Thursday, October 9, 2008

Discos down south

Last week, I had a few days off for Pchum Ben (a Cambodian celebration of ancestors), so I headed down to Phnom Penh with a plan to meet up with some friends heading south to the beaches. I arrived in the city with a terrible earache and ended up spending 3 days curled up prone, half in tears, on the couch of my dear friend Lauren. Eventually, Lauren took charge and brought me to a Francophone doctor (no English speaking medical professionals in Phnom Penh apparently) who prescribed me a barrage of heavy duty antibiotics. (My time in Cambodia has made me into something approaching a feedlot cow in terms of doses of antibiotics consumed per month, and my digestive track is most definitely devoid of any and all good critters.)

Thankfully, the meds cleared up the pain, and on the morning of day 4, I was able to hop on a bus out to Kep to meet up with a small crew of friends who had all made it down in the previous 2-3 days and were already a day or two deep into hard partying. It was a good night despite not being able to hear from one ear -- good music, good food, good company, dancing, and a sea breeze.

The next day, we had breakfast at the Led Zep cafe -- burritos which tasted more like pizzas in pitas -- and said goodbye to one of our crew who was headed back to Phnom Penh, then we rocketed off to Kampot. Jam and Matt had ridden down on bikes they borrowed from their NGO (a eco/development-tourism business called Pepy where they both are volunteers), so they sweated it out the 30 or so kilometers. Achaya speed off dangerously on his rented crotch rocket, and Alison and I lived it up in the back of a vacationing family's truck.

Kampot was sleepy as usual, but so were we after the previous night, and the plan was head out ASAP. The idea was to stash the bikes, rent motos and make like Charlie's Angels onwards to Sihanoukville. However, post-coffee, rain still spitting down, our not-so-tough crew decided that riding was out and so we went van-hunting. Eventually, after much incredulous eyebrow raising and reminders of "holiday prices," we settled on a share taxi for $5/head and $5/bike.

Jam was strapped and in a nasty mood. Lucky for him, his whining and empty threats to just stay in Kampot alone were met with good natured cajoling and convincing by his friends, so after much hee-ing and haw-ing (and rolling of the eyes by yours truly) he stashed his bike on the van and hopped on the motorcycle with Achaya.

The unwitting and unlucky rest of the crew (Matt, Allison and I) pile in the back row of the van next to Mr. McDrunkerson who proceeded to grab me and attempt to lay one on before Matt graciously offered to switch seats. 5 hours, one new oil filter, one new van, 3 roadside Anchors courtesy of Mr. Tipsy, and many drunken-Cambodian-anecdotes later (songs about seahorses, anyone?), we finally arrive in Sihanoukville ready for a shower and a drink.

Later that night, we end up at the dark empty venue where they host crocodile and snake shows during the day. Apparently, one of our party was mistakenly informed that this was an "off-the-hook" night spot. On the upside, the tuk-tuk trip afforded a crazy roller-coaster ride up and down the hills of Sihanoukville, the clear highlight of the night.

Eventually we find ourselves at seedy Khmer night club with a cover charge of $4 (free beer included), unflattering blue lights, and creepy staring bouncers. Allison and I are clearly the tallest people on the dance-floor, and we become the unofficial hubs around which the smaller energetic contingent eddies and swirls. The Cambodian boys dance together holding hands. They shake it like they mean it, and scream out loud with ecstatic arm gestures and coordinated pelvic thrusts at appropriate moments while the girls stand around swaying slightly and looking more than a little embarrassed.

Then, amidst all the joy and chaos, the crazy cat who's still sore about his mistake with the abandoned croc farm disappears. Those concerned for his welfare recognize this as a cry for attention and accommodatingly text him messages of love and concern. Croc boy is found upstairs, and we eventually convince him to head back to the hotel with the rest of us. We drink some bad vodka and chat and some of us stay very quiet, meditating on how we wish croc boy was left behind. This uncharitableness can be partially blamed on croc boy's non-stop verbal outbursts, bragging about about how his Hindi advantage got him into the VIP lounge and chastising us for dragged him away from the apparent apogee of the S-town social scene.

The next day, Matt was in a bad way with his stomach and the other boys were knackered, so Alison and I headed down to the beach for awhile. We whiled away the day in various ways, but ended up all together again around 6pm for the first drink of the evening.

I'm 23, but rarely do I feel that age. Instead, my feelings and actions swing from those of a 10-years old to someone around 35, only occasionally (uncomfortably, unnaturally) ending up somewhere in between. That particular night, I started as an old 35, not in the mood for the drinking, party, flirt with random strangers thing. I was very thankful to meet Elida, a friend of Achaya's (actually his ex-boss) who provided some interesting conversation, agreed to dance, and didn't seem to mind that my libations were only half-hearted. Then, croc and I had a tiff. The others tried to mediate, but I made like a pre-teen girl and he made like a reptile, and though things were smoothed over, I still felt disgusted. (Who tries to excuse their anti-social behavior by likening themselves to Mother Teresa?)

The next morning, I was up at 7am to a glorious sunny day. The rest of the contingent slept while I headed out to the beach for a small sunning. Then I called Elida and we headed out in her SUV to a secluded beach where we swam and splashed and sunned and built a mini-version of Angkor Wat in the sand and felt completely content when our castle was recognized by the small Cambodian children frolicking about us.

Eventually we headed back to meet up with Elida's fiance and after a small dip in her hotel pool, I headed back to Phnom Penh.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I like this blog.
    Sorry not write more, but my English is not good.
    A hug from Portugal