I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
– Oscar Wilde
Thank you to my travel friend, Alex, who recommended I start a journal whilst travelling. It was less than a week into India when I first met him, so it was easy for me to start it from the very beginning. Pen, paper and my own thoughts – old school! Without the journal, I probably would have forgotten a chunk of stuff – I can barely remember what I had for breakfast sometimes. I’m not even sure who I was writing it for. Perhaps my grandchildren might read it one day and laugh. Or denounce me. Or simply marvel that people wrote on paper once upon a time.
Anyway, here’s a tale I stumbled across in my journal that I had almost completely forgotten about. I shall transcribe it as I originally wrote it. Brief context – I had been travelling for about 4 months, and it was our first night in Cambodia, arriving in Siem Reap. Hope you enjoy it!
Siem Reap Night #1
Madness. Eat your heart out The Hangover. Dave and I met back up with Felix and Marjon at Angkor What? – by all accounts the best place on a street called none other than Pub Street. Superb stuff. Great music was playing, we shared some jugs of beer – draught beer! Proper wicked to have draught beer you know – Chandigarh, India, was the last time and that was two months ago. We did need to eat though and found a cool locals’ street-food joint which was cheap and tasty.
Back to business. We went back to Angkor What? and got stuck into plenty of buckets, having a merry old time chatting away. We threw some truly outrageous dance moves, started a conga, added to the graffiti on the walls and were generally very very drunk. I got chatting to a London girl and bonded over Portobello Road. At this point, Dave, Felix and Marian were heading home (3am-ish?) but I stayed chatting, promising Dave I wouldn’t be long.
Now, somewhere in between that and what happened next, I got chatting to a Cambodian girl who had somehow taken a liking to my drunken self. And she wasn’t a prostitute! I’m not too sure about what happened next, but I remember walking arm in arm with her to a nearby locals’ hangout where people were playing cards and eating shrimp on the street. She was the only female, I the only foreigner, but we were welcomed in happily and I had some shrimps forced upon me which were actually very good. We stayed there for a while whilst she spoke and snapped at the Cambodian men whilst she nuzzled me with her nose. I was playing cards, and apparently doing quite well, although I had no idea what we were actually playing. Maybe they were just humouring me.
Before long I found myself on the back of a scooter with her (what was her name? She spoke some English, but I don’t remember it – did I even ask?) – we were being driven by one of the guys playing cards and offering endless amounts of shrimp. After a long time, we appeared to be outside of Siem Reap, judging by the narrow dirt-tracks and village-like housing. I had no idea what was going on and was getting the most curious looks from all the villagers up and about – it was well past dawn so was very light. Next thing I knew I had a crate of beer in my arms and was led by her to her house, where we drank a few warm beers singing to Cambodian karaoke – I had no idea what I was doing, where I was or why I was there. I couldn’t read the Cambodian script, so I sang what I felt was appropriate. Until the Titanic theme came on, and I nailed that. Probably.
Soon after, I was challenged to a scooter drag race by one of the boys. Apparently I wasn’t allowed to refuse. So I wagered a can of beer against a can of beer that I gave him so he could place a wager, and off we went along the dirt-tracks. He zipped, swerved and did some sort of turn I used to see Vin Diesel perform in various Fast and Furious films, whilst I pootled along at about 15 kph trying to stay upright, happy to lose, aware that alcohol was coursing through my blood. My beer-wager fell out of my pocket at some point in the race. Sorry mate.
It was about 9am and I was wondering if Dave was worrying about me. And then I was back on a scooter with the Cambodian girl and original driver. He said he’d take me home for free, which was very nice of him. But then as we got into Siem Reap, he stopped at an ATM and demanded I give him money. My wallet was empty, otherwise I might have given him some dollars out of civility. But I was still a little bit drunk and therefore very principled about being taken to an ATM and giving him money, when he told me the ride would be free. He got pretty angry and we had a bit of an argument to the point where he rang ‘some friends’ who ‘just wanted a word’ and soon be with us. Hmm. Trying to be diplomatic, I told him something along the lines of “I’m sure they’re lovely people, but no thank you”, and then walked away. Five minutes later, I suddenly started feeling worried for the girl’s safety, so went back to see if she was ok. She had been shouting and cursing at the money-guy, but then saw me, hailed a tuk-tuk and told me to take us both back to my hostel. Drunkenly thinking she was indeed in danger, I obliged. Although I had to go back to Pub Street as I didn’t actually know the name of my hostel. My wallet was still empty, so I went to an ATM and withdrew a bit of money, before the machine ate my card as it only offered me about 5mm of card back, and I must have left my ATM-tweezers back at the hotel.
By now it was about 10am I think – Dave was still fast asleep and hadn’t noticed our entry. So like good children, we brushed our teeth and went to bed. She spent most of it pawing at me, telling me she loved me and that I should live with her in her village. I politely declined her marriage request. Dave eventually woke to a bit of a shock. Sorry bro. By about midday, I was able to free ourselves of this one-sided romance and Dave and I caught up on what happened to both of us after we went our separate ways, over some really horrible kidney/heart meal of an unidentifiable animal. One of the stranger nights.
So that’s how my journal entry reads. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did re-reading it. No photos for this entry – our friend Marjon was on camera duty, and I would have probably lost mine anyway or gambled it away, had I brought it out. You’ll just have to use some imagination!