A Tour of South East Asia, Part 8
17th March Pattaya, 7 am
It was morning. If it was just a nightmare, I was still having it. For the first time, in the cold hard light of day, I could see her face. I then looked under the sheets to check on the bald-headed hermit – he was neither cold nor hard. Nong was snoring with her legs wide open; it looked like a badly packed kebab. When you are starving, everything looks like food.
She woke up to see me staring at her. Unlike men, women somehow deteriorate during the night; she had now fallen to a 2. Women rub their eyes when they wake because they don't have balls to scratch. I scratched mine and went for a piss.
Nong thought I was in love with her, but also sensed my despondency. She looked me in the eyes and asked me what I really wanted. She was expecting a request on the lines of some bizarre sexual position or horny improvisation. I looked back into her eyes, and with the little strength I had left said, ‘Food.’
She took me back to her own room and primed up her rice steamer. She had replaced her strategy for fucking me to death with keeping me alive by feeding me. On the way I bought more bottles of water from the 7-Eleven to rehydrate myself. I had no more money so paid from the 500 baht note I had saved for Nong. I reasoned that she wouldn’t mind as we were practically married. It had come out that I hadn’t eaten too well, so she thought I must be ill (I had learned long ago that an Asian never believes that a farang has no money) and she was now determined to fatten me up. If my story makes the Bangkok Post, I won’t even have the class of my destitute predecessor who was fed by bar girls. No, I was kept from starving by a freelancer. Surely it would be better to die of shame? Of course it would, but somehow I lived on.
She took her reduced payment without concern. I explained about my money far away in the PP hotel safe. She believed me, and anyway, I was going to be her husband. I knew I hadn’t dreamed it – I know because I hadn’t slept. It reminded me of the courtroom joke; ‘Did you sleep with that woman?’ the judge asked the defendant. He cheerfully responded, ‘Not a wink your honour.’
I didn’t have the heart to tell her we were not going to be married. The sex seemed great but I was so dehydrated I was probably hallucinating. She thought I was in the throes of ecstasy – I wasn’t, I was dying. Women might be able to fake orgasms but men can fake whole relationships. He has to make the choice: stay single and wish he was happy, or get married and wish he was dead.
We parted in a cloyingly romantic way, me climbing into a dilapidated minibus and her waving enthusiastically like a happy child. Her eyes were all red and puffy – sadly, her score was now one. I had to get away from Pattaya before she fell to zero. At last I was on my way back to Cambodia, Phnom Penh, the Lucky Star and most of all to my safe deposit box. My worries were over – or so I thought…
9 am, Pattaya to Koh Kong
As I headed out of Pattaya, I reflected on my experiences and was strengthened in the belief that you are never too old to learn. The following three simple facts are so overwhelming true that all mankind should bow down and acknowledge the validity of their universal truth;
1 it is easier to take the bar out of a bargirl than to take a freak out of a circus.
2 Never trust a fart.
3 Nymphomaniacs are not all they’re cracked up to be.
I got another text from Nong. People who write "u" instead of "you" – what do they do with all the fucking time they save? I didn’t answer it. Instead of marrying again, I'm going to find a woman I don't like and give her a house. By now she must be into the negative numbers.
I then took a look at my travelling companions. Getting around on buses in South East Asia inevitably throws falang upon falang and you can gather some interesting stories, anecdotes and bruises.
A brief synopsis of the main characters on the bus:
The Fat Canadian; slob, opinionated, carrying a sixty-inch plasma screen TV in a cardboard box everywhere he goes. Taking up two seats for his ass and another for his telly; I’m not against obesity – I’m not exactly waif-like – everyone has the right to be fat, but he abuses that privilege. Later, we are to have a messy confrontation. I never did find out that guy’s name.
Michael; a widely travelled Italian hedonist. An ex-policeman and recently divorced from a Brazilian wife. Or did he say divorced from a wife with a recent Brazilian? (Women: don’t shave! After two days, it’s like trying to shove butter up a porcupine’s ass with a rope). Michael likes to talk in one-way monologues on the subject of himself. His only redeeming feature is his total lack of shame.
Ted; a Germanic-Swiss highbrow looking guy continually making notes in a little book when anyone said anything about their experiences. Curiosity overcame me and I asked him if he was a writer. 'No,' he explained, 'I’m a lorry driver – I’m looking for the cheapest deals.’ Fucking intellectuals.
The ticket to PP that was partly responsible for cleaning me out of money. It is an overpriced package, and the expectation is to keep forking-out tips, which has to be resisted. An army of lackeys is employed to see us across the border dependent on the dollars they can fleece from we rich falang passengers. The officials on the Cambodian side of the border also invent various fees and charges. In the end it will almost result in my deportation and a fist fight! It was not the principles I had – it was the money I didn’t have. I will now get to the pitiful details.
The bus was seemed to be mainly used to take the natives back home to Cambodia and stopped to pick up anyone and everyone who stopped us on the road and had the fare. It also carried a lot of freight; a sack of rice, a crate of live chickens and several large boxes. There was hardly room for our baggage, which didn’t bother me as I never have much. The obese Canadian was eventually deprived of the two seats his fat ass enjoyed and had to let his cheeks hang over the sides of just one; his huge trunk and 60-inch flat screen plasma TV went on his lap.
I soon got the gist of the racket; the Cambodians and freight were smuggled extras and we Falang were paying, or at least subsidizing it all. The two guys running the bus looked like Khmer mafia, but probably only their minions – the real big shots were just pulling in the money and letting these two little thugs take any flack.
3.25 pm, Thailand-Cambodian Border
I have $25, 120 baht, 1000 Riel (worth about 25 cents), 3 cheese sandwiches and 2 litres of water. I keep handling it over and over hoping it will get bigger. It works on my dick.
On the bus, I had some antagonism from the Canadian about the temples at Siem Riep. Our exchange, in which we discussed our respective visits to the Angkor Wat went something like this;
‘So you went all the way to Siem Riep and didn’t go into the temples?’
‘I did, but only after 5.30 when I didn’t have to pay.’
‘But it gets dark at seven – you could hardly have seen anything. I had a three-day pass and didn’t see all of it.’
I told him didn’t think it was anything special and said, ‘There is an older church at the bottom of my street.’
‘What, older than 11th century? I doubt it.’
‘It was built in 975 but I haven’t seen it yet’. That wasn’t strictly true, I’d been on the roof ripping off the lead – but I was trying to wind the fat bastard up. Every town and village in Europe has older structures. Stonehenge was built in 3,100 BC but the oldest thing in North America is Hilary Clinton’s pussy. It is so old it’s haunted. (And while I am the subject, "Because it would be hilarious," is probably not a good reason to elect Donald Trump president.)
He was putting me down as unrefined; implying I was an uncultured moron. Of course I am – but a cock-virgin carrying a flat screen plasma 60-inch TV around South East Asia, probably wanking at night to videos of Buddhist shrines in his hotel room, was saying it.
The border is only about a kilometre from Koh Kong. We got off the bus at the Thai side and pass through passport control, in my case without a passport, but at that point without incident. Then we walk through to the Cambodian side.
On the way someone tries to grab my bag.
‘We take across the border for you,’ he tells me.
‘I’ll take it myself thanks.’ At the most it weighs 5 kilos. I sling it on my back. The Canadian is pleased about this part of the service and offloads his huge metal casket (a body?) and the TV; the poor skinny little Cambodian can hardly get it all on his trolley.
Someone grabs my passport, well not exactly my passport – a letter from the Embassy informing, ‘to who it may concern’, that I don’t have a passport. Along with the trolley man, the passport man is one of a new bunch of minions who are supposed to sort out our visa’s but simply hands my letter in at the hatch and walks away – I could have done that. I assumed that they would pay and fill in the paper work, but he turns to me and says, ‘Now you pay one thousand baht.’
‘What?’ I say, ‘isn’t the visa part of the service?’
‘Yes,’ we arrange it for you and you pay man one thousand baht.’
A thousand baht is $33 – now it’s the immigration guys that are ripping us off.
‘But I already paid three thousand baht for the package to Phnom Penh.’
‘Now you pay him for visa.’ He says pointing to an intimidating looking Immigration Officer in the booth.
‘I haven’t got a thousand baht – I’ll pay in dollars,’ I tell him.
‘Cannot, must pay in baht’, he demands.
I go up to the man in the booth and I say, ‘We are in Cambodia not Thailand, I will pay you twenty dollars for my visa, the same as I paid in the airport. He turns away and talks to another official – his boss, a stern-faced lady officer, who is glaring at me from behind.
‘OK,’ he says, ‘you come inside.’
Everyone is quiet and staring – the fat Canadian is fighting to keep a smirk off his face. I know I’m in deep shit. I’ll be deported before I even cross the border.
For me, things always end badly. If they don’t, it's probably not the end.