I love Cambodia, but it’s creepy as hell.
I entered the country and didn’t stop moving. The bus from Laos dropped me off in Stueng Traeng in the north and I only saw the inside of one little cafe before I made for the highway.
A lonely biker dropped me at an intersection where a van heeded my waving hand and tolled me into Kratie, another up-and-coming Cambodian town. Here I spent the night at an awkward temple party, flashing pagoda lights and wailing modern music, where a tiny sweet Khmer girl tried to seduce me until I told her I was in no mood to give her what she wanted and that we could start with a conversation first. That friendship ended abruptly.
I left Kratie after a good hostel breakfast and started waving again at the road. A couple drivers stared at me with worrisome looks. Another guy offered – for a price – to take me back into town to the bus station. I shook him off and stood there for a while, discouraged.
Finally, a cool Khmer kid on a blue and pink scooter pulled up to me, green satchel laced around to his hip over a collared, logo-less button-up. His hair was short but swooped. He was me if I was Khmer. And he spoke decent English so I learned all about his studies for an hour; some computer engineering creating video games.
He cruised me into the minibuses in the next town, and, having enough of the heat, decided to spend $3 to skip 5 hours ahead to Phnom Penh.
And this is where it gets weird.
I spent a lovely half-week with an internationally working friend. We talked about social justice, our mutual friend Smokey, and what it’s like to live as-Vegan-as-possible in Southeast Asia. But it seemed like, while in Phnom Penh, I could never find the right hostel.
Throwing down my belongings and a newly purchased ukulele, I felt I chose a pretty good home-base. The only concerns were that the dorm lacked locks and a local guy lay in the corner, always sleeping. The guy didn’t bother me, but every time I entered the dorm over the three day span – no matter what time of day – he lay there, in the same position, so I began to grow concerned.
Then another cute Khmer girl came into the room. Originally, she planted all of her belongings a few bunks down the aisle. I came in later and couldn’t help but notice that they were all moved to the bed next to me. ‘I want none of this,’ I thought again.
Later I practiced my ukulele and she rushed in demanding that I help her change language settings on her computer. She insisted that I come to her bed to do it. I stood beside her bed and pointed and directed and promptly returned to my ukulele.
That night she yelled a lot about how she was bored and wanted to order me a pizza; a pizza I in no way enticed or wanted. I swear to God I said maybe four sentences to this girl.
A little later her computer started making the “doo do doo” sound that Skype makes when someone is calling. She begged for my help again so I walked over and crouched down. The moment I arrived she clicked Skype’s “Accept this call and ruin your night” button that pops up customarily with a call.
Instantly, a stark naked white girl appeared on the screen, sitting in nothing but low candlelight, touching herself and muttering some indistinguishable incantation. The Khmer girl started shouting, “See I have a boyfriend! I’m not a lesbian! Stop calling me!” She shouted this over and over before ending the call, but I had already jumped up and packed my bags. I could hear Skype ringing again as I sped out the door.
I escaped the insanity but wrongly assumed I was going to a better place.
I checked in at a hostel called “The Lovely Jubbly” where the host kindly placed me in a dorm on the third floor, a bottom bunk next to the window. The place was clean and the other attendants were missing. I’d soon find out that the Irishmen occupying the other beds were, at the time, getting wasted while watching a World Cup match.
I tossed my things in the locker and called it an exhausted night.
I don’t know why I did it, but I woke up at almost 4 AM. I laid on my left side facing the window. When I opened my eyes, I thought I was seeing things. I gave a second to let my eyes focus, and they did not lie. Perched outside my window, silhouetted from the street lamps below, staring at me unblinkingly, crouched a little half-naked Khmer boy. Tired and wanting to fall back asleep before any fright could settle in, I pulled up my bed sheets. I realized that I was pulling in my sheets from outside the window. I bolted upright and the kid jumped. My heart pounded and I didn’t move for minutes, letting my eyes scan wildly. When I could finally muster it I closed the windows – the locks were broken. I checked and all of my stuff remained safe. I woke up just in time.
The Irishmen came in a half hour later, belligerent and loud, punching each other and cursing up a storm of unintelligible slurs. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t sleeping anymore anyway. Cambodia had officially creeped me out.