we were glad to see the back of the place. I was a little disappointed when I heard I had to pay $20 for a visa. I begrudgingly handed over the cash, got my visa and I was on my way.
After about five minutes of walking and scuttling beggars we found ourselves in some sort of tourist information office. We now had organize some transport to Phnom Penh we made a few inquiries about a bus to Phnom Penh but we were told that the bus only goes to Angkor Wat and you have to stay over night and then on to Phnom Penh, they gave us some excuse about being dangerous traveling by night. Now we were having none of this so decided to take a taxi direct to Phnom Penh. To my shock we were told $60, we nearly turned back but we were thrown a lifeline, if we waited a while we could get a taxi for $20 but we would have to share, no problem we took it. So we found ourselves stuffed into the back of Toyota Camry with no air-con and a head like a brewery with 6 other passengers and the driver in the car. Me and my travel companion were seated in the back with 3 smelly Khmer men while a women and her 2 kids were seated in the front. The driver must have had more to drink than us because he just seemed to drive on which ever side of the so called road suited him, beeping the horn every 5 seconds along the way. This was quite scary at first but after a while we got used to it and I realized this was the norm in Cambodia so I settled in and tried to enjoy the back breaking ride. We did stop along the way in some village for much needed refreshments were we picked up a few cans of Angkor and popped into the pharmacy for painkillers for our head and back. My friend being somewhat of a prescription drug connoisseur was able to pick out a morphine based pill that did the trick quite well.
We arrived in Phnom Penh like cattle around midnight and we were delighted to be getting out of that car. We booked into a splendid hotel (can't quite remember the name because it was in Khmer but it was directly across the street from a hotel called the Lucky Star.) $10 dollars a night clean, modern, hot water and air-con, the air-con alone was worth the trip. 1 hour after checking in we were heading out on the town. As we walked out of the hotel we were greeted by scruffy motorcycle taxi pests (none of who really know were there going) we jumped on a bike and we found ourselves in martinis. It was late around 1:30 so we didn't have much time but that didn't matter because we were already well oiled, ordered a few drinks and fell all over the pool table for a half an hour until closing time and got fucked out. Our next destination was heart Of Darkness didn't like the place at all, full of backpacker twats and f'in techno crap also prices were a bit steep so we made a sharp exit. Within walking distance was a bar called Howy's, now this bar was more to our liking quite and they didn't force us to listen to that techno crap or blue for that matter one of the staff even asked us what music we would like to listen to and they had quite a good selection. The beer was cheap so we had a few. During my time in Phnom Penh this became my favorite bar the only downside was there was never more than 4 customers in the bar so it could get a little dull, although great for a quite peaceful drink and a chat but I don't know howy makes money. Anyway it was getting late and we had a long day so we decided to call it a night after Howy's.
We made our way back to the hotel and I was really looking forward to a good night's sleep in that air-con room. I had just bid my friend a good night and about to open the door to my room when I heard a voice "you want lady". I spun around and saw a Khmer man about 28 years of age. I decide to take him up on his kind offer and informed him that my friend might also be interested in his offer. A few minutes later he returns with 2 girls both girls were attractive and there was little between them in terms of looks. My friend being more eager disappeared into his room before me while I stood in the corridor chatting to the Khmer man who had good English. The Khmer man then invited me into his room, not wanting to offend I agreed. I told the girl to wait in my room, I'll deal with you later I thought to myself. Entering the room I was shocked but thrilled to see a party in full swing. There were 3 other Khmer men and 1 women in the room I was invited to sit down and have a drink. As I chatted to my new friends I noticed that drink was not the only thing being consumed at this dubious party in fact it was every Thai bargirl's idea of heaven and more. Time flew and before I knew it was sunrise so I bid farewell and headed to my room. I had totally forgotten and got a pleasant surprise when I entered my room. I had left the air-con on full blast all night and the room was perfect for a good night sleep. I told the girl to fuck off.
I woke late that day and filled my friend in with the happenings of the night before, he was keen to meet my new Khmer friends. That night we headed out on the town we went to a rip off nightclub $4 for a small can of Angkor, we got fleeced. We left the nightclub prematurely because I had made arrangement to meet my Khmer friends for a party. As time went on we became friendly with these men. If they wanted us to come to a party they would have a car pick us up at the hotel and take us there. Now some of these parties used to take place in hotel rooms but sometimes they would rent out a private room in some club and only people who know the "big boss" could get in. At these party there would be a DJ and even a waiter. I remember one particular waiter at a party was a midget, like in that James Bond film. Drinks were free and served by a midget waiters, now not wanting to appear mean I would sometimes buy a slab of cans for the party. I spoke to a man who told me he owned the Cambodian lottery at one of these parties and I met a lot of strange interesting people at these get togethers.
Going to Cambodia this is the last thing that I thought would happen. I always thought it was a poor country. These men had no shortage of cash or cars or anything for that matter. On occasions when we used to go to dodgy areas like Tool Kook they would have a driver bring us at act as protection and bring us back to our desired location never with any trouble. Looking back at it now I wonder who these people were. I have a few ideas but I’m just not sure maybe somebody reading this might have bumped into these people on their trips to Phnom Penh and might be able to fill me in.
You're a brave guy partying with these people. Sure, they might just have been regular, friendly folks, but in a country like Cambodia where you really have no idea what is going on, it pays to be a bit more careful…