Thursday, February 24, 2011


Ever flown Phnom Penh to Shanghai and back in one night? Yes? Without boarding an aircraft? I didn’t think so. I had another urgent message from David,  ‘Call me ASAP’. David’s life was filled with urgent massages. This one turned out to be two cheap airline vouchers he’d acquired lending a Thai friend cash for unknown reasons. The details were incomplete. He now had two vouchers on Bangkok Airways for return flights to Phnom Penh. He’d  often described Cambodia as a ‘hell hole’ in great detail. He’s gained this bit of knowledge from his extensive reading of detective stories. David knew more about Phnom Penh from never visiting the place. Phnom Penh’s midnight shootings were regular occurences according to his favorite detective hero, Big Bret O’Toll, ex CIA, DEA agent turnd private investigator. O’Toll’s exploits made comic books seem real. What had been David’s most feared destination had now become his most sought after adventure. The small matter of never having been to Phnom Penh didn’t dim the fear that the city was a dangerous place, especially at night. O’Toll was regularly shot at leaving bars in the early morning hours. David believed everyone carried a gun and he’d be shot coming out of a girly bar semi-drunk. David was never semi-drunk, he always went the full mile. He’d read too many novels and had forgotten the word - fiction.
We were off for a long weekend into the heart of darkness as I described it for David. A little dramatic flare added to his paranoia.

The California Hotel had recently closed – that was Dave’s target budget, about twenty five dollars a night. I’d recently stayed at Lyon D’Or and found it good and similarly priced. A sprinkling of French ambiance wouldn’t hurt. Air conditioners that worked most of the time or was it some of the time? Elevators that were going to be installed next year. But the food was good and the beer cheap. And they had David’s favorite hotel amenity  – rooms without windows. David didn’t need to know if it was day or night.

Was the first stop Sharky’s or the Voodoo Bar, I couldn’t remember. Suddenly we were in the Shanghia Bar, it was one AM, the music was blasting, the girls were drunk and smiling and David thought he’d landed in heaven. His last comprehensible words were, ‘make sure you get me back to my hotel room.’ The one without windows.

Was her name Aya? It seemed so, I had a phone number on a Shanghai napkin. Was this Aya’s or a taxi number. I think David came home with me. Did we take girls with us? If so, they’d disappeared during the night. I didn’t have a headache which meant I’d had too much to drink. But I was tired – no – exhausted. Why did I always wake at six AM? I needed more sleep, another hour at least.


I heard the phone, it kept ringing and getting louder. I was almost awake. I knew who’d be at the other end. He’d probabbly been up since five AM.
‘What he fuck at you doing? Those girls still with you?’
‘Be downstairs in ten minutes or we’ll miss breakfast.’ And he hung up.

David wasn’t alone. She didn’t look too good, not enough sleep. She looked the way I felt.
‘This is Avin.’ She smiled politely, then looked dreadful again. The waitress glided over to take our order.
‘I’ll have a large diet pepsi, eggs and toast, thanks.’ David didn’t drink coffee or tea, ever. It was diet pepsi or coke with all his meals, drinks and in-betweens.
‘Pepsi extra, one dollar.’
‘Yeah, yeah – large.’
Anything not on the breakfast menu was extra.
‘What happened to those two girl you took back with us?’
‘I had two girls? I’m not sure.’

The coffee and eggs revived my body and got my small grey matter connecting. I’d been on the balony at Sharky’s talking to two lovelies. One had dark skin, no boobs and and lovely wide mouth with beautiful succulent lips and perfect teeth. Her friend was near perfect too, but  she had surging breasts under a sleek linen jacket. ‘Surging Breasts’ spoke pretty good English and her friend nodded, spoke little English but picked up on the conversation. Did they mind if I asked them both back to my place? No problemo. They  were all smiles. I don’t remember much after that.


We caught an afternoon flight back to Bangkok. David arranged for the taxi to pick us up an hour earlier than necessary. He wanted a quick tour of Phnom Penh, something to add to his memory of one windowless hotel room and two bars. The taxi driver was very obliging and spoke pretty good  English. We managed the Royal Palace, National Museum, a quick drive by of the Central Market, a Pol Pot torture school and what David said must be the old French Embassy.

The tour complete we headed for the airport. David had seen it all without dodging any bullets, it was so anticlimatic and he seemed depressed by the thought. We had not heard a single gunshot in our forty eight hours in Phnom Penh. He wanted to live on the edge and at least have heard some gunfire. David slept for the entire forty five minute flight back to Bangkok. There was nothing to say.

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