Cambodia - 3

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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Now, we are at the local "FCC Cafe" befuddled and betwixt about being in a third world country away from all things familiar to us. We all have numerous stamps on our passports but this place is decidedly different from anything any of us has ever encountered. It's hot, it smells bad, the water is brown from sediments on the river floor and we are sweaty freaks in a new land. So, we sip on the local and popular "Angkor" beer and take it all in. We notice that no one has eyes that say "It's ok to have a conversation with us". Scenes from Casablanca come to mind again. No one wants to be noticed or acknowledged. So, we pop out the video camera and make a testimony about what we have experienced so far. It seems hollow and pointless. So, being a generator I start a conversation with a couple seated next to our barstools overlooking the river. They respond cordially but immediately go back to planning their day-tripping schedule. Perplexed, we go back to the hotel unsatisfied and disgruntled. We decide to sleep off some more jet lag and go out later.

After dining at "Metro Cafe" a high end internet cafe on the main strip by the riverbank, we scoot to the local club "Heart of Darkness". The name says it all. On a dark rain soaked street with a food cart outside and tuk tuk drivers waiting to score a fare. Guys speaking Khmer (Ka - mare) on their cell phones and very few women outside. It's an interesting enough back alley spot as we flow in the main entrance. The decor is very dark with red velvet wallpaper and buddah statues lit by red lights overhead. They fit the drama unfolding inside by the lone pool table in the back. A barmaid who looks kinda ruf gets us all drinks, $1.50 canned beer and $3 Jack and cokes. Unfortunately, they don't have my classic 7 & 7. I tell them "No Ice". I look around for all the normal stuff. Security guards, bathrooms, exits, who is with who but most of all who is looking at me, looking at them. I see a few women 22-27yrs have started their night early and are way ahead of us in the drinking department. They dance to American Hip Hop and popular Khmer music but are barely staying on their feet. I eye a few older guys 50+ that could be their father hovering and then making their move. It's obvious why they are here. I just watch to see what unfolds. They score by saying the right things and buying a few more rounds. It looked like easy pickin' for them. I don't judge but I watch them all have their fun. The girls have a reason for being here as well. No pretentiousness or "Here's my number let's have coffee" tones in that conversation. No interest in that. And besides, where is the fun in that. I think to myself whatever works for them, works. No guess work, no "I can't let my girlfriends think I'm a slut", and no " I wonder what people will say seeing me with such a young woman". All is fair game in Casablanca. It's amazing what a lack of social pressure can do to a night out. Huh, we Americans are way too sexually frustrated.

My friends and I slowly get into the groove but are thwarted by the locals who run things there. We can only play billiards when everyone they know has had a turn. Even those that arrive after us. Playing fair doesn't seem like it works around here. We lose interest and feel a little cheated. Our whispers and body language speak out. Wayne and I are much bigger than these guys so tension starts to build. No worries though, we got mace passed off as breath spray on the pat down. I've got some bouncer and years of street training in me, Wayne's got juice and we both have enough heart to protect ourselves and Tash if it comes to that. But I'm sure Tash can take care of herself. Not tonight though, we are just a little on edge, frustrated and not thinking too clearly. To them it's not personal, just territorial. Besides, we just got here and it's not the best move to try and prove something in a dark night club, in a third world country with few laws. That, coupled with the fact that we can't count on the embassy to baby us if we get ourselves into trouble and no one else knows we are here. These facts calmed things down a bit. I suddenly remembered what the ex-pat, ex-exec said earlier about smiling. We smile, they smile back and after we get our buzz on, we go back to the hotel to get rest for our day tomorrow. I eye a Gecko climbing on the wall between the wall painting and the mirror. They mean good luck and eat the mosquitoes that might make it in the room. Hmmm, my new friend. I shower, I set the alarm, I sleep well.

BTW: The staff and management were superb. They always greet you with smiles.
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Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk