Sharks, Piranhas and Petrified Naga Excrement
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 64 of 115 › view all entries
I quickly learn that Siem Reap is an ocean of hassle. In retrospect, Medan seems like a paddling pool by comparison. The moto and tuk tuk drivers here don't give you a second; they're ruthlessly persistent and even the slightest flicker of interest will see you pursued. At one point Julian observed that, although sharks can apparently scent one molecule of blood from over 6 miles away, moto drivers can scent one dollar from over 7.
If the drivers of Siem Reap are sharks, the little kids are wide-eyed commercial piranhas. They gather in shoals and snap and snap and snap until your patience is picked to the bones. They use the broken record technique to great effect, cracking the will of their victims over periods of up to a quarter of an hour. If it's not photocopied books then it's bracelets, postcards, t-shirts, petrified naga excrement* or whatever else they can dig up and flog. Trifle with them at your peril. I learned to my cost: hell hath no fury like a adolescent girl whose photocopied books hath been scorned.
Oh yes, on our third evening in the city, we are sat streetside having a few drinks on the aptly named Bar Street. A skinny young girl, about 12 or 13 maybe, approaches us and tries to sell us photocopied books. I give her the cold shoulder, say "no thank you" only the three times, and after a few minutes she goes away. A little while later a young boy, 5 or 6 comes over and tries his own luck. He gives us the full treatment and won't take no for an answer at all. He's there for a good 10 minutes. Eventually, due to his sheer persistence, I break and end up looking at a few of his books. Amongst them are a few memoirs of vicitims of the Khmer Rouge rule. I'm interested in the history and end up buying one (after not losing at noughts and crosses - the bargaining game of choice) for 3 dollars.
The kid wanders off, inordinately disappointed that he's only got 3 dollars (the going rate I think) and that his cutesy show of regret doesn't finesse me into coughing up any more dough. A deal is a deal, cute or not. I pick up my drink and, from the corner of my eye, realise that I am being observed. The adolescent girl has returned and she is distinctly unhappy:
"Why you buy his book and not mine?" she demands. I'm completely caught unawares and she fires a second shot:
"I speak you first but you not buy. You only like boys!"
She continues in this vein, standing there to slag me off at the roadside for a whole ten minutes. Laura and Julian almost wee themselves at her tenacity and my discomfort. I'm not exaggerating the time; she just won't bugger off. I explain my purchasing motives, I play patient, placating, nice as pie, I even give her a wholly undeserved apology - anything to try and get rid of her.
This has precisely zero effect; clearly she wants me to buy from her so she'll shut up. I tell her that there's no chance as she's been so rude to me. Finally I get really pissed off and tell her where she can go with several statements ending in off. None of this has the slightest impact - maybe she's had a bad selling day and is taking it out on me. I dunno. Whatever the reasons, her powder finally begins to fizzle but she makes time for one last parting shot:
"I hope you never have girlfriend!" She shrills and struts off into the neon lit strip of Bar Street to bother some other poor sod.
Julian and Laura wee themselves all over again at the curse whilst I slump back into my chair, sling back more rum and coke, and think of all of the clever things I should have said in response.
Why is it that you always come up with the perfect one liners way, way after the event?
*This is obviously untrue - Nagas don't excrete.