Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Holiday in Cambodia: With Extra Cheese Please…

By Justin Thoreau
part 1

The sun had reached its highest point of the day and Jim and I were still haggling at the market. Jim looked at me with that smirk on his face, the one where I know he’s bullshitting.

“I think you should buy it.”

“What the hell am I gonna do with a table cloth? I don’t even have a table,” I said.

“I don’t think it’s a table cloth. I think it’s a tapestry.”

“Well, you see, that’s my point. I don’t know what the hell it is so why am I bargaining for it?”

“Come on. Do it.”

“Eeehhhh.” camb4

This was how the day was going. Spent our third day in Siem Reap, the lazy Cambodian village, trying to negotiate the cheapest price for hammocks and parachute pants and now one table cloth, or tapestry depending on who you ask. However, after hours on end we were in need of a break and some serious sustenance. We’d started the day early and the sun was parching us to our bones. As we scoured the town for shade, food, and liquid our eyes came upon our first “happy” pizza parlor. Hmm, I thought, I like “happiness.”

We looked upon our pizza suspiciously. It was greasy and carelessly put together. On top of the grease sat flecks of green—like boats in a harbor they huddled together. “You think this is the real thing?” I said glancing from the pizza to Jim. “If it is I’m getting another one,” he responded. “Looks like shit though.” Hungrily we wolfed down slice after slice and waited for something to happen. “Cannonball,” I said as I took a huge bite of pizza in my mouth and reached for my beer, gulping down a generous mouthful to help the bite down. At the end of the meal our stomachs were bulging, for just a little more flexibility. The beer and grease sloshed in our guts, refusing to mix.

A half hour later we again found ourselves at the market. “You feel anything yet?” Jim asked me. “Maybe, I can’t really tell. Give it another ten minutes.” We were waiting for the worm to turn. With force of will we tried to summon the high, as if pure mental concentration would stoke the green flecks in our stomachs to life. Ten minutes passed, then twenty, still nothing. “I think we’ve been got,” I said, “like junior high kids purchasing a bag of Oregano. Smoke this and it will really get you weightless.”

“Dammit, so all we’ve managed to do is eat a greasy pizza that will probably give us the shits,” Jim said while shaking his head in disappointment.

“Looks that way; speaking of which, let’s head back to the hostel.”

camb

The rest of our afternoon was spent by the pool, trying to daydream away from the disappointment of our “happy” lunch. Nothing a few beers and a dip in the pool couldn’t help. The hours passed by and with each one our stomachs and spirits began to perk up. The day had been lazy but the night was setting in and it was time to make the most of it. We changed our clothes and agreed to meet up with some people from the hostel for a night out after we grabbed dinner.

Once again Jim and I set out down the dusty street towards the main town, in search of sustenance. Buzzing from our afternoon beers by the pool we considered our options. Curry? BBQ Kangaroo, again? And rather than turn into food bores, “Hey check it out, another one,” I said turning to Jim. “What do you think, could we get burned again?”

“I’m willing to find out,” he shot back.

Clearly we had not learned our lesson as we stepped lively into another “happy” pizza parlor. Forty-five minutes later we found ourselves once again disappointed. The “happy” pizza it turned out was not living up to its promise. What’s so “happy” about Oregano if you’re not in an Italian restaurant anyway?

Giving up on our quest for “happiness,” we turned and headed for the bar to join our hostel mates for a few drinks. We entered a raucous bar by the name of Angkor What? and headed for a table. “Everyone here is drinking from buckets,” I said to Jim. “You wanna get one?” he asked. We made our way to the front of the bar and ordered a whiskey bucket. Soon a blue bucket of whiskey, coke and something called Cambodian red-bull was placed in our hands and we glided back to our table gleefully thinking that we would finally get our money’s worth of “Fucked Up”, all four dollars of it.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, Cambodian red-bull is essentially a cylinder can of straight barbiturates. Back at our table we eagerly grabbed a handful of straws and started to suck down the bucket in generous gulps. We were joined at our table by a guy from England, a guy from Canada and a couple of girls from Scotland. We sat at our international table and shared the Facebook triteness of our day. As the minutes ran buy I quickly noticed that our bucket had been emptied and we were in need of a second one. The second bucket went down just as easily as the first. Had we really just drank two full buckets of whiskey in a matter of twenty minutes Who the hell would know? No one was wearing a watch and our brakes were off.

Soon we started to feel the affects. Our volume was increasing by the minute and soon enough Jim was on top of the table next to us doing some sort of weird jig for the ladies. They whooped and hollered at him and everyone was having a good time. I felt the whiskey starting to take hold as well. My brain was giving way to my loins—from now on they would be making my decisions. My heart was pounding, I had to move. Sitting in my chair was counterproductive. Leaping up, I joined the circle on the dance floor and started wheeling around like some wild animal. My limbs were no longer functioning in regular patterns: it was about time.

Part 2 next week in 3WM
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