A Tour of South East Asia, Part 11
1.30pm Sunday 18th March, KK to PP
When I get to my safe there is enough money for a few more amorous expeditions, providing I stick to freelancers and away from bars and bar girls. My next mongering expeditions will be Tuesday 20th in Vietnam, Thursday 22nd back in Cambodia, then a flight to the northern provinces of Isaan. Let me see how it pans out …hmm… no beer? We shall see. A girl is just a fuck – but a beer is moral righteousness.
We have stopped for a break; the Khmers fill their rice bowls and add a scoop of sea food, chicken or pork floating in a watery soup. I don’t have the money but my belly has shrunk and I no longer need it.
A carcass is being prepared at the back (dog?); thinly sliced, dried, uncovered in the sun gathering fly’s eggs and excrement, boiled in an unthickened fish sauce, spiced up with chilies, salt and garlic then served up with rice or noodles…that seems to be the food of the South-East Asian.
Noon KK to PP
Imbibed by breakfast in Koh Kong – I think I can stay alive for another three hours and be reunited with my supply dump. On the coach, I became unaccountably emotional about home. It could have just been the withdrawal symptoms of beer but I was struck by the memory of a boyhood pal.
We grew up together – he showed me how to get porn off the internet and that making history was not as important as deleting it. In return, I taught him about beer, pussy and gambling, and, if things ever got really bad, it’s best to kill yourself.
He got an old car – we would have a couple of drinks and drive off to look for hookers. I told him you can’t be drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on. One night the police pulled us over and asked if he could identify himself. He looked in the mirror and said, "yes, that's me." They found blood in his alcohol system and banned him for 3 years.
We fell out in a big way; he burst into his bathroom and caught me sniffing his sister’s panties. I don’t know why he made such a big fuss, it wasn’t as if she was still in them.
I never saw him for two years. I heard he went crazy. To this day, I believe it was the loss of our friendship, not the dignity of his sisters’ pants that destroyed him. One day he turned up out of the blue and asked if he could borrow my book on suicide. I said, 'fuck off, you won't bring it back.’
Nostalgia, how long has that been around?
In the bus we passed what looked like the Olympic Stadium (I knew it was near my hotel). I said to the operator, ‘Is that the Stadium?’ he said ‘Get off at the bus station – a taxi will take you.’ I thought he knew best, but he didn’t – it was the Stadium and I saw the two cans of beer reward halved to one. On the back of a moto I eventually made it. The driver waited while I got his money. I already had an ice cold can of beer opened in my hand when I paid him.
2.15 The Lucky Star!!!
Happy, happy, happy! It felt so good to be back that I didn’t use the lift and ran up the eight flights of stairs three at a time like a spring lamb. I had money and took a can out of the fridge before the light came on. Beer: It's not just for breakfast anymore.
6.00 pm PP
A massive dinner; rice, steamed vegetables and beer all for a dollar and the same for the little waitress whose butt I followed around the tables.
Out to the Martini – I meet a youngster who tells me he is on his gap year. I say I am on my gash month. I have a beer with an old guy who has been in PP since the 90s. Apparently, the city was lively then. The feuding bucks would come seeking retribution with AK-47s and everyone dived under the tables.
‘It gave you the shits,’ he says, ‘it was terrible’
‘What, the shits?’
‘No, the shooting. It seemed to go on for hours.’
‘No, the shooting.’
‘The noise was deafening.’
‘No, the shits.’
After that I take a walk along the riverside. There are no street girls around. I walk towards the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge where it begins to look grim and dangerous – my kind of place! I pass a group of filthy youths and a poor teenage girl in dirty clothes sat on the pavement who looks in pain. As I approach she turns away as if scared.
I walk on; it becomes deserted and I turn back; the youths are watching me closely. I’m trying to appear tough and confident so as not to present a vulnerable target. I have never been robbed in Cambodia, but at least twice in Thailand. The girl is now eating the remnants of food from a carton and looks up at me. I hand her huge wad of riel. She thanks me in good English then sets about examining the notes. I think she will be pleased – there are seven or eight dollars’ worth. It’s my good deed for the trip. Anyway, I hate having a bunch of riel stinking in my pocket. When I pass by half an hour later she is still counting it.
I walk across the street towards Wat Phnom – there are many dilapidated cafes and bars. I see a family sitting in the open around a TV. The daughter calls to me, ‘Massage sir?’ Why not? She takes me through a maze of dark corridors to a little room at the back. As I lie on the bed the family come to inspect me, even granny and the kids. They seem amused by their strange visitor but become struck with shyness when I give them a cheery hello – as if a zoo exhibit had spoken to those peering in its cage. They must have never seen a farang close up and are astonished it has acquired the power of speech.
She isn’t a professional masseur for sure and this bodes well for a happy ending. She is just using one hand and getting closer to my amorous region. Although we had agreed on $3 for a massage, she suggests upgrading.
‘Five dollars’ I say hoping we can meet in the middle. I have money in my pocket but she now has a firm grip on my dangling participle. Further negotiation seems futile.
There is a huge fan on the wall doing its best but I am melting like a lump of ice cream. She is a typical Khmer female and has no objection to my own tactile investigation.
‘Take off your shorts,’ she tells me.
‘OK, so it’s five dollars then?’ I ask.
She smiles and continues stoking me up.
‘Get me a beer,’ I say, now fully melted and starting to run off the bed. Soon I will evaporate and she’ll have to work hard to get me solid again. I’ll press for seven but probably give her ten. She sends out for the beer and starts cranking again. At last the beer arrives After much beating and hand changing, the man in the pink helmet gives up. She made a good fist of it and came as close to kissing as a Khmer gets (a sort of puppy-like nuzzle).
I give her ten dollars and a dollar for another the beer. As they say, you can get a bad fuck but a wank is always good. I dress and go back through the gauntlet of inspection; more of the family has turned up to see the big, white, hairy farang.
I jump on a motor bike. As usual, he won’t admit it but doesn’t know where the fuck to go. We meander aimlessly through the city until we accidently bump into the Lucky Star. I need to sleep – in the morning I’m off to Ho Chi Minh City.
As I turn in there is yet another message from Nong, the freelancing maid from Pattaya; 'Darling I hope you are well and happy, you make me no want to go outside, no want look man. Not long I go back home take care our farm! Miss you a lot darling!!! Hope you are thinking about me.’ Fucking women; they spend more time wondering what men are thinking than men spend thinking.
The harsh sun will soon burn her memory of me. Her soil is still fertile; strong enough for another crop. A rich harvest of rice will be sown, bloom and be reaped again. It is not for me to water her paddy with my tears of pity. I mean, she can fuck off.
I worked harder on these metaphors than I ever could on a farm in Isaan.