A Tour of South East Asia, Part 10
18th March, 6:00 am The Apex Koh Kong Resort, Cambodia
I slept solid until six the next morning and wrote in my journal.
List of current anxieties;
1 Will I get a breakfast?
2 Will they even send a bus at all after today’s series of confrontations?
3 If I catch the bus to PP what extras do I have to fork out for?
4 Can I persuade a moto taxi to take me on the promise of money or can I walk to my hotel?
5 Is this my last day on this Earth?
Shower and shave (no bowel movement of course), pack in fifteen seconds and go out in search of food. It still seems dark but the cockerels know better and are crowing like fuck. There is not a soul around in reception and no sign of breakfast.
At last a boy appears; and yes breakfast is included on my key, but it starts at 7.00? The same time as the bus leaves. He tells me that a tuk-tuk will come for me at 7.45, plenty of time to catch the bus (WTF?). I anticipate my first real meal since Foodland in Bangkok with my freak show. It seems so long ago; my waistline is the only beneficiary here. The boy tells me that I can wait in my room and he will call me when breakfast is ready.
The Uruguayan rugby team that came down in a plane in the Andes (1974?) were not really cannibals; just starving. The survivors spent four days without food before they reasoned that they would have to ‘use’ the bodies of those that were killed in the crash. In the same way, I am not a real cannibal – I only eat pussy – but this is my third attempt at a breakfast in South East Asia. If I can’t make it clear, in Khmer words, script, or sign language that I need to eat, and I have no money, then I’ll have to make the expedient choice to live. That boy is beginning to look a bit tasty. I know I am in a hotel in Cambodia and it is not an exact analogy with the Uruguayans in the Andes – but it is something to take my mind off food.
Breakfast; the boy gave me his promised knock at 6.50. I overtook him, taking the stairs three and a time and I was first at the table. A full American differs from a full English in that the North Americans have their eggs scrambled and the English have them fried. Why the Cambodians see this as a valid distinction I don’t know. The two fried eggs reminded me of Nong’s tits, and with beans, toast and bacon, at $3 (if I had been paying) – it looked better than her face. The tea seemed especially good after being so long unobtainable. It was probably only an average breakfast, I normally just have a couple of cans of beer, but I worshipped it – and the hot little wench who served it. I wouldn't have fucked her; I would have eaten her. Jesus Holy Christ – I am a cannibal!
I’ve brought my note book to the table so that I don’t have to talk to the fat bastard who’d be down in a minute for his scrambled eggs. Ted and Michael were unaware of what had happened last night. But I was in a good mood now, almost euphoric. They didn’t seem to notice that I had eaten the toast that was meant for all of us. The fat Canadian sat apart, with his with his fat backside towards us.
‘Gentlemen, your tuk-tuk is ready.’ announced a hotel minion. As we headed out another guy comes running after me, ‘Sir, you did not pay for your breakfast,’
‘It was inclusive,’ I tell him wearily.
He checks the register, ‘That’s right, sir, but the tea was extra, you must pay one dollar.’
‘Fuck that – you mean you serve an English breakfast without fucking tea?’
He wasn’t the same guy as on reception last night, but maybe he had heard about me, because he just smiled and dropped the subject. Again, I am not acting on principle. I’d have given the bastard a lousy dollar for a lousy cup of tea – if I’d had it.
I got into the tuk-tuk, the Canadian and his TV got in, the Italian got in and German got in. No one spoke. I knew I had a hundred-baht note left and I had one more trial to go. The tuk-tuk guy would have his hand out and if I gave him that note I wouldn’t even have the fare to get from the bus stand to my hotel in Phnom Penh.
We got out and the Italian tipped a dollar. The German tipped a dollar. The Canadian tipped a dollar. The Italian, German and Canadian looked at me (is this some kind of joke?). I gave him my last 100 baht note ($3.33). Their jaws dropped. For the first time today, the Canadian turned to me with a smile;
‘Hey, that’s quite a good tip!’
I smiled back at him, we shook hands and parted. Fuck it, it was worth it to walk the 3 miles from the bus station to the Lucky Star. I went for the Phnom Penh coach – the others were headed for Shanoukville.
18th March, 9:00 am, Koh Kong to Phnom Penh
I got on to the PP coach feeling a little calmer having slept soundly for four hours, I had no cheese sandwiches left and drank my last half a litre of warm water. The only food provided in the so-called hotel was little breakfast (but I wasn’t even sure I’d get that). If I have to fight off an army of minions carrying luggage, passports or simply sticking their hands out I’ll have to tell them what they will not believe; this farang is skint. I paid a relative fortune for transport from Pattaya to Phnom Penh, was robbed, scammed, beaten, fucked to death and I’m cleaned out. And yet it was probably my excesses in alcohol that did for me. In principle, I can stop drinking; the thing is – I don't have principles. Everything I love is unhealthy, addicting or has multiple restraining orders against me.
A Falang without money is completely baffling, as incomprehensible as hilarious to the Cambodians. I even opened my wallet to show the yawning chasm within; but they still didn’t believe it – you have ATM card they tell me. I wished to fuck I did I told them. My bank has refused to let me have plastic. It will only give me an overdraft if I can prove I don't need it. All I ask is one chance to prove money can't make me happy.
On the PP coach, by an amazing coincidence, I sat next to the same Japanese student as I sat by on my journey from Siem Riep to Bangkok. At least it looked like him. When the ticket collector came round he paid for his ticket in cash. I asked him how much he had paid. It was 22,000 Riel – that’s less than five dollars! At that rate, I could have travelled from Pattaya to Phnom Penh for $10, not the $100 I paid, but without all the extras benefits of course.
Round eyes, him well fleeced. No epicanthic folds? Squint for local rates. I only have one Jap’s eye and that’s in my trousers.
Now I haven’t even the fare to get from wherever they dump me in Phnom Penh to the Lucky Star. The moto driver will have to wait outside while I raid the hotel safe.
And on Monday I am booked to go to Vietnam. It is still an anxious time but nothing to what I have been through. I have an untouchable reserve that has been touched a few times and left me at times in desperation. I mean starvation, threat of execution by mafia or incarceration. All three have been possibilities on this leg of the journey. I shouldn’t have drunk, fucked, been robbed and fleeced so much. Isn’t hindsight a beautiful thing?
10.30 am, half way between KK and PP
The Cambodians all have big smiles coming up the aisle of the bus to the toilet, they laugh with the abandonment of children at the naïve TV slapstick – everyone is good-natured in this part of the world but lack the refined etiquette (snobbery) of the Europeans; they appear afraid or in awe of the farang, but those who make a living from us are outward and brisk.
For example, an ordinary Cambodian will stand for some time in the aisle of the bus for access to his seat by the window, waiting patiently until you notice them. How long are they prepared to wait? As an experiment, I pretend not to see a guy who wants to get to his window seat and continue with my writing. A hell of a long time it turns out!