Pnom Penh: A Platonic Sex Tourist
Phnom Penh: Of A Platonic Sex Tourist, The Thai, The Viets
By The Hanoian
Arriving in Phnom Penh and knowing that the Silver Pagoda, National Museum, Wat Phnom, Tuol Sleng Museum, and Killing Fields are the highlights and with my having visited the latter two on a prior and only other visit, the decision was easy what to do first – go to Martini Pub! After all, my earnest sources of information – Mr Stickman, through his esteemed website, and Lonely Planet – reported in similar words that heinously some of the sex workers appear disturbingly young. Young pussy – sounds interesting, and thanks for the lead!
Finding Martini Pub was both difficult and easy. I decided to take a long walk there, for my more than 90 minutes/day exercise that equates to two additional years life expectancy, from my $3 Okay Guesthouse (my thriftiness has been well-documented in prior submissions) near the 5-star riverfront Cambodiana Hotel (where I’d meet my wife who’d be coming down from Hanoi in a few days; her organization’s scope is improving a certain function of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). I couldn’t find Martini Pub and neither could a motorbike taxi I caught after waiting out a monsoon the city seemed to have every mid-afternoon.
That night I hopped on a motorbike taxi in front of my guesthouse, meaning I was dealing with guys knowing where things are, and was at Martini Pub in little more than minutes. Turns out that Martini Pub had moved and my earlier man was looking for it at the old address and helpful Cambodians had been calling the wrong phone number.
Now I wasn’t planning on getting laid, but did want to see the experience. (This could remind you of the definition of an agnostic – a gutless atheist.) As I’ve documented before in a prior submission, a sex worker is of little use to me – can offer little pleasure, for I can’t eat her out, fxxx her without a condom, and even receive head from her. Yes I’m aware more than anyone that one doctor in the region will tell you that it’s unlikely you will pick up anything from receiving oral sex (“But you can wear a condom to make sure”) while another doctor well encumbered by the facts (of course; he works in Olongapo, adjacent to the old Subic base, Philippines) will respond that you’d better believe you can pick up VD that way. With half the VDs permanent and not wanting it myself nor ruining a loved one, I’ll err on the side of safety when it comes to sex workers who bed conceivably 1,825 guys over a 5-year period, assuming only one a night. I know of a blonde beauty (thought she was management’s daughter), in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, who was screwed by 30 of my troopship colleagues during our first night in port.)
Anyway, I'm sitting by myself in Martini Pub eating my supper, vaguely watching their movie, and ignored by the women. As I’m sitting there, looking forlorn, I’m wondering whether I’m that unappealing. Whizzing by is a happy-looking and striking, golden-hued, lissome young whore, quite probably Vietnamese, dressed in jeans’ short (for Cambodia anyway) shorts with her midriff barren except for a bra-like appendage. She was hot. I wondered whether she’s a superstar and available to only a few. But one thing I’ve learned in Vietnam, often the forbidden fruit, like cafe management’s teen daughter of a slim body, as precious as can be, turns out to be seducible. The gals at Martini Pub didn’t look underage to me.
But then one of the whores, looking rather like a real slut, stands by my table, glances down at me, and sits down. During our chatting, I ask her what the hell that was on her biceps. It was rather dark in Martini’s, but it looked like she’d been bruised up. She responded it says, “I love you,” in Cambodian. (She said it like she’d gotten it just for me.) Yes, having a tattoo, she’s an unappealing slut.
So I go from ignored to getting better treated than anyone in there as far as I could notice – she's stroking through my jeans although we’re not in a discreet spot, being close to the counter where you order the food, I’m producing
an engorgement, she fakes surprise at this, and then volunteers she has a hairless pussy. To confirm this, not that I asked her to, she raises her skirt to show me some dainty white thongs and pulls them to the side showing me her goods. My hand
well confirmed she had a naturally hairless and small pussy. Her friskiness attracted the attention of a lady matron working there who eyeballed her. And a security guard was all of a sudden posted adjacent to us. It didn’t seem to bother
I think she was on drugs, for she relentlessly begged me to go outside to a nearby short-time place and fxxx her; she just kept that up, with not even a minute’s break, getting on my nerves a little. She was a real stuck record. I asked why she wanted to go out with me (knowing why of course), and she responded she liked to fxxx. Judging from her pussy in an extreme stage of wetness, there could be a little truth in that. No way was I going out with that slut, particularly after then running my hands down inside the back of her panties toward her naughtier orifice and feeling something hard projecting out – God – maybe a fxxxing wart. My hand was out of there and fast. With that type of attention, she then volunteers she'll take it up the ass. Rather unusual for a sex worker – I mean usually it's the guys pining for that. And one thing I’m thinking is that incredibly you have all these guys going to Bangkok and actually falling for such tattooed and wart-encrusted sleaze and then recommending, thru Mr Stickman’s, that others come over and do the same.
She was Thai-style whore full of shit – lies and lies. The mentally nimble wouldn’t believe her if she said Niagara Falls was wet. How did you learn your English so well I ask as though I didn’t know it was a function of the 1,825 guys or so she’d sleazed with over the past five years? “I'm studying it in school.” And she’d responded she was Cambodian. I suspected she was Vietnamese and spoke Vietnamese to her. There are loads of Vietnamese in Phnom Penh; I even found a little Viet sector. Fluent in Vietnamese, she changes her story to she’s half Vietnamese. Her lies were oriented to her saying what she thought I’d like to hear, of course, and somehow thought Cambodian was the answer. And she wanted me thinking she was a good girl studying English who was out of money. She said last night she hadn’t had money for food. With my responding to her question that yes, I’d just now arrived in country, she probably thought I was easy-pickings, and I was having fun, except for the minor problem of her nagging, stringing her along.
The way she was so relentless on wanting to fxxx, I asked her whether she took drugs but phrased it like I'd be for it. Yes, she was on drugs, she responded. I gave her some pocket change because it's not fair to take all their time in a club for nothing. One thing nice about the bar whores in Phnom Penh is they’ll sit next to you forever without asking for a drink, not that I’d be unfair in that regard. Were it the Philippines, it’d be the girl, her two friends, her sister, and mamasan, with me paying for drinks for all; you know the routine. Finally, she asked for a Coke of which one of us then knocks on the floor. I went to wash my hands after having my hands inside the pants of that sleaze, and she inquires, “You’ll be back won’t you?” Of course – even whores deserve some treatment.
With her stuck in the mode of forever trying to get me to take her out and my nerves having had it a little in that regard, I responded, looking out over the whole of Martini’s, that no other guys were leaving with women. But then a guy gets up
and walks out with one – so much for that argument. Well, she says, if you don’t want to go up the street, you can spend the night where I live. What a creepy thought. Having taken up a lot of her time, I give her a little more minor spending
money and leave, without her of course.
I will say one thing she had going for her. She had that fabulously soft skin (flesh) of a baby’s that so many Vietnamese have even well into adulthood (forever?), and I mean precisely like a baby’s. I’m not talking hyperbole. Were I to breed the ideal woman, I wouldn’t go wrong using her gene for that attribute. Nice little pussy too, but she’s ruined goods.
Continuing regarding breeding the ideal woman, I’d use the Chinese for their superior- and flawless-appearing skin, and Hanoi or Haiphong North Vietnamese women for those fabulous narrow-shouldered and lean builds along with good height and delicate, pretty faces. They’ll take your breath away. For butts, this is an easy one: the Vietnamese whose butts are opposite of the pudgy butts of the Mexicans and Japanese, and my Taiwanese friend fond of the women of the region notes that the butts of the Chinese women just aren’t good-looking. The trim Vietnamese butts are just adorable and you’ll never get tired of looking at them, nor will you find any better. (But stay in Bangkok – we don’t need you whoring around here in Hanoi, for example, where I live, making the rest of us look bad. People who visit Vietnam don’t come back for a second visit, and for Thailand 80% do; hence, go to Thailand.) For good juicy fxxxs – they’re born to fxxx, sing and dance – the Filipina’s gene would be the one, but admittedly there may be no such gene; rather it could very well be cultural.
My motorbike taxi guy spoke English pretty well and really knew and took me to all the places – Martini Pub, Sharky’s, Heart of Darkness, a whorehouse packed with young women, and more popular clubs. Now this guy stays on my ass wanting to get me fixed up. Relentless he was too. Well I had hired him for Martini Pub, so come to think of it, no wonder he thought I was your usual male slut. Hence, after Martini Pub he stops at what appears to be at first a normal thin, high house – Viet-style. Inside are several young male Cambodian minders, we go upstairs to the third floor, and God there are 15 – I counted them – young Vietnamese but not ultra young. Pink-lit rooms were all over the place. I didn't bite; maybe I'm spoiled from Hanoi. Some of the enticements were ok, but I wasn't drooling over them. Left there and went to Phnom Penh's second favorite place – Heart of Darkness. But it was closed down. I’d heard before some violent stuff had happened there – some foreigners or a foreigner pounded by Cambodians or a Cambodian. A week and a half earlier than this night we went by, a Cambodian was shot and killed there and the cops closed it down. Heart of Darkness had posted a sign euphemistically saying they were remodeling.
So then we stopped in Sharky’s (“No Weapons, No Drugs…Survive 3 Mortar Rounds – Get a Free T-Shirt”), and all the time on the way over there, my motorbike guy's trying to get me fxxxed but with no luck – $15 he said. He continued, “Either Vietnamese or Cambodian, but I prefer Vietnamese for they perform the total servicing.” Maybe you could describe Sharky’s as like a Martini Pub but with plenty of pool tables.
Being new, like at Martini Pub, I didn't feel frisky walking into the place, so went out on the narrow balcony upstairs that was devoid of customers. Right away, a good-looking young Viet homes in on me, and a split second later, a Cambodian, with one on each side. This would turn out to be a problem. Ms Cambodian really wanted me, and so did Ms Viet but the latter a little cowed what with being in a country where they are quite possibly disliked even more than the Thais. Ms Cambodian was so affectionate, tried so hard, would take my hands, and try to get me to caress her. But I didn't like her looks although she tried so hard and pushed all the right buttons.
Mr motorbike guy who'd I'd brought in this time, after having left him outside at Martini’s, was a problem – he kept saying I could go with either but in that I was so familiar with Viets, why not go with Ms Cambodian. And I heard this relentlessly; actually either was okay to some extent in his mind; I knew it was a case of a decent kickback. Trouble is I was really falling for Ms Viet. Nineteen years old, cute, had nice white skin (sometimes I find myself in the locals’ mode of bias re skin) and teeth, and we had super rapport. We could chat easily in both Viet and English. We’d chat in Vietnamese when we wanted to make sure the two Cambodians didn’t understand us. Actually, I might have taken a little plunge with her.
Ms Cambodian had this nice affectionate demeanor, trying so very hard, and I didn't want to humiliate her by rejecting her. She had that look some Thais have, looking something like they’re half Indian and half Malaysian. She was a real darkie, but we white guys like dark-complexion more often than not. Just didn't like Ms Cambodian’s looks although in the States guys would probably find her of appeal. She reminds me of the first Thai I saw at NongKhai on my first my ground trip Hanoi-Vientiane-NongKhai-Bangkok. Man, these people look different from the Vietnamese, I told myself, looking at this Thai Immigration guy. He had that look similar to Ms Cambodian – dark and looking rather half Indian and half Malaysian. And he had some size.
Ms Viet was frank, I could understand her Southern Vietnamese well (she was from the Mekong Delta), she could understand my mostly Northern Vietnamese well – sometimes I'd remember and speak Southern – I know them both but have to concentrate to remember to use Southern. I wanted to get into the pants of Ms Viet, but Ms Cambodian was there, but I was able to massage Ms Viet around her goods with shielding from my body and one of her legs. After all, Ms Cambodian wanted very much to be the one.
Ms Viet did do something a Korean I was in bed with had done years ago. At one point, she stuck her finger in her ear and vigorously massaged it in and out. She then looked at me and smiled about it, but I wasn’t liking what I was seeing. Additionally, her throat was just a little raspy. What's happened, drawing on my knowledge of pathology (disease) etc, and I’m just brain-storming, is quite possibly their having given head to diseased dicks and it's spread to their ears, also the reason for Ms Viet’s throat condition. And it’s sad in the case of this 19-year old adorable Viet. Her mission, she said, was to help her mother in Vietnam, and I found her believable. But what a price – she may already be ruined goods, and if not, it’ll happen and soon. Normally I find the women (the men aren’t relevant) in the region as boring as an English major on Ecstasy, but I found Ms Viet pure enjoyment, and obviously was falling for her. So how did it all end?
I brain-drizzled taking both of them out, and did ask Ms Viet whether she’d ever been in a threesome with a guy. She had. For curiosity, I asked her whether she’d ever made love with a woman. She had, but added she’d only make love with a woman she liked. I’m not clear on whether she said she would or wouldn’t make love with her girlfriends, but I am clear that she said she’d only make love with a woman she liked. I asked her, “Are your customers nice?” She responded guys who give her $25 are nice and guys who give her $20 are not. Surprise; it’s all about money, to be a cliche-bore.
I wasn’t going to humiliate Ms Cambodian, so I was departing without either, but Ms Cambodian didn’t get the word. Out at the motorbike, she was looking happy, for Ms Viet was left behind, and then Ms Viet came down (the bar’s on the second floor) and departed on a motorbike taxi – alone, to sleep by herself. Ms Cambodia thought she was the one. Miscommunication. I whispered to my motorbike taxi guy I was departing by myself. Sad Ms Cambodian. My fxxxing Cambodian driver had kept butting in and telling me to take Ms Cambodian, but in the long run, it worked well. When I met my wife a few days later, I was able to look her in the eye. Ms Viet stayed on my mind and stayed on my mind. I was approaching infatuation with her. This is about par for married guys living in the region.
Interestingly across the street from Sharky’s, there’s a barbershop owned by a fellow obviously into the US and ex-President Kennedy. It was named the John Kennedy Barbershop, and pictures of the ex-Pres and American flags were all over
There was one more attempted enticement. The next night close to my guesthouse, I hear music coming from this big building, walk in, and see that it was a dance place with stage performances. Thought maybe I’d get to see some classical Cambodian dance, but turns out it was Cambodians trying to do disco. Cute. They are so un-evolved when it comes to dancing. Not much movement. It’s like they just started yesterday. (A few days later when brought my wife, an accomplished dancer, to check it out, she also thought it was hilarious in a sweet way.) And the girls on stage dancing – well it was like 1-2, 1-2 or no more complicated than the steps of 1-2-3-4. Very tame disco and semi-disco. I walk in and the mamasan, a hugely fat woman, and Mr security guard keep trying to fix me up. When you walk in, you go by all these young gals sitting at the side. So I'm sitting there, as the only foreigner in the place, drinking a beer from a large pitcher, and all the staff – Mr security guard, Ms mamasan fatty, Ms assistant mamasan just normally fat, and Ms mamasan #3 – keep coming over, one at a time, trying to get me hooked. And they brought at two different times a young Cambodian (no Viets in this place), one a tall white one, to see whether I was interested. I just wasn't in the mood.
Mr security guard volunteers that the girls there were good girls, not “taxi girls.” (Actually, I’m thinking was I to opt for one, I wouldn’t want one too pristine, for it would be nice to be able to take her out.)
It reached the point where I thought they might say something like was said to the author of "Life in a Chinese Village." Of all places, he’d determined that Saigon's huge Chinatown, Cholon, was the most Chinese place in the world because of its relative isolation from the changes that had transformed the other Chinese locations. Hence, he settled down in a Cholon hotel to observe and write his book. (Something about Vietnam; Thailand’s own scholars also go to Vietnam to find and study Thai more (traditionally) Thai than the ones in Thailand, tucked away isolated in the mountains of Vietnam’s rugged North. They still wear the magnificent Thai clothes of old and have ancient Thai scripts. In the latter regard, if you’re an intellectual, these writings are deteriorating, and your assistance in preserving them is needed, assuming the paranoid Vietnamese officials would cooperate.)
The staff at the author’s hotel kept asking him whether he wanted a girl. And he never did. So finally, they asked him whether he wanted a boy. I began to wonder whether this dance hall’s staff was going to give up on me and ask whether I wanted a boy. They were shaking their heads in exasperation and wondering what was wrong with me, and felt I should be as delighted as a pack of poofters in a Vaseline factory.
These three platonic sex tourist experiences reminded me of a phenomenon I’d noticed in Vietnam. Show the gals you really aren’t that interested in them and you’ve become the forbidden fruit, and they’ll go after you aggressively.
Many considering visiting Cambodia will, no surprise, mull how safe it is. I have a big ex-football (US variety) player friend, legs like young oak trees, who is half scared to death at the thought of going to Cambodia and Laos. I was seeing an example of crime, attempted crime, or petty rip-off every day in Cambodia. Day one was the failed attempt to snatch my wallet half way across Cambodia, between Vietnam and Phnom Penh, at the ferry point. Then day two after paying 4,000 riel ($1) for a Phnom Penh newspaper from some little kid, I got back to my room, and noticed he or his minder had altered the 1,200 riel to 4,200 riel. Pretty clever, but pissed (rankled) me off. Then day three I came across a nice bookstore of a fabulous selection of used books and counterfeits. A bright Cambodian gentleman ran it and talking to him was enjoyable and just the right place to ride out another mid-afternoon monsoon. We hear a loud female scream and he goes quickly outside. What was that I asked? It hadn't surprise him. He said it was probably a couple of guys on a motorbike snatching a purse or cell phone, adding that he hears or sees that weekly in Phnom Penh.
Back to the attempted wallet-grabbing I just mentioned, at the market by the ferry our bus would be using to cross the Mekong, I thought I’d blow the minds away of my fellow foreigner travelers. There's a lady with a bushel of barbecued grasshoppers, and I procured and passed some around on the bus. But after demonstrating eating them was no big deal and noting to them they had a taste something like meat-flavored potato chips, I don't think any of them went for them. The bag came back to me with all the grasshoppers intact apparently. They can't hurt you bacteria-wise, for the heat from the cooking of them would have killed such, but it's conceivable that the Cambodians use insecticide to come up with such copious numbers. Unlike the foreigners, when I gave some to the Cambodians a sample, they wolfed them right down, including our bus driver.
Anyway, these pickpocket type kids can be tricky in Saigon and also Cambodia I was about to learn. In Saigon, they'll point to your forehead and then snatch something lower I heard. At the ferry where I was sitting in the first seat of the bus, I had my wallet out, and this little rapacious beggar (in consonance with official guidance, I never give to beggars) pointed to the feet of this Finnish girl behind and across the aisle from me, setting me up to snatch my wallet. I only went for it a fraction of a second, maybe because of my having heard in Hanoi what the kids, described above, were doing in Saigon and maybe because I’ve been around a little. I might add we should bring that attractive, young, blue-eyed Finn and her young, cute, endearing, brown-eyed British girlfriend slim body – you could just tell she’d had such loving parents – over to the States to improve its gene pool.
Back to my bookstore visit, the interesting proprietor entered the subject of the Thai and was frustrated about them. “They look down on us and don’t even know where Cambodia is. We know where Thailand is. They don’t know anything about Cambodia’s history. We do.” I respond, “Why do they look down on you?” He pauses and says it’s because the Thai come across the wrong kind of Cambodians when they spend time just across the border. I respond, “You look just like a Thai, don’t you?” To that, he couldn’t answer.
From his age, it hit me that he’d been around during the Khymer Rouge period. He responded he’d lost his uncle and young brother. His father, although a Lon Nol soldier, had survived through a small niche of expertise he possessed. The father, although not a farmer, knew how to convert a certain palm into sugar. The Khymer Rouge ordered him to demonstrate this skill and then was convinced he was a farmer, the classification of people, as you know, they trusted. Also probably helping, the bookstore owner added, was his family living outside the two strong Lon Nol areas (Battambang and an area a fair number of kilometers south of Phnom Penh) where the Khymer Rouge operated with particular brutality. His family was from a beautiful area, now a resort area containing a renown waterfalls, also to the south of Phnom Penh, but just west of where the Khymer Rouge were at their worst.
Noting to him that the Vietnamese administration, although perpetually blowing off about their glorious war had just reported again repatriating a bunch of bodies from Cambodia, almost 300 this time, indicating the Cambodians had killed a bunch of them. He responded that the Vietnamese had killed many more Cambodians, and he volunteered that he disliked the Vietnamese even more than he did the Thai.
I was walking the streets late at night and also with a briefcase holding some essentials – a map, Lonely Planet, a book, glasses, one of those raincoats that fold up to the size of a thick envelope…, but still don't know whether Phnom Penh’s dangerous. OK – my guesthouse has posted, “We are not Responsible for THEFT on the street of Personal Property. Please USE our SAFE BOX (free) For safekeeping of Valuables. Many Thanks.” Of course, they aren't responsible, so why are they saying that? Could be so you'll, like many of their customers I noted, stay in their cocoon in the form of their cafe and pay for their food, drinks, and more than double-priced internet. Hence, I can't say their poster indicates unsafe streets.
Just after arriving, I go walking outside into the darkness, and a motorbike taxi guy tells me I should procure some transportation to preclude being robbed. But he could be like my guesthouse – have some self-interest there. Later on during my stay I asked an apparently forthright motorbike taxi right outside my guesthouse about walking out into the streets, and he responded, “Okay (pause) but be aware of your surroundings,” that age-old and worldwide advice.
That night out with the motorbike taxi guy doing the rounds, it was around midnight and I asked him whether he was afraid of motorbike robbers coming up to him. After all, I’d read the police blotter in Phnom Penh’s daily. Not a bit, he responded.
The bottom line: after being encumbered by the facts and even being out all over by myself in the dark, I'm not sure whether Phnom Penh's dangerous. I can't reason that because of my having no problem, it's ok, for that would be flawed reasoning by analogy. And in broad daylight, I hear a woman scream about six shops down. There's part of the answer, and the bookshop owner hears or sees that weekly. (After hearing, no surprise, that a bag will draw bad guys’ attention, I decided to dispense with it at night.)
On the riverfront drive, I asked the young man working in Food Mart why no customers, no tourists. He responded (i) corruption, (ii) gun hold-ups, and (iii) the soccer tournament underway resulting in the youth (i) losing bets, (ii) then having parents refusing to bail them out, and (iii) their then robbing tourists to gain the needed money.
Busing on the way back to Saigon, our Vietnamese tour guide related to me he’d lived in Phnom Penh, they don’t like Vietnamese so much, and he wouldn’t go out after 8 or 9 pm, for bad things could happen. And when there is an election, he added, they’re hard on the Vietnamese.
Here’s an indicator of how dangerous, lack of, I perceived the streets of Phnom Penh to be. I’d brought pepper spray with me, some real nasty, effective stuff of the make used by the Los Angeles and New York City police, and to this day, the packet it’s in is still unopened. However, the night my wife arrived, first thing, we walked out of the Cambodiana Hotel and down the narrow street of my guesthouse and she tells me she didn’t feel safe. The street was quiet and dark. Let’s end this discussion with my saying that I’m not sure whether the streets of Phnom Penh are dangerous at night.
On the riverfront drive tourist sector in Phnom Penh, a young Cambodian (of course – it’s Cambodia) couple as they went by me on their motorbike smiled and gave me the thumbs up. They’d liked my handling-a-beggar methodology (picked up in Hanoi). A young beggar had decided to tag along behind me, and I don’t put up with that. So I got behind her, turned her around 180 degrees, and marched her off in the opposite direction that I was heading. No more beggar.
I got a kick out of a buffet experience I had on my first full day in Phnom Penh. Posted outside was, “We have to serve buffet – 1 person $2.50.” (And just down the street from them was a barber with this posted: “His haircut $1…Cleaning ear hole $1.” You have to love the English of Asians.) This buffet had some kind of fabulous- and exotic-tasting tea – maybe jasmine – I don’t know what it was – quite unlike any I’d had before. It came in large glasses and was free. Anyway, these sweet Cambodian waitresses made it so it was about impossible to break away from the buffet. Just before I was finished, I slogged down a second glass of this tea I’d gotten on my own. Trouble is the waitress then brought me over another. I finished it, and she comes with another. Finally, I got out of there by putting my hat on and pulling out my wallet.
After seven years in Vietnam, I'm still looking for a single random act of kindness on their roads. As I set forth in a past submission, I had it happen within one day in Bangkok, within one day in Kuala Lumpur, (it’s perpetual in Japan – I liked those Osaka folks when I was there several months back), and the same happened in Phnom Penh. I was standing absolutely still (Viet-style to keep from being run over – Viets have learned you don't want to mess up the approaching driver's calculations) in the middle of the street in busy traffic, and a Cambodian stopped his car and waved me across. They also aren't on the horn continually like the Vietnamese morons, documented as the worst drivers in the world with Hanoi earning the title of the brain-injury capital of the world.
A string of tent restaurants that were at a permanent carnival down the riverfront just south of the Cambodiana Hotel had something I’d never seen before and got a kick out of. Each had about 25 hammocks for their customers to relax in while they ate. You could either sit down or lie down.
How can you knock a place like Cambodia (easy – enter at Poipet at night!) where right on the riverfront drive in the middle of the tourist sector are clones of Happy Herb’s, somewhat of a Phnom Penh institution famous for its special pizzas. Those wanting to pass an evening in a bemused haze can ask the waitress for a “happy” pizza, while those with nothing pressing for a couple of days might request “very happy.” I wanted to take my wife’s French boss to one and order him one of these marijuana pizza without his knowing it, but he was busy.
So on my last night in Phnom Penh – my wife had already flown back to Hanoi – it was my last chance for a very happy pizza. The cook showed me the marijuana that would be part of it. I'm sitting out front on the sidewalk waiting for it and getting paranoid. With my not having any experience, maybe it'll affect me too much. Maybe it would get me in trouble. I eat my very happy pizza that was quite good taste-wise and felt nothing. However, when I woke up in the middle of the night to take a leak, I was feeling in a daze. Maybe the next morning as I was leaving for Saigon on the bus I was feeling a little of it.
I wish my Hanoian spouse would be transferred to Phnom Penh, and asked how she'd like moving there in the context that I would, and she responded, no surprise, she just likes visiting there, not living there. She seems to think livable places cease to exist once you exit the borders of Hanoi. Me, as I’ve set forth before, I ask myself every other day why I’m in that rat hole, that cesspool. (Actually I know three or four good answers.)
Of course, if I learn, what with having a young daughter (and I place value on myself too), that any place such as Thailand and Cambodia still uses leaded gasoline, I'll never live there. Vietnam got rid of it in 2001, thanks to foreigners thinking for them. The last I heard, leaded gasoline was dumbing down the IQs of the children of Bangkok and Manila 5-7%. Effect on adults: lead’s a heavy metal and can cause Alzheimer’s and cancer. I keep procrastinating on going over to the WHO office in Hanoi for the answer (and they most certainly will have the answer) on whether Thailand uses leaded gasoline. Mr Stick surveyed his readership for me with one noting Thailand didn’t use it anymore, but I’ll believe it for sure when WHO tells me that’s indeed true.
You’ll never see nicer smiles than you’ll see in Phnom Penh. When my wife and I went out to eat with a young Vietnamese lady of her delegation, I noted to them how all the motorbike taxi etc guys had the sweetest smiles. And this gal adds, “And the Cambodian men have such beautiful eyes.” So from then on, we’d have fun noting to our Cambodian tuk tuk etc drivers our observations about them. And there’d come another smile.
What was the most powerful experience of my Cambodia journey? You’d never guess in a million tries. Well it wasn't in Cambodia. I came back by bus from Phnom Penh to Saigon where I had more than 24 hours to kill before leaving on the Saigon-Hanoi train. At first, I just wanted out of there, not that there was anything wrong with it. Actually, Saigon was dynamic, but it didn't interest me; been there done that. But then it hit me there was something different I wanted to do around there; something no other tourist would think of, and it's not in Lonely Planet. I took a cheap local bus 30 km north to Bien Hoa where I heard there was a massive and desecrated cemetery of the losing Saigon-administered troops. (Bien Hoa was actually too far; had to backtrack to Long Binh.)
I'd heard the cemetery was left to grow up in weeds and the pictures, of the losing soldiers on the tombstones, had been desecrated. It took me three cemeteries to find the one I wanted – the one of the South Vietnamese losing soldiers. Cemetery #2 was of the Ho Chi Minh soldiers – wasn't interested in them – hear too much from the commies and their propaganda and their banners noting their “quang vinh” – glory. I searched it out (a motorbike taxi I’d caught at Bien Hoa helped me), checked in with a very young commie uniformed army guard who still had the old wire, hand-cranked, army field telephones like we had back when I was in the army, and then had a "delegation" tailing me of another commie army guy (in uniform too), the cemetery administrator (civilian clothes) and a guy in a uniform of I don't know what. The latter kept looking at me sternly until later when he loosened up, a function of my pretty good Vietnamese language skills that the Vietnamese find are a blast.
They let me prowl, didn't interfere, but did stay pretty close by. Later it hit me that had I taken out a camera, they may have not been so relatively easy going. In fact, they might have become darn excitable! (And I speak from a strong experience
in that regard, but that’s another story that I won’t be telling in this medium.) But I had no camera with me, what with my finding them (cameras) to be a hassle. Lots of the pictures on the tombstones desecrated – smashed or else
just the eyes had been poked out. Elephant grass up to 6 foot. The tall memorial building hadn't had paint in 30 years (cemeteries of the commie soldiers kept immaculately) – it looked like an element in a ghost town.
Some guys barely lost their lives – at the top of the cemetery where you enter were the newest killed – around March and April of 1975 when the war ended. They came close to making it out alive. One photo was of a very young cute kid, with hair a little long (a southern difference), of 17 or 18 (date of birth and date of death always given) who had the biggest smile you'll ever see. Sad. Even those desecrating hadn’t had the heart, lack of, to damage the photo of this young kid. Many of the photos weren't desecrated; many were. I was the only visitor, but when I came in, a carload of guys in a nice black car were leaving in maybe, if I may guess, the ultimate revenge – friends of a losing soldier departing in luxury. Couldn't help but think that the check-in procedures where you signed in and left with them an ID card (in my case my Viet driver's license) wouldn't intimidate mothers etc of the soldiers from visiting. After all, it would stamp them as in bed with the losing side and provide an audit trail. There wasn't a lot of the usual paraphernalia you see at a cemetery. But there were a few vases and some burned incense. One little bright green vase had been knocked over and broken, perhaps more desecration.
One family wasn't cowed. They'd built quite a tomb and had a large engraved picture of the dead soldier as part of it. This is in a country where they'd tell a mother that her son's grave was too pretentious for a "linh nhuy"
– puppet soldier, and she'd have to downsize it.
Even at least some of the old southern soldiers are referring to themselves as puppet soldiers. An older fellow on the bus who helped me get off at the right place referred to the soldiers I was looking for as "linh nhuy" and quietly told me he himself was on our side as a member of the South Vietnam air force.
Actually, the three guys tried to be helpful. They kept asking me who I wanted to find buried there. The assumption is if you're visiting a cemetery, you're looking for someone. I kept responding I was there as part of "lich su" – history, and finally they caught on. I wanted to stay longer, but with my also taking up their time, didn't. At the end, the motorbike guy advised me to give them some refreshment money (his idea or theirs – I don't know), so I gave each of the three a red 10,000 dong note (62 cents). I'll get back there the first chance I have. Population of the cemetery – 20,000, they responded. There were some fresh graves with no tombstones. Not much doubt regarding the story on them. With the commies always finding remains of their own kind (or the people finding them for them) and with their bodies often being repatriated from Laos and Cambodia, bodies of the South Vietnamese would be discovered too, although you never hear about them.
I was surprised to see the place administered by army commies in uniforms. I don't have the answer of whether that's good – is it that they are in charge and there will be no further desecration, or whether it's bad – is it your typical Vietnamese commie application of the ultimate people control and people admin (the only thing the commies are good at my wife tells me) – based on their old East German Stassi model.
Often the company line is wrong – like how the winners in Vietnam are so forgiving. The opposite is true. It’s deplorable the way they are treating the war dead of the other side. Also consider that they should know the old southerners had it right, for the commies are implementing the old southern model of capitalism etc. (They even have the old southern regime's repression of the Buddhists, paranoia, anti-press, and corruption!)
I noticed that the Vietnamese border types I went through on this trip were, though moronically not realizing it, doing their part in making sure no one visits Vietnam again, and a blind man on a galloping horse could see that. Vietnamese travelers, unlike the rest of us, couldn’t face waiting in line and were making pay-offs to get their passports to the front of the line ahead of the rest of us. How much are they paying you off, I asked the immigration runner in Vietnamese, blowing the minds of my fellow travelers. He wouldn't answer me. I also directed some comments to the Viet bitches unable to face standing in line like the rest of us; after all, waiting your turn is a function of civilized society, something they are devoid of. They say they have 4,000 years of culture; that’s crap, for what they really have is 100 years of “culture” they’ve used over and over again. But later I decided I wouldn't fxxx with them, for in the future there may be a number of more trips coming across the border there and maybe trying to ride over a motorbike. But come to think of it, I did fxxx with them. The above was mostly about going into Cambodia from Vietnam. I took the bus both ways.
Coming back in Vietnam from Cambodia, we had these clowns, who amazingly even had uniforms and nametags on, of Viet immigration types taking forms you need to enter the country and trying to charge to fill out the form for you. They gave you no choice through their having in their hands all the forms; they’d left none on the counters. And they try intimidating these tourists who are new to entering the country. Fat chance they pull that on me. I went over, took the pad of forms away, took one for myself, and that's that. Two young Korean guys I’d gotten to know did pay them 1,000 Cambodian riels apiece. Finally, after I see them bullying around a guy (French group arriving behind us), there's a loud voice directed at the uniformed Viet clown: "Who the fxxx are you and go fxxx yourself you flunky." All the young women etc were looking at me like I was a rock star. Then I told everyone that if the clowns came back to send them over to me. It wasn't necessary – they were then meekly sitting down in the back of the room. The real Viet immigration and customs’ officials seemed ok, but I can't help but wonder whether they know what's happening and some of the money is spun off to them and even up higher. I thought about reporting this, but let the country buy its own rope and hang itself regarding the tourism they need. They do a pretty good job in that regard anyway.
Vietnam is a nation of gutless morons, and that “gutless” part may surprise you. But as Vietnamese dissident, war veteran, and ex-commie Duong Thu Huong, a diminutive lady, reports, she’s extremely shocked to see how men who were very courageous in war are extremely cowardly in their daily lives where they are quite capable of cowardly actions, like denouncing their friends, doing things that hurt their friends, and show extreme cowardice towards the regime. In war, she continues, they could rush forward doing like everyone else, and all are alike. You don’t have to stand on your own feet. And finally, read her four novels for some outstanding reads. They’re banned in Vietnam (where she still lives something like under house arrest), but that doesn’t stop the Saigonese, those vanquished folks who have no use for northerners, from openly selling them. You can get them in Hanoi if you know where to ask, but you won’t see them openly displayed.
In the spirit of fairness, I will say that Viet immigration and customs at the other places I’ve come through – Laos, China, and the Hanoi airport – have been just fine. But at this Cambodia-Vietnam border point, it’s like they’ve learned their trade at Poipet (Thailand-Cambodia entry point) but have outdone the Cambodians in applying what they’ve learned. (Changing the subject a little, my wife and I were overcharged $5 apiece for Cambodian visas even in our using the Cambodian embassy in Hanoi, I learned. Official cost is $20, but the nice embassy man (I’m serious – he was nice) charged us $25. Where can you get them for the $20? The Cambodian embassy in the US only charges the official rate of $20.)
A special delight of living in the region – Hanoi in my case – is the fabulous travel nearby. There’s a prominent travel ad out now that goes something like “Visit those most fabulous places – Bangkok, Shanghai…” I’ve been to both the past six months, and the cost was little more than nothing, my travel policy. And my local girl wife makes it better with these hotels her employers provide for her in the region. If having a job makes the gal happy, well okay then let’s do it right, as I’ve set forth before in another submission, by earning that good degree, becoming a professional, creating wealth rather than being a parasite on me, and getting nice temporary duty with the accompanying 4- and 5-star hotels in, as she has, Saigon, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, and the one coming up is Vientiane – with me enjoying all her accommodations with her.
Most recently, it was her 5-star Cambodiana Hotel overlooking the river in Phnom Penh. This probably made me the only person ever to within hours go from a $3 guesthouse (I arrived a few days earlier to survey Phnom Penh) to rooms listed at $160-$500
(and then back to my $3 guesthouse when the wife had to fly back with her delegation to Hanoi). Actually, I liked the Okay Guesthouse (little more than across the street from the Cambodiana) for ambiance, good backpackers’ grub, and cheap
tours, but the Cambodiana couldn’t be beaten for the free and super breakfast buffets, including my beloved smoked sashimi, the nice big room and bed, and view of the Tonle Sap and MeKong rivers.
Excellent trip report. Let's hope that The Hanoian follows up this fine submission with more in the future.