The Phnom Penh Commandments

Trip Start Feb 02, 2009
Trip End Dec 24, 2009

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Hello again!

And so the time came for us to leave Sihanoukville, sadly not without a slightly bitter taste in our mouths. Whilst getting a motorbike taxi to our hotel Maria had her bag snatched from her and as it was stolen she was pulled from the moving bike. We had heard this occasionally happened but never expected it to happen to a friend of ours. It was a horrible welcome to Cambodia, and her holiday in general, after only a few days away from home. She received some bad cuts and bruises down her left side and had three days of phoning embassies, canceling cards and organizing passports to deal with also. Losing all of your money, your passport, ipod and camera is enough of an ordeal when you're in the comfort of your own country but to have it happen in a foreign country where very few people speak English is especially difficult. Luckily she is a resourceful and positive girl and after a couple of days licking her wounds metaphorically and literally (although not really literally as that would be hideous) she was back to her old self. As a special treat her brother paid for her and the two other girls to stay in a five star hotel for three days to make up for the terrible start to the holiday. As I write they are pampering themselves and enjoying the spar, gym and pool and they are giddy as schoolgirls. At least a bit of a happy ending to an otherwise unfortunate episode.
On top of leaving a troubling few days behind us in Sihanoukville Scott also left his hair. He allowed Beck, the first to admit she is certainly no hairdresser, to be let loose on his flowing locks with wild abandon and a pair of cooking scissors. This was prompted by fears that he had started to resemble a woman. As we went to get fish and chips one day an American gentleman turned to Scott and said; "You want Fish and Chips, Lady?" Scott was quite taken aback and didn't know what to say. He is a hard-bitten Aussie bloke and the thought of being mistaken for the fairer sex was too much for him. It was only later that we realized the American had actually said; "You want the fish and chips lady?" For that is what they call her. Needless to say we had much fun asking Scott, on practically an hourly basis, if he wanted anything and then adding a "lady" onto the end with an exaggerated American accent. Not something a proud son of Melbourne appreciates I can tell you...
We did have time for one final video of Scott doing silly things for our enjoyment. To add to previous escapades with motorbike helmets, fans and rickety bridges. We purchased some very harmless fireworks from a guy on the beach and, after making sure they couldn't do any lasting harm, Ben filmed me shooting them at Scott's bottom. This all sounds very childish and borderline dangerous but believe me all necessary safety precautions were taken and it is very, very funny to watch. The bit when Ben shouts out "Go for the face!" is bang out of order but he would be the first to admit that he got caught up in the moment and he thoroughly regrets it. Nobody was hurt and physical comedy was sent forward by leaps and indeed bounds.
Our next destination was away from the coast to Kampot. Kampot is a sleepy little town that was perfect for relaxing in and we hired motorbikes again for a couple of days to visit surrounding areas including Kep, the neighboring seaside town. In a guidebook in Kampot we read that, without a hint of irony mind you;
"Kampot does not have any lesbian or homosexual restaurants or night spots. If you want something truly gay, visit Kep."
We thought this was an extraordinary thing to write in a guidebook with tongue quite firmly not in cheek. It was only when we read the section for Kep that things became clearer.
'Kep' is Cambodian for gay. And the town is truly a happy place"
That made a lot more sense now.
Kampot and Kep were all well and good and we had a couple of nice days there but we felt the pull of Phnom Penh. We were now down to a gang of five. Maria, Ruth, Becks, Scott and mygoodself. We went back to the usual haunt of Riverside Ten. It was the combination of KFC and the nightclub - Heart of Darkness - that had the strongest pull on us. I also wanted to visit the Killing Fields and the School that the Khmer Rouge turned into a centre for torture and interrogation; S21. It is now a genocide museum. This is a truly troubling place to visit and the display cases full of the skulls of victims and the photographs of all three thousand or so detainees at the place - of whom only four survived - is really an emotional experience. They show you a video also of some of the survivors accounts and I imagine it's a similar feeling people who visit Auschwitz get. It's profoundly, deeply uncomfortable but feels very necessary to remind everyone what man is capable of to stop it happening again. We read that an astonishingly small number of young Cambodians are familiar with their own history even with it only being thirty years ago.
On our way to S21 we bumped into an English chap who was also on his way there. We shared a  tuk-tuk with him and he told us his story. His name was and remains Ned Millington-Buck NMB from here on). He is an extraordinary gentleman with a fantastic name and many, many astonishing tales of daring-do. He got Scott very excited as he had just been living in Melbourne and made the money necessary to travel Asia by taking part in medical trials. To hear NMB tell it is the easiest way to make money in the world. He got paid $6000 Australian dollars for sitting in a hospital playing table tennis. They gave him two pills in the morning and took a blood sample and that was it. He then spent the day on the Playstation and watching DVD's. After two weeks they gave him the money, cash in hand and tax free. Scott is all about doing the same thing when he gets back. He says he'll be like Forrest Gump at table tennis with that much practice. NMB - some people mock him by calling him Ned Million-Bucks, can you believe? - also told us of his intention to purchase a tuc-tuc then drive it across Vietnam. He would then sell it when he reaches the other end of the country. This sounds like a great plan. I told him that he could even finance the trip by selling Lonely Planets from the tuc-tuc and write 'Ned Millington's Books' on the side. NMB did not appreciate the idea. He also taught us a wonderful drinking game - 21 - which is simultaneously the simplest and hardest game of all time. You have to sit in a circle and count to 21. Believe me; it's very hard. He will be in Vietnam at the same time as me so I get a feeling we may not have heard the last of NMB.
Next time; I really am going to go to Siem Riep and see a wonder of the world; Angkor Wat. The group shall also disband in much sadness after a superb month or so travelling together as some stay in Phnom Penh and I meet up with Ben, Beth and Amy who you may well remember from earlier in our little story. The tubing bit in Viang Vieng. It's all getting rather complicated isn't it? It would all be far simpler if I was just travelling with Ned Millington-Buck...
Until next time.

Lots of Love, Dan. x.    
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