Anonymous Hotel, Phnom Penh
Day One, 18:30
“Yeah, that’s fine”, said The Heckler.
There were no windows. Just the door through which the three of us peered, along with the awkward, smiling concierge. A plastic door led into a minimalist bathroom, on which more later, and there was a small television set at the end of the double bed. A bedside table, a fitted wardrobe, a desk and chair, and a tired pair of flip-flops completed the fixtures. Not luxury, but perfectly acceptable for $18.
“So we’ll take this room, and we’ll need two more like this one”, I said to the concierge.
“Two more? You want three rooms?!”
I’m not sure whether the concierge’s incredulous reaction to the fact that these three barangs (Thai: farangs, Eng: western barbarians) would not, in fact, be sharing a double bed said more about him, or the quality of guests attracted by the hotel, but the poor chap looked shell-shocked when he realised he’d have to dig out another couple of keys.
I actually upgraded to a $23 room, which had a window with a nice view onto the river. Through iron bars, naturally, but this was Phnom Penh after all. My two companions actually preferred the windowless rooms, being conducive as they were to quiet, and to dark. Two things we wouldn’t be experiencing much of.
Nice Riverside Cafe, Phnom Penh
Day One, 20:00
We were drinking Tiger, I think. Or Heineken. Or possibly Asahi. We weren’t drinking Anchor or Angkor though – the two local beers are pleasant enough, but if Cambodians are not to be trusted to operate an Etch-a-Sketch, then there’s really no reason to trust one’s digestive tract to the output of their breweries.
Cambodian kitchens, on the other hand, are another matter entirely. The chicken cordon bleu was excellent, The Heckler informed me. The Merguez sausages were pretty awesome too. The third member of our party was “on a diet, y’know? Uhhh, liquid diet. I’m in training, y’know? I’m kind of like… Uhhh, I’m an athlete.”
He is an athlete. Once described as being “like Tony Stark without that gay metal suit”, he is The Athlete.
666 Bar, Street 136
Day One, 21:30
“I’m an athlete. I’m the tri-state foosball champion,” beamed The Athlete at the eight hostesses currently in his vicinity. All were gratefully clutching lady drinks.
I was busy canoodling with a cutie in the corner, but The Heckler was fading fast. Jet lag, he said. Pussy. Before long, he barfined a fat chick and headed back to our hotel. Haha.
The Athlete and I continued drinking, flirting (with the girls, not each other), dancing (him, not me), buying too many drinks, and enjoying the attentions of pretty much all of the staff. Which was nice.
My cutie was certainly cute, but I wasn’t ready to barfine yet. I took her number, we got the bill ($120 or so – the owner looked positively orgasmic as we paid), and moved on to…
Sharky’s Bar, Street 130
Day One, 23:00
A few years ago, Sharky’s bar was simply the place to pick freelancers in Phnom Penh. At times a 50/50 split between Cambodian and Vietnamese talent, the morals were low and the prices were lower. $10 short times were commonplace, and the girls were of a quality that I would actually want to have sex with.
Today, the drinks are still cheap enough, but that’s about it.
As the Pattaya Ghost reported in his Songkran piece, the Vietnamese girls have largely disappeared. In fact, I saw precisely one definite Vietnamese girl during the whole trip, and she wasn’t very appealing. I didn’t ask every girl I saw, so perhaps there were a few Cambodian-looking girls who happened to be from Vietnam, but I can’t see it myself.
Anyway, we took seats at the bar and ordered. A bottle of Heineken for me, and a Heineken, a vodka red bull, two Jägerbombs, a Kamikaze, two B-52s and a white Sambuca for The Athlete. He’s in training. Liquid diet.
By the time I was half-way through my first bottle of beer, he’d also drunk half a Heineken, as well as the vodka red bull, one Jägerbomb, one of the B-52s and the Sambuca. Some people set Sambuca on fire while it’s still in the shot glass. The Athlete sets it on fire when it’s in his mouth.
The mute hooker mentioned in my last PP report was still there, and sat (optimistally, I thought) next to The Athlete. “She can’t talk? Fucking awesome”, was his response. Five minutes later, they’d left together, after he paid the $30 drinks bill with a $100 note and told the barmaid to keep the change. Pretty much all the other Western drinkers in the bar were nursing $1.50 draught beers. And shooting us daggers.
I finished my Heineken alone, decided that there wasn’t a single girl in Sharky’s with whom I would even have had sex for free, let alone paid for, and wandered back down to further investigate the hostess bars on St 136. On Nutter had recommended the 69 Bar as probably the closest thing to a gogo bar in Phnom Penh. I’d been told to expect girls wearing skimpy (by Cambodian standards) outfits, dancing on the bar and on tables, and a party atmosphere…
69 Bar, Street 136
Day One, 00:00
Now this was a lively place. Not the prettiest girls, once more, but they were doing their best to make up for it with sheer, unbridled enthusiasm. I still wasn’t ready to barfine though, and was preparing to leave for another bar when I saw her.
Wearing a miniscule crop top and hotpants, she was by far the hottest girl in the bar. I called her over, to discover that she spoke nary a lick of English. Using another hostess as a translator, we were able to communicate after a fashion – the only Khmer phrase I could recall with any degree of certainly at this point in the evening was “gadoor tom tom”, which means “massive wang”. Barfine was paid.
Hope and Anchor Pub, Phnom Penh
Day Two, 11:30
“Would you like your eggs scrambled or fried?”
Once the full English breakfast had been dealt with, it was time to catch up with my pals.
Nice Riverside Cafe, Phnom Penh
Day Two, 12:30
“Hello, The Heckler. Have you seen The Athlete yet today?”
“No. He’s not at the hotel either.”
Shit. Maybe he didn’t make it home? I had left him with a system full of lots of booze and zero food. And a deaf-mute hooker.
Anonymous Hotel, Phnom Penh
Day Two, 13:00
We asked at reception whether he’d been in.
“Oh, Mr Athlete? Yes, him come in at 9am today, with girl no speak can not. Him dancing in the lobby this morning. Him stay new hotel now.”
“The Kiwi Hotel, very close, on same road this – not far.”
We walked the entire length of the riverside looking for the Kiwi Hotel. There isn’t one.
After more interrogation of the desk staff, it turned out he’d moved to The Quay Hotel. Into a $140 a night suite. With the deaf-mute hooker. No answer from his room, so we assumed he was sleeping it off.
After an awesome late lunch at the FCC, we eventually caught up with him that evening in the hotel bar.
The Quay Hotel, Phnom Penh
Day Two, 18:00
“Hello, cute receptionist. Could you call up to Mr Athlete’s room please, and tell him his friends are waiting at the bar?”
Draught Tiger was, I think, $1 a glass. The glasses were kept in the fridge. Chilly. Good.
The Athlete emerged from the elevator wearing trainers (sneakers, Americans), boxer shorts and a bathrobe. And sunglassses. And nail varnish. And blue-black hair.
“What, not to put too fine a point on it, the fucking hell happened to you?”, I asked.
“Beer please”, he said. Not to me. To the bartender. And then, “yeah, y’know, we had a good night. You should have come along.”
“You know you haven’t checked out of the other hotel yet?”
“Yeah, good point. I’ll do that tomorrow. Probably.”
“And you realise you’re sat at the bar of what I’m going to assume is one of the most expensive hotels in Cambodia, separated from the street only by plate glass windows, wearing a fucking dressing gown and drinking beer?”
“I’m an athlete, man. You should have come along last night. I spent seven hundred bucks. If you’d been there, you’d be able to tell me what I spent it on…”
700 US dollars was more than my budget for the entire trip. I’d changed ฿20,000 at the airport, figuring ฿5,000 a night would do it. That’s not even 600 dollars, and that was for four nights.
“Oh, I remember where a hundred went”, he said. “We were in some swanky club, right?”
“You and the deaf mute hooker?”
“Right. Me and the deaf mute hooker. These guys, they might have been French, started taking the piss ‘cos she can’t speak. Now, I don’t mind having a laugh, but taking the piss out of someone’s disability is just wrong, right?”
“Right. How many guys?”
“Three or four, but I gave them a bunch of abuse anyway.”
“Yeah, they were telling me they were gonna kick my head in outside the club.”
“So what did you do? Pay them a hundred to leave you alone?”
“Nah, fuck that man. Paid the bouncer a hundred bucks to kick ’em out.”
“I brought four girls back, we stopped at the market to do my hair and nails. I think I gave the girls $50 each. Is that right?”
No. No, it isn’t.
The Green Vespa, Phnom Penh
Day Two, 21:00
The sausage and mash was excellent. The Heckler and The Athlete had the gumbo, which they told me was also excellent. The Athlete was still wearing his dressing gown, but had changed his trainers for slippers.
Phnom Penh has something of a reputation for being a little rough. Harsh, in my opinion – I’ve never had any problems. But still, wandering its streets in a robe and slippers is probably asking for trouble. I’d already voiced my concerns, but was roundly ignored. Put simply, I wasn’t prepared to endanger my own safety because my boozy pal couldn’t be bothered to dress. I gave him an ultimatum – put some clothes on, or I’ll just go solo. He refused. I left. No hard feelings, just not a situation I wanted to risk.
Random Hostess Bar, Street 104, Phnom Penh
Day Two, 22:00
I chilled out with a Heineken and the attentions of about nine hostesses. But none of them were quite up to my standards. That’s the thing about the Phnom Penh scene – it’s so cheap as to be practically free, but now that the Vietnamese have disappeared the truly attractive pickings are comparatively slim – certainly compared to Bangkok.
666 Bar, Street 136, Phnom Penh
Day Two, 23:00
And so back to the first hostess bar from the first night, to see if my cutie was around. She was. Pleasantries were exchanged, followed by money for drinks, and finally money for permission to accompany me back to…
Balcony, Anonymous Hotel, Phnom Penh
Day Two, 23:55
I famously quit smoking a while ago. But I still have the occasional one, at times of high stress, or perhaps if I’m drinking. Or on vacation. Or if I need a cigarette.
Smoking a Cambodian cigarette and watching a trickle of traffic go by, I was unexpectedly joined by The Heckler.
“Is he still wearing the dressing gown?”
“Yeah, but he went back to the hotel. Damn, I need to get laid. Your girl’s hot, can I borrow her?”
“How do you know she’s hot? And no, you can’t.”
“I knocked on your door first, she told me you were out here. She looks good in a towel. Could you just leave the curtains open so that I can sit out here and watch?”
“Sorry dude. No can do.”
“Damn. Okay, where’s the Heart of Darkness?”
“Street 53, I think. Any motodop will know it, just tell them you’re going to ‘Heart’.”
“Will do. Happy shagging”.
Concluded in Part Two, partly to irritate those who hate multi-part submissions but mostly because YP refuses to read anything much longer than 2,000 words…