Murphy and I are still in pretty rough shape when we wake up to say goodbye to Queenie before she heads to the airport. I take a rain cheque on the hug (“I’m afraid I’ll poop if you hug me”) and catch a few more zzz’s while Murphy sees her downstairs to meet Ping Ping SB (who is now Facebook friends with everyone). We did pop some ciproflaxin the evening before and some more when we woke up so when it was time to check out and head to the bus station Vegas was giving 50/50 odds of us shitting ourselves at some point during the seven-hour bus ride.
A small rickety bus (labelled “LIMOUSINE”) picked us up at the hostel and scooted us over to the bus station. After some fuckery with one of the employees taking our tickets rather than just checking them we got on. A greeter on the bus informed us that the “happy seats” were at the back. No idea what that meant, they looked like regular seats.
There wasn’t much scenery to speak of, we drove through a series of villages and small farms with chickens, rice and the occasional skinny cow. Most houses are on tall stilts, 12 feet high or more by the looks of it; presumably for cooling rather than flooding but I can’t really say. It was difficult not to notice the contrast between the homes, which looked like they could’ve been built hundreds of years ago, and the new-ish looking Prados parked out front. There was the occasional temple here and there as well, and a lot of signs and billboards for the Cambodian People’s Party and, as far as I could tell, none for any other party.
At the two and a half hour mark we stopped in a town for twenty minutes for bathroom breaks and drinks (the bus had a toilet but apparently it was for the driver only). Next to where we stopped were giant platters of grasshoppers, crickets and larvae mixed with hot chillis and spring onions, looked great but our experience with omnipresent seafood had us twice bitten once shy so we got ice cream instead.
A pickup truck drove by with seven or eight kids playing musical instruments in the back. We called them the Cambodian Partridge Family.
We chilled out next to a restaurant, next to the entrance was a rough-looking guy, looked like he was in his seventies or eighties begging for change from people on their way out. Couldn’t help but speculate on the kinds of things someone of that age had seen go down in this country.
The rest of the bus ride was really uneventful, we caught up on the blog, slept a bit and listened to a baby occasionally cry until we hit rush hour traffic in Phnom Penh. It was incredibly stupid. Most intersections didn’t have traffic lights but when we finally hit one that did we were stuck at it for half an hour, moving a foot every minute or two. As we got closer we could see that literally no one paid any heed to the lights but what was really fucking up the game was a giant tent covering half the intersection for what appeared to be a wedding reception. Fantastic planning. At one point when we hadn’t moved for a few minutes our bus driver stood up and with a sheepish smile went to the back of the bus.
Me: Is he going to the toilet?
Murphy: Well he does have that “I’m gonna take a shit smile” going.
The bus station is fifty feet around the corner from the intersection. We jump into a tuk-tuk, ask him to take us to the Mad Monkey hostel and he takes us directly back into the same intersection. FFS.
The Mad Monkey has a party hostel vibe to it with a bar and a pool right by the front desk area. There some cool murals about the place.
There is a smattering of British backpackers in the lobby when we walk up and inquire about a room. They’ve got some space in a dorm room, suitingly called The Baboon room, and we roll in and plop down our stuff. There are a couple dudes in our room but they don’t seem that friendly.
Across the street The Mad Monkey has a whole other building with more rooms, a restaurant, and a bar. We head over to the restaurant area and chill for a bit. The menu is decent so we grab some grub there and a few beers. There’s a blackboard advertising a keg party upstairs with free beer from 8-9pm. Actually it looks like there’s an event up there every night. Free punch tomorrow.
We decide to go up and check out the bar area. It’s a completely overwhelming. Actually it’s a total Aussie frat party. Obnoxious drunks and super loud. We seem to be about 20 levels lower on the annihilation scale to hang here right now. There’s a raging game of beer pong going on.
There’s also a chalk board on the wall with some sort of international competition for a shot called a Bazuka. Each country and how many Bazukas they’ve had this month was listed. England and Scotland were the front runners with Ireland, America, Australia (which was on the board as Fuckinstraya) and Canada all rounding out the top spots.
We get a drink and hang out but we just weren’t feeling it. We decide to hit the streets and see what’s around. The area we’re in looks like all hostels and little bars and restaurants. We cruise down the street but things die off quickly so we backtrack to another place called Top Banana. It looks like another hostel with a rooftop bar. We’re expecting more of the Mad Monkey vibe but whatever.
At this point MacKay ducks out. He’s still not feeling great and doesn’t want to partake. So Drisdelle and I go up to the patio at Top Banana. It’s totally dead up there. We have a slight hesitation but really why be picky? Totally dead or total chaos are the options. We set up next to the bar and get some gin and tonics.
There’s a cool vibe up here actually. It’s got a much more chill atmosphere and even though there’s no one there we settle in pretty good over a few rounds.
During that time things pick up a bit, but never get too crazy. A group of fun-loving Brits come in and are absolutely pumped that you can get laughing gas at the bar. Their Smiley Guy leader type keeps running up and ordering a round of 4 balloons for his group.
Top Banana has the same international shot competition going on. The French are winning over here. Seems to cater to the exact same things as Mad Monkey with keg parties, punch parties, beer pong and pub crawls. Looks like we’re in the backpacker party zone of Phnom Penh.
We follow the Brits lead and get some laughing gas ‘shots’. Two super cute balloons of nitrous at the bar. This stuff is so weird. You inhale the gas from the balloon and it makes you feel super fucked up for about a minute then it’s gone. Who knows how many brain cells your killing.
The bar pours out a round of shots for the entire bar, rings a bell, and yells out “Free shots at the bar”. The joint has picked up a bit now and there’s a rush to the bar to grab the shot. Yowza! It’s flavored gasoline. But nothing brings a whole bar together like free shots. Things get a little livelier.
A Cambodian guy at the bar next to us is incessantly clapping along to every song now. He’s terrible. Or he’s not listening to the same music as the rest of the bar. He decides to come say hi to Drisdelle and me. He tells us his name is Shroom Boy (that’s not what he actually said, but what his name sounded like). He tells us he’s a professional soccer player. Apparently the paparazzi is like snap snap snap. Drisdelle and I simply don’t believe this guy but are being polite and carrying on.
I tell him I also played soccer. “Oh what team?”, “The Mounties”, “The Mounties?”, haha I think he was expecting Arsenal or something, “It was college, man”, “Oh college” he flashes a smile showing exactly 2 teeth.
At this point Shroom Boy can feel our attentions wavering and raises his glass and says ‘Cheers’, “Cheers man, have a good night.” We go back to our drinks and marvel at yet another round of laughing gas for the Brits. Oh Shroom Boy is back already! “Hey guys, cheers!”, “Cheers again, man”, uh oh I think SB is pretty trashed. When he comes back over for a third cheers in 2 minutes I get a glance from the bartender asking ‘Is this guy bothering you?’, I hand gesture that it’s ok.
Drisdelle gets up to go to the bathroom and Shroom Boy decides to try hitting on the NitroBrits instead. And suddenly he’s running off out of the bar. WTF? Smiley Guy tells me Shroom Boy asked him if he could sing to him for a drink. “I told him to fuck off and get out of here and he ran off hahahaha” and he orders up another round of laughing gas. “You guys are addicted to that stuff”, “We’re trying to make up for you guys haha”, “Well you’re doing so in fine form.”
We finish up our drinks and head back to the Mad Monkey. The Sunset bar is still filled with all of the same people as earlier except now they’re 10 times drunker. There are full bar chants going on and just so much sloppiness. We still weren’t in that kind of mood so we just decide to call it and head back to the Baboon room.
Excited to check out Phnom Pehn tomorrow and the infamous Killing Fields. Not sure what to expect from that