Cambodian people don’t seem to have figured out how to rip you off yet. Or maybe they have and they’re really good at it. Well, maybe tuk tuk fares are more for white men than for locals but so far we have been treated very very well. Actually, now I think of it, the driver who tuk tuk’ed us from the boat to Otres asked ten dollars within earshot of one of the British girls who works for the diving school who’s boat we took back from the island. She said no no, not ten dollars, seven dollars. Driver said eight, and they had a bit of a discussion. He said four to Sihanokville from the port, she said it should be three. The driver started to rub his eyes with the backs of his fists and make sobbing blubbering noises and agreed to seven but then asked eight again when she’d gone. He’d seemed genuine about four into the town and he did ask before we got into his cab, so we said ok. Quite frankly we would have been quicker had we walked. The tuk tuks are 100cc motos cleverly converted into a taxi service by simply bolting a sort of miniature open train carriage affair on the back. Inclines are a bit of a problem. It didn’t actually come to a halt but it did come just about as close as you can to one, a sort of fast halt, but he delivered us to Otres with a big grin and, I’m fairly sure, broken springs on his tuk tuk. We spent two nights at a place called Otres beach, four dollars after Sihanokville. A bit of an odd sort of place it is too, two hundred meters of bars and guesthouses either side of a red mud road. Ninety percent of these businesses are owned by Europeans and people just chill out all day long. And then, if they’re a bit warn out, they’ll spend the evening chilling out to get over it.
Here comes the train!
We met Duncan and Jade from Bournemouth in Richie’s bar and just sat all day, talking and drinking coffee while Jade was (ironically, I thought) painting trees on a bit of wood. She was making a sign for Amy, who was going into the beach dreadlock business. Another couple who’re going to come and visit us back home. We’ve promised so many people a trip down the cut I reckon we’re going to have all our weekends taken for many months to come. We swam, and the ocean was just so warm, it was like getting into bed. Only wet, so maybe like getting into an incontinent persons bed. It was warmer than anywhere we’ve been, any warmer and you could poach an egg in it, probably. We met some really odd characters. On the first evening a crazy crazy Irishman with an American accent who said he’s a dj. By god he was weird. The lord only knows what he’d done to maim his brain in a chemical way but whatever it was had left it in a very strange condition indeed. For some reason he took against Duncan, started ripping into him and it was clear right away that he was a very clever, if warped man. Duncan got offended and this little bloke shouted that he wasn’t his enemy and continued to barrack him and then shout that he was zoning him out and started making drum and bass noises to himself. I managed to talk him down a bit and got him to leave off Duncan a few times with distraction tactics but I couldn’t match him for weirdness. I mean he totally outweirded me, and he kept going back at him. When he turned his spatter gun craziness on me we left him with his head in his hands and his brain somewhere many miles away and got back to our room. It was very very late by now anyhow. Drugs are quite freely available it seems, and people are skinning up joints openly on the beach or in bars. If you can’t be arsed with all that rolling a joint, you can buy them ready for a dollar fifty. I suspect that some very different substances had been through the dj’s brain though. The next night a huge Mongolian stole my lighter. First Genghis Khan and his Mongol hoards and now this! When will these outrages cease! Now, he was a strange one as well, but in a much more good natured, much less weird kind of a way. He’d been everywhere. I mean everywhere! Europe, America, Asia, China, Japan, Russia, and he had stories to tell about all of them. A fascinating man. I asked him how he made a living and he mysteriously told us that his job is to watch. That’s good enough for me mate, although so far as I know there’s not a lot of money in it. He also said he makes a little money from writing. Maybe his family have money, who knows, but he wasn’t forthcoming so I thought it best not to ask any more questions, seeing as how he’s seven foot tall and comes from a race of warrior horsemen from the steppes. I let him keep the lighter, hoping that he’d understood my wacky English sense of humour when I’d cracked a couple of jokes. Yeah, keep the lighter. Later a Belgian man with a guitar was playing some songs in the bar and I was persuaded to get up and do a few too. Nice. A lovely little guitar he’d bought for about thirty dollars or something crazy, really nice to play so I broke a string again, but he was ok about it cos I taught him to play Suzanne. We’d booked a bus from Otres for Kampot early next morning, and so we all had hugs before we went back to our rooms. There’s a lot of that goes on, and lots of earnest pledges to meet again. It’s really sweet. They say travel broadens the mind. I reckon i t also lengthens it. My mind feels a lot longer than it did before we came away. The bus to Kampot was easy enough, I even slept some of it, and nutted a Spanish girl who was sat next to me. Sorry love. There were places where the bus took to the wrong side to avoid particularly deep and spring shattering holes in the road. The trip was about two hours and of course there were tuk tuks waiting when we arrived but we said we were going to get a drink first and that’s fine with them, they don’t bother you. So we sat drinking coffee and eating pancakes for breakfast, and the owner kindly called a couple of guesthouses for us and so here we are, looking out over the river at another Apocalypse Now opposite bank, listening to a monk chanting somewhere in the distance, and the birds, and the river fifteen feet below us. The bungalow is similar in most respects to the hut on the island, one of the respects where its not similar is the number of walls, there are twenty five percent fewer here, unless you would chose to class a curtain as a wall, which I don’t. Oh, and it’s on stilts quite a bit higher than the other, high enough for me to walk under. And to get in you have to go through a trap door in the floor. Nel unfurled the mosquito net and found a tree frog in it. Some of these lads are poisonous. Poisonous but delicious! It seems there’s been a bit of a mix up with the bookings, and so the manager asked if we’d mind moving into one of the staffs rooms for the night, free. Yeah, no problem. So the room we have is probably about eight by eight feet with bamboo sheets for walls and a door made from bark. Honestly.
The view outside the door. Happily you can’t see the two bits of rat in the foreground.
Next door is the same, so there’s no privacy really at all, but Nel’s immediate concern is that that the mosquito net is holier than the pope, and that’s just struck me as oxymoronic. So we’ve put our own up, giving me an inch and a half of headroom, perhaps a little less. I’m in for a good night then. And there are chickens scratching about right outside the door, which is made of bark remember. A hard peck would probably knock a hole in it. A good night time bed fart will destroy it, probably. Best warn Nel about that. The toilets are shared and there’s one each for men and women with a wall between that most westerners will be able to see right over the top of. The shower is a blue plastic pipe with a tap and a coconut shell with holes drilled in it. We’re neither of us particularly over the moon with this arrangement, I mean, I prefer to perform my toilet somewhere private, usually, so we’re going to see if we can find another room tomorrow.
The river where we’re sat right now, looking out over, only we’re not cos it’s dark. I know we’ve only been here for a week, but Cambodia seems even more chilled and laid back than Thailand, the land of a thousand smiles! I reckon there are slightly more smiles here, I tell you.