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Delightful Cambodian Girlfriend (7/7) – My Departure From Phnom Penh



— Taxi Guy 1 —

The night before, we scan the riverside for a good taxi that might take us to the airport and Norah back to town. If we call a regular service like Vantha or Bailey, they charge 7 USD each way. If you find a taxi from the riverside, it might be only 5 USD going there and one more USD to bring Ning back home.

The riverside is parked full of taxis, but most aren't desirable. They may look rotten, the steering wheel may be on the wrong side, the driver may send bad vibes. We had drivers who picked us up for the 7 km trip to the airport – and then stopped at the gas station first, before heading towards Phnom Penh International; figure that.

Finally we meet a driver we know from another trip to Snookyville. His car looks strong, it's not a cheap Thai import with the wheel on the wrong side, and we remember he has a decent driving style by local standards. After a bit of friendly talk, he agrees to do the round-trip for six USD, tomorrow 8 a.m. We get his card, and he hacks Norah's mobile number into his cellphone.

As much as first nights are the delight of my life, those inevitable last nights are a very mixed thing! Anyway, next morning 7.30 a.m. Norah says: "I better call taxi driver to make sure he comes at 8!" Good idea. He answers quickly; "no worry", he says. At 8 a.m., there is no taxi driver. We hang out on the street with the security guys. 8.10, no taxi driver. Norah calls him again: "No worry", he says.

— Taxi Guy 2 —

8.20, a taxi pulls up – but it's not our chosen car and not our chosen man. This one says our original guy is busy, he will carry us to the airport instead; "no worry", he says. I really hate to use him, but we have no choice – our road is delightfully quiet, but that also means there aren't any services easily on hand. What can we do? We heave the luggage inside, sit down, close the door, the car starts, the car takes a wrong turn and – stops at the gas station.

— Passport Guy —

I bloody hate airport goodbyes! Especially in Saigon and Phnom Penh. Those partly foggy window screens with you on one side and her on the other.

After checking in and paying sweet 25 USD departure tax (I have dollars on hand now), I face passport control. I overstayed exactly one day. It's common knowledge that for each day of overstaying, you quietly pay five USD to the passport guy. Everybody on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree had agreed to that.

A dark bearded face muses over the visa page. "Overstay two days", he murmurs, but he shows his goodwill: "Give me ten dollar". – "Sorry", I say politely, "I think only one day, so *five* dollars." – "No", murmurs the bearded face with the eyes on my passport, "two days, ten dollars". – So I fork out ten dollar. I am glad he doesn't charge me with 200 days over.

To get into the country one month earlier, I had already paid around 30 USD instead of 20 USD (see part 1); to get out of the country, I pay ten USD instead of five. Corrupt Khmer officials never fail to disgust me.

Farewell Cambodia. Reader, I hope my report gave you a flavor for the country. It's Norah, Norah, Norah – not Cambodia – who will have me coming back anyway. She knows how to play me, and I enjoy to let her happen.

I rush to the Bangkok Airways lounge for free pastries and cappuccino; for free internet it's too late now. I enter PG's A320 and am immediately delighted by an air of smooth, unhurried efficiency. A bit sterile, but smooth, efficient, reliable. It's not a Khmer-run business.

See, I had to share the last Norah hours with horrible taxi guys and corrupt passport guys. It really leaves a bad taste, even though Norah is still her incredible self. My Khmer Lady!

Bangkok Airways taxis towards the runway. Norah will still be outside. She has convinced the taxi driver to wait some time for her, before going back to town: "I want to see airplane take off", she had told me a serious face. I do what all the other guys around me do: I fasten seat belt, I change SIM cards, I fill out the Thai immigration form. Just routine? It's easy to leave the country, but it's hard to leave the lady.

Goodbye Srei Norah, goodbye Cambodia!

Stickman's thoughts:

A very nice series.