defenses up again. haggling again. sleeping in a building that’s about to be torn down. there’s a rave going on outside. got a massage by a blind person…

It may just be the place where I’m staying (by the lake, near a cluster of cheap cheap hostels), but there is some nutty stuff going on in Phenom Penh. Not nutty in “get drunk in Cancun” sort of way, but nutty like “its the wild west and there are just no rules”.

Let me tell you a story…

Number 10 guesthouse is next to what use to be Number 9 guesthouse. Both are slated for demolition. Number 9 went first. So out on the ruins of Number 9, Number 10 has set up lawn furniture and a temporary parking lot for local motos.

The people staying in Number 10 and the people who hang out at it are long term expats. There’s a bunch of Nigerians who work in Southeast Asia and are simply hanging around for a few months to extend their visas. Then there are the Brits, Australians and Americans who have been backpacking for years and just sort of settled into Cambodia. Some have families here. They all still like to get together at Number 10 with their local friends to have a drink on the weekend.

The place advertises MC, who is a local who DJs here every night. Battling the bar down the street which has 18 year old British kids and Z100 music streaming, Number 10’s MC chooses from a variety of old school rap and hip hop. Even into the early morning, I can hear early nineties Jay-Z coming through my window.

The first things the guy asked me when he first showed me my room was “do you need a moto tomorrow? do you want to go to a shooting range? do you want weed?” My room is bare, but it works. Its got hot water and clean sheets. There’s not much more you could ask for. Oddly enough, despite these basic accommodations, my room features a really decorated ceiling, which is nice to look at and wonder about when batting away mosquitos.

Then there’s the events of tonight. Roy* came over twice to yell at Nam**. I can scarcely understand it. And Nam is trashed. The second time she came, she brought their son. After some bitter exchanges with Nam on the ruins of Number 9, she storms off pissed as hell. The words I’ve managed to catch at this point are various curses, “cocaine” “son” “what”. He leaves after her. He comes back a half an hour later without a shirt but with a head wound. Incoherent (partly because his accent is still slurred by beer) and blubbering Nam is somehow calmed down and held down as we pour mouthwash over his wound. His fists are clenched and tears are rolling as the cut, right at the suture between his frontal and parietal bones, stings with pain. He probably needs stitches. But for then, I think he just needed to sit. That’s when I left to go use the internet next door. Halfway into this entry I heard Cambodian screaming. Roy has come back with the hammer. A bunch of the guys are holding her back as she tries to reach for Nam. Twisting around and screeching, she causes enough distress that the other locals and backpackers have come out of their hotels to see what’s going on. Things look a little dodgy, and Nam is cowering behind a motorbike. But after about fifteen minutes Nam is led away and Roy finishes her fit by throwing the hammer down on the street.  She then takes her child back (from the stranger who was holding her toddler during this whole incident), and goes home. Its been quiet now for a while, so I think I’m going to head back to discover what exactly happened while I was here at the computer. But I think I’ll find that most people will be reluctant to talk about it.

“This place is raw” -Eric the American expat, when asked what he likes about Cambodia.

*local woman

**british expat (for about 3 years)


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August 2011