Three Weeks in Cambodia: Eat. Fuck. Beer.
At the mercy of some hip-hop DJ dance music in a bar that just opened up, near Pub Street — Siem Reap, Cambodia. The week here has flown directly up a stray cat’s bunghole. And the dirty rivers that surround Sihanoukville — out on the coast — are long behind me. I guess there’s some kind of rhythm to this city, up in the north, that brought a peaceful malaise to my writer’s mind. Or maybe it’s just the heat. You can’t beat the heat, here. You beat something else, instead.
I’ve got a flight to Bali via Bangkok in about four hours. Had to check out of my hotel about six hours ago. Where did (does) the time go? It could’ve been the mosquitoes and fleas from Otres Beach to the ferry to Koh Rong Sanloem island — the nets where I lay or entrapped in silent sexual intercourse, peering through the slits of a bungalow to ensure that our neighbors didn’t hear me pounding away with my meat hammer. In and out. And in and out. In and out. And in. And out.
“WHY ARE YOU STOPPING?”
“I think they can hear us.”
Kissing silently … sweating bullets … and now she’s on her stomach … we are so silent that the mosquitoes, even, are snoozing with the scent of butts, armpits, repellent, soap, shoes, empty beer cans, suntan lotion, and the purple magenta I’ve scattered all across the porch — to keep the vampires away, away! But they move to their own blood-lust as I come on her lower back.
I’d say that Otres Beach was pretty relaxing.
But first, we came into Cambodia on a bus from Ho Chi Minh City. It was even hotter there! Luckily, we were able to experience two rooms at a homestay. The top floor was where I fucked her in her new dress. But I digress.
Ants crawling on walls … water bugs flying around the toilet … the fan going … the net by my head, there’s an opening there — I got drunk and forgot about the net. That was my mistake.
In the middle of the night, I’d awoken … cursing.
“These fucking bugs,” I murmured. “Vampires! Scum…”
Back into sleep. Not really thinking about Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Where we stayed on the outskirts of the city, in the south. Away from the Royal Palace and other burning temples that melted in the daytime. (Somebody, a couple, just entered the bar and they’re now throwing darts at the wall. And I think a mosquito is eating at me, again and again.) The capital was also hot. The bus ride, that was hot too.
Before we arrived in Phnom Penh, though, we didn’t know what to expect. And it surpassed those low bearings of ignorance. Because I figured it was worth it to be there, with her. After the first day — which is always the best, when traveling to a new place — we started in on new positions on the bed. In the morning. In the afternoon. And at night.
I can even remember getting her on the last night before we were to leave town.
“No sex tonight,” she said.
“Because! We have to be up early in the morning to catch the bus!”
“Oh, yeah. That’s right.”
I kissed her. Then I kissed her some more. Then I yanked off her underwear. Black. Tan legs. Long. And skinny.
And then I kissed her. Again. And again.
Soon I was in there, on the bed. In Phnom Penh. An air-conditioned studio on the outskirts of the city, in the south. My Chivas Regal whiskey floating with ice cubes that I made from scratch!
“Oh!” She moaned.
“Fuck,” I responded.
We were good at making the neighbors jealous, that’s what we were good at. Especially on the last day or night or morning before we’d be moving on to somewhere else. The city was relaxing and it helped to cure an ailment that I’d had dragging in my system since Ho Chi Minh City … the long bus ride, the hot border crossing … the crazy, insane, unpaved roads in the countryside of Cambodia. I wasn’t thinking about Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger and their destructive monstrosity — bombing the shit out of Cambodia and Laos, secretly, illegally, during the war in Vietnam (the American War, it’s called there), no. And I sure as shit wasn’t thinking about having to be up early in the morning. Rather, I wondered where the hell it all was leading us to.
Staring at my phone in the middle of the night while she’s sleeping next to me. Knowing damn well that when I finally wrote about it, I’d be switching tenses….
BUS FROM PHNOM PENH TO SIHANOUKVILLE
What a shitshow! I was smack in the middle of a fucking third-world country. The roads weren’t exactly paved. Rocky. Dirt-covered, with wild drivers passing on either side of the road — a two-lane “highway” that was more like a doom-filled pit that elongated from the capital of the country all the way out to the coast — that’s where the hippies went and the tourists, too. In fact, there were plenty of tourists at the capital and we saw them there up on the 20th floor of some skyscraper where we talked about all the buildings that were currently being constructed, huge skyscrapers — you could see them in the not-so-distant future, you could tell that the city would be built up and the rivers would be caked with the slime of progress. The Chinese would invest in real estate. France would be funding the big markets. Russian immigrants were gone or they were blending in with the crowds of other Eastern European countries now blanketing the earth. Tourists from Scandinavia, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Wales — wait, what happened to my Scottish whiskey? — no, that was in Saigon.
And the bus kept rolling along, bouncing, tumbling, speeding past dump trucks and empty tractor trailers, motorbikes. It was all hazy and like a phantasmagoria that never stopped, never ceased — and never would. Until some kind of violent eruption that tore through the roads and the plaster of the whole facade of the recently-built countryside went up into smoke, again. Just like the seventies. When the country was going through a genocide.
I was standing in the middle of a busy highway in the south of Cambodia with my bag on my back, heavy. The bus had broken down or, rather, it had an issue with the AC and nobody knew what the hell to do about it … there were ten of us on the bus, from France, Taiwan, China, the UK. And me. I was from the USA. I was the only American on board.
We crossed the busy highway that was at a standstill with traffic. There wouldn’t be any more fucking for quite a while.
I threw my bag at the bastards.
“Here,” I said, unprofessionally, “you take care of this.”
Losing my cool, that’s what was happening. But, we got on the road again and the four-hour drive ended up taking about five or six hours. And when we finally got into town, Sihanoukville — it looked like a shithole. And it felt like a shithole. And it smelled like one too. Just a greedy suburb of solipsistic hedonism. Good!
We took the bus to some circle. The rolling hills felt like dung beetles and earthworms were crawling all around us on motorized scooters. A taxi took us, and two Taiwanese women, to the beach — Otres Beach, to be exact. In the south of the city, on the cusp of under-development and not-developed-at-all.
I liked it, there.
Relaxing vibes. Fleas. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on the beach. Dollar drafts! And plenty of mosquitoes.
The sun was hot. As fuck.
FERRY FROM OTRES BEACH TO KOH RONG SANLOEM ISLAND
She was sick on the toilet when the bus pulled up in front of the resort/hotel/bungalow.
“THE BUS IS HERE.”
“Really?” (From the toilet.)
We got on and rolled across the rocky road to get back to Sihanoukville, a fifteen-minute drive, just about, from Otres Beach. Two nights. We were covered in welts.
I was grinning on that stupid bus ride.
She got sick again at the pier before getting on the ferry. I thought about leaving her, I’d had enough I told myself. No more traveling with her. I’m better off on my own, etc.
She got sick on the ferry, puking into a plastic bag which she held in front of her face. I rubbed her back. But it was useless.
Five nights of what amounted to a hellish episode between the two of us that I won’t go into, here. But the first few days were good, pretty good. Just a strip of shops — bars, restaurants, hippies, nonchalant dropouts from all over the world who didn’t give a fuck about anything except drinking, talking and maybe fucking.
“You’re being loud…”
We were naked, in bed. She had protection on — in her ears — to block out the sounds coming from the other people in the hostel/bungalow. We fucked and fucked in the heat, the fan spinning stupidly, bugs and lizards crawling all around us.
It was over. After I came. She said, “we made it.” We kissed, naked. Hot. Sweaty. Later, we fucked again. Her on top of me, giving me this look that made me want to shoot off, exploding with the stars and creating a black hole, from which no light would be able to escape.
Which is/was exactly what happened.
The ferry couldn’t come soon enough. Weird, I thought, staring out at the beautiful scenery of M’Pay Bai on the smaller of two islands right next to each other, that a beautiful place and a beautiful girl could be and feel and seem so fucking ugly, so terrible, that it almost felt like you were really in Hell. Among people who were carefree, reckless and apathetic to a fault.
The young Cambodia girls were geniuses. And the young Cambodia boys were TERRORS. Pulling each other’s pants down right in front of all the tourists. Where the hell could they have learned that? I wondered.
And now I’m sitting with a beer and some spicy, salty peanuts in the Siem Reap International Airport. Was here a week ago — and it was one of the fastest weeks of my life. Plenty of fucking!
Well, when we got into town it was uneasy and things didn’t feel okay between the two of us after the ferry ride at noon, just about, under the high skies and we cruised at top speed out in the open water, away from the bay, heading again for Sihanoukville … the seediest town in the world … and we felt good together sitting down to eat some Chinese food. In fact, she even wanted some of my Heineken.
“I’m tired of these Cambodia beers!” I growled, looking over the menu. She laughed. That was a good sign. She still looked beautiful too. Her long face, smart glasses, quick wit, doing her best to listen to me, put up with me, tolerate me, smiling, laughing, grinning.
“I WANT A REAL GOD DAMN BEER.”
She ordered her own and we ate the food in her own tongue. Then we took a cab ride to the smallest airport … getting the hell out of that flea-ridden place. We landed in Siem Reap at night. It was calm, it was hectic, that’s southeast Asia for you … taking a taxi back to the safest place in the world: a room with a good bed and air-conditioning. My back was feeling like a soft pretzel.
A good night’s sleep cured me. Took a sip of one of the four beers I purchased after waiting to eat a fried rice and chicken meal at some place nearby … snoozed … out … like … a … light.
In the morning, I was up bright and early. Wait. This is getting too long.
I didn’t mention crossing the border into Cambodia from South Vietnam, the first Cambodian meal: a plate of hot rice and a sweet-tasting chicken leg. I didn’t mention, either, how beautiful she looked when we were finally getting into Sihanoukville on the worst bus ride of my life, the straps of her black tank-top hanging down at her elbows, hair down, long and dark, she was looking out at the scenery, nearly whistling, singing with a beautiful voice, and I felt the ground swallowing my heart, whole. Nor did I mention the beautiful sunlight of Cambodia, this orange, burning red — everywhere — or the fact that we were closer to the equator so the sun shone the same, each day. And the beautiful smiling faces, the resiliency, the strength of Cambodian women — all the way up to our last full day together (after traveling for a month since Da Nang) where we spent hours in a salon getting my hair dyed light blue. It came out green.
I felt good with her. Her dark hair covered my pecker, the second night — after venturing out to Pub Street and drinking, wildly, dancing — up against each other, laughing, sweating, everybody in the club and across the street looking at us — not giving a fuck about any of that, I held her, swaying, swooping, grabbing, dancing. Like nothing else mattered. Okay. That’s not bad.
And then her head was down there again in the early morning hours, and again later in the afternoon … me straddling her … no sex during her period … her groaning, looking beautiful as ever. Naked. In front of me, wanting me more than ever. And telling me so.
“You’re so sexy…”
“You too, baby.”
And she sucked my dick better than it ever had been sucked, those lips pulling me to the edge of the bed. Exploding into outer space. Again and again.
“Baby,” she said a few days later, “don’t stop.”
We never made it to the holy temples.