Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Cambodia 1


Felt sad leaving the rice fields of HangDong. Had an awesome October cycling around the sticks. And not being at work. Caught my first ever Uber to ChiangMai Airport. Spent my final Thai weekend in Krungtep Maha-Nakon (Bangers).

Image result for phnom penh city scapeBangers does absolutely nowt for me. Met an Irish dude gushing about how it looks/feels like Manhattan given all the shiny skyscrapers. He has a point - some funky architecture and dazzling lights at night. However, to me, it's just another modern-urban-soulless-shithole. There's more fancy-arsed condos these days ....... normally near subway stations where pod-dwellers rush to board inconceivably packed trains. To gawp at phones.

Large urban centers tend to leave one feeling empty. Every interaction plastic. Superficial. A huge barrel of crabs. Not anywhere I wanna be.

I imagine cities akin to living systems. Each human an unthinking cell-nucleus. Their car a blood-cell pumped around tarmacked arteries. Traffic-light-DNA provides protein-level instruction. The economy a pulsating heart. Me? An erroneous foreign body. And, as such, ejaculated by Thailand's visa-organ.


My first airport mishap was at Glasgow on New Year's Eve 1997. One of those dates/events you tend to remember. I was off to meet my gf's parents (for the first time) on the Isle of Man. However, I got shit-faced at a Dumbarton house party before arriving at the airport 8hrs early so as not to miss the flight. I passed out immediately.

On waking, not only had I missed the flight, but my white jeans were exhibiting an ominous map-of-Africa - in yellow! Two decades have passed and I can still feel the cold dampness. Incredibly, there were two flights that day and they let me on the second for free. I don't think her parents were too impressed with her pissed-jeans pisspot boyfriend. But I won them over. Eventually.

Anyhoo, my second airport mishap was more grown up, but equally stupid. I was sat reading at Gate 11 patiently waiting to board the Phnom Penh flight. I read, read and read until the plane took off. Without me. Dumbass.

Had to go back through immigration and shit $70 on another ticket. Ended up spending 9hrs at DonMuang Airport. Lucky me. A wonderful end to 11yrs in Thailand.

Phnom Penh

There's no feeling like screaming through the streets of Phnom Penh in a tuk-tuk with everything you own. My entire life fits in a suitcase - a sobering yet liberating concept. Why the duality? Well, sobering because I failed to meet society's expectations of hag-hoose-kid acquisition. Yet liberating because I jumped off the consumerist treadmill. Less is more.

Image result for phnom penh tuk tukI was first in PP in March 2007. 12 years ago. Much has changed. The twatpacker ghetto was obliterated as they drained BoengKak Lake. Shame. There were zero high rise blocks back then. Dozens now. I booked a $7/night room. Online. Couldn't do that back then.

Some things have remained the same though. Glorious baguettes are still available on every street corner. I have one for brunch, daily. A refreshing change after a decade of rice. 7,000Reil or $1.75 or 53 THB.


The first thing I had to do was find Ms Kim, the visa agent I'd been emailing for a while. Turns out her office was minutes from my guesthouse. She's awesome - I'd highly recommend her. The 12 month visa extension was a simple affair: passport, money and a letter. Wait 6 days. Job done. Forget about it, enjoy a year and repeat. Contrast that with Thailand. Jeez.

Next I bought a SIM and some Khmer phrase books. Loving the lingo. Was talking to a young Khmer lad who couldn't believe I'd only been here a week. Class. I've also had some crack with some Thai brickies and travelling monks. Mint. I loved the WTF? look on their faces as they realised they were talking to a Farang, in Cambodia, in Thai hehe. The brickie and I were moaning about how the cans of coffee are 15 THB in Thailand but 19 THB here.


Image result for phnom penh water festivalThere was a huge 4 day water festival coinciding with national independence from Le Francais. There were massive dragon boats racing up the TonleSap River. Huge firework displays. The riverfront promenade perpetually buzzing with visitors from the provinces.

Given that Immigration doesn't put stickers in passports during holidays ..... the six working days ended up being more like a fortnight. Two weeks kicking rocks. Provided ample opportunity to study PP's Barang community.

Piss Heeds

Image result for 50cents beer cambodiaI thought I'd be looking on in envy as foreigners knocked backed $0.50 cans of piss in the sunshine, just like I did back in the day. However, viewing through a lens of teetotal-celibacy, I felt nowt but an overwhelming sense of pity for these washed-out-farang. Tats, tabs, vests, stubble, unkempt, eyes-like-piss-holes-in-the-snow, either underweight or overweight - you get the general picture. When I saw a young disheveled Russian gentlemen kipping rough each night in a perpetual state of drunkenness, I knew I'd found home.

I was interviewed on some Algerian dude's youtube channel. He spoke Arabic then broke into English to ask questions. I had an hour with an orange-robed American monk fluent in Khmer - fascinating. Been hanging with an Irish lad at the hostel - he shat $700 missing a flight to the US - poor bugger. Met a Canadian I knew in Trang back in 2009 - he's got a kid on the way. A million tales. Life is owt but dull.


Since retiring 43 days ago I've spent $990 all in. However, $530 of that was visas and flights. So $11/day which is well within the $18/day budget. Once I'm settled I'll have a better idea of what I'll need.


Waiting for my passport is nail-biting. Fingers crossed. As soon as I get it I'll be on the next bus to Battambang. Whatever that's like. I was nervous about leaving the comfortable familiarity of Thailand, however, once I ripped the band aid off, I'd come to realise it was the right thing to do. I was stagnating. I've enjoyed the first week in this mad country. It's like Thailand 20 years ago. Fresh, wild, vibrant. Loving it so far.


NamBlao = DuekSot

1 comment:

  1. Great first post from Cambodia! Looking forward to plenty more, keep them coming matey.


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