Khmer again?!

So as I write this, in #1 RI BFF’s family’s living room eating some crazy fruit with chili salt, it is my last day in Siem Reap. I have to say when I initially landed in Cambodia, I was not too jazzed. I mean I was and I wasn’t.

I was jazzed because some of the world’s most amazing UNESCO sites are located literally 6km from where I’m staying! Secondly, and probably most importantly, I got to meet #1 RI BFF’s family. My hostel is, oh idk, 30-40 feet from their front door!

#Awesome.

Now I wasn’t jazzed because I got to see first hand what the corruption was like here. I don’t carry American currency on me anymore. After a bad and “mysterious” situation in India, I decided against doing that. Plus, in every country once you land, there is a welcome sign, a bathroom sign and an ATM waiting to greet you! So what’s the point!? You’re probably gonna get ripped on the rate at the exchange counter anyway!

Whatevz.

I’m coming off the plane and it’s different. For starters there wasn’t this long walk between the arrival gate and immigration and customs and baggage claim (Like seriously why do you have to walk like 7 miles to go through this shit!?).

Off the plane and, BAM, immigration.

Cool.

Well, it was cool, until it wasn’t.

I forgot that I had to pay for my Cambodian visa. #shit. Then I see that they also needed a passport photo of me. #shit.

Two things: 1) I should have gotten the damn visa when I was in the States. 2) I have passport photos of myself. I know I do! I remember buying the damned things from the county store. I have no effin clue what the hell happened to them between the US and China! #Lost.

It’s my turn at the counter and I told the guy sitting there that I didn’t have a passport photo. He told me it would cost me 100 Bhat (Thai currency. Thailand was where I just flew in from).

100 BHAT!!!

GTFOHWTBS!!!

For a 2×3 passport photo!?! (I should probably say that 100 Bhat is like $3…not expensive at all, but that is the equivalent of about 12,600 riel, Cambodian currency. Again, not very expensive, but it’s the GD principle of the matter!). My outrage came because he was clearly asking for a bribe! There were no signs that said “100 Bhat for passport photos” or anything like that (trust me I looked!). Now, I was warned about this before I left Singapore. So I knew it could happen…just didn’t think it would happen to me. Plus, I didn’t have 100 Bhat on me! <– {No one ever thinks anything crazy is going to happen to them. Like some how, some way, you’re always going to be the exception and always skate through. Yea…right.}

Ok, well, technically…I did have Bhat. I make it a point to collect 3 monetary notes from each country I visit as well as a flag and a shit load of coins. I had 170 Bhat in my bag and 60 in my pocket, but I didn’t want to use it to pay him off! It was a prezzi to myself.

So I said, “I don’t have 100 Bhat.”

To which he responded, “You don’t have any Bhat?”

Damnit! I said no! At least none I want to give to you so you can line YOUR pockets with it.

“No. I don’t have 100 Bhat.”

“Well do you have American currency?”

Sir! If I don’t have Bhat on me, wtf makes you think I have US dollars on me!? Real rap, at that point I hadn’t seen a US note in more than 7 or 8 weeks!

 

::sigh::

 

I gave him the 60 Bhat in my pocket ($2). I really didn’t want any problems. Being locked up abroad is not as sexy as it sounds. And my parents don’t know Bill Clinton!

Fine. Got through that (and, btw, they didn’t even take my picture!) and on to the next line. Now I must pay for the visa…in US dollars.

OH GOD, I DON’T HAVE US CURRENCY!! All I had was my Visa card. That’s it!

After I informed the HKIC* that all I had was my bank card, and everyone behind the counter looked at me like I was stuck on stupid, he told me I needed to go to the ATM. Uh, no shit! So I whirled around and walked to the Cambodia Asia Bank ATM to get some cash, but the damn thing was out of order!!

WTF!?

Umm, hey Mr. Scary Military Immigration dude, uh, hi. Yea the, uh, ATM is out of order. Do you have another?

He looked at me like, “Oh for Buddha sake!!! Can you please get YOUR life together!! PLEASE!” Lol this guy was 7 steps past being over me, my ridiculousness (as TB would call it) AND my lack of US currency.

So they slapped the visa in my passport, told me to grab my bags off the belt, then escorted me through the visa check line, and then promptly parked me in front of an AZN Royal ATM to get the money. <– $5 ATM surcharge!!! Seriously!? Damn! This isn’t a casino! Gouging like a mug!!

I got the money and gave it to the guy who’d been assigned to escort me. He then turned on his heels and peaced out!

No clue if that money actually got back to the desk. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow when I try to leave O_O.

 

Moving on.

 

I landed in Phonm Phen, the capitol of Cambodia, but I’d only be there for one night, because anything really worth seeing was in Siem Reap. #1 RI BFF’s cousin had arranged for a driver to pick me up from the airport, take me to my hotel, and then take me on a quick city tour. After the tour, I’d be having dinner with Cousin P!

The drive to the hotel was excruciating! Several things were happening to me. 1) I was soo tired. 2) The whole airport fiasco was still sitting with me. 3) I. Don’t. Speak. Cambodian. 4) My India PTDS was flaring up. <– I seriously think I have PTSD from that experience.

Numbers 3 and 4 are somewhat related. In India I didn’t speak Tamil. That made traveling around town so much more difficult. That’s all I could think about: how much I wouldn’t be able to communicate. I partially blame #1 RI BFF. Like, dude, wtf!? You speak the language! You coulda tutored me or something! Shit.

But I also blame myself. I mean the Internet is free right? My learning was nothing but a Google or YouTube search away. #Lazy. I was really busy, damnit!

Irregardless. <– That’s a joke, btw. I know it isn’t a word!

Also the Phnom Phen cityscape reminded me of Chennai (actual Chennai city, not Navalur VILLAGE, some 30km OUTSIDE of the city…where we lived). Though, I must say, it was waaayy cleaner, and lacked that, uh, “3rd world smell” I’d become so familiar with. <– Oh yes, the 3rd world TOOOOTALLY has a smell. An indescribable smell, but you’d know it when you smelt it! #Fact.

I think at that point I was just over my situation. I felt like Riley in the “Fundraiser” episode of the Boondocks (Watch the whole clip, cause it’s really funny, or skip to 1:17 for relevance):

 

“Man, f*ck this trip. F*ck this city. F*ck not having the local currency. F*ck immigration. F*ck corruption. F*ck not speaking the language. F*ck getting stared at like an alien all the damn time. F*ck the heat and humidity. F*ck dehydration. F*ck wanting to play ultimate jet-setter. F*ck tuk-tuks. And f*ck UNESCO’s World Heritage sites! I’m ready to go HOME!  America, where our rent is too damn high and our debt has been downgraded! Where I can go unnoticed on the streets, but still be followed around a Korean-owned beauty supply store like a common criminal (or Lindsey Lohan)!! And if somebody touches my hair one more ‘gain I’m slappin the shit outta them!!!”

 

Wooooooosaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!

I feel much, MUCH better now. All I really needed was a bottle of water and a nap.

 

After my much needed nap, Cousin P came to pick me up for dinner. He’s a funny dude! Totally tried to play my life, talking about, do you want western food on Khmer (Cambodian) food? I want Khmer, because, again, #1 RI BFF has been slacking and not puttin a homie D on the traditional food. So I needed to know what it was all about.

In the Asian tradition, the food was served family style. You use a fork, a spoon (in tandem), maybe even chopsticks, but NEVER a knife (I don’t know why). So there was Pahok (a salted fish and pork paste. I know it sounds different, but it was FANTASTIC!), there was a tomato-esque soup with some meat flavored with tamarin and lemon grass (OH.MY.GAWD), and some other meat (chicken…I think) in another tomato-esque sauce with lemon grass, but it was sweet. There were also vegetable spring rolls that had this lime, garlic and hot pepper sauce that IS MY FAVORITE!!! So good! Washed it all down with fresh orange and pineapple juice and for dessert, a passion fruit freeze slushy. SO FREAKIN GOOD!!!!

After dinner, Cousin P called #1 RI. She asked me how my day was, how my airport experience was, I just gave her a, “It was fine.” I couldn’t tell her what happened. I didn’t have the heart. She was already 10 seconds away from a nervous breakdown worrying about if I’d made it from Thailand to Cambo alive. I couldn’t tell her that I’d hit the ground and was already ready to get back into the sky–and was short 12,600 riel. I just glossed over the incident and kept it moving to brighter topics. We busted it up for a bit then I let her go. This cat was at work! She had to make OUR money!

 

Yes, I handled her! So what! Sometimes friends have to handle each other. It’s just necessary. Shit, I still handle my best friend of 13 years with kitten gloves, when I know she needs it. Real friends don’t let friends drive drunk AND real friends handle you when they know you need to be handled. #Themoreyouknow

 

It’s not lying, per se. It’s more like avoiding the truth until later…much later. #Politician.

Lol plus she doesn’t read my blog all like that anyway. #Winning.

 

Cousin P tried to play my life, again, and asked if I wanted a drink. I told him no, because I’m already dangerously dehydrated, and I didn’t need anymore problems. He laughed and said, “How can you and #1 RI BFF be friends?! She’s a drinker. She likes to drink. A lot.” <– #Blast! Oh I know, sir, I know. #1 RI likes to play it all innocent, but once you get to know her, she’s all sitting on your back deck 4 cups deep into Jersey Slugger 4 Rum Punch, smoking hookah and blowing GIANT clouds of smoke into the air  like her name was Snoop Dogg. Who. The. F*ck. Are. YOU!? Annnnnd…What have you done with #1 RI BFF?! <– #Shocked. She’s so hood, though. I know she knows how to champ a Black. I know she does.

After talking to RI, we went to a place called Darlin, Darlin, which I thought Cousin P said “Daling, Daling.” Accents. They get me every time. Lol. Apparently, RI loves this place! Ok, then, let’s go.

So we got there and it was like any other bar/lounge. Waitresses dressed in terribly kitschy outfits (Today’s theme: Asian Dragon Temptress!! A red one strap number); a thick cloud of smog (from both real and fake smoke) hanging over the place; a crushed red velvet motif WITH red fringe, sectioning off the VIPs from the ordinary people; and a 7 member cover band, apparently from the Philippines, was MURDERING (in a bad way) 70s & 80s soft rock classics.

 

::sigh:: I’m home.

 

It was a sight to behold! (I left my camera in the hotel).

 

Anywho, not happy with the fact that I didn’t get a drink at dinner, Cousin P ordered something called a B-52. From what I could taste, and tell, this drink had Sambuca (or 151), Kaluah (or Baily’s Irish Cream), white rum, and some other alcohol that was blue (not Bombay Sapphire. That would be too light in color). The white rum and Kaluah were placed in a martini glass. Then on the rim of the martini glass, the waitress used two long bartender spoons to balance another cup on top of the glass. The she heated a tumbler with samba in it…which lit it on fire!! She then poured the flaming liquid over the balanced cup, thus into the Kaluah, followed by the blue alcohol. I had to hurry up and suck that stuff down…WHILE IT WAS STILL ON FIRE.

 

Umm…it’s not my thing. I don’t like cream based alcoholic beverages. I gagged. Twice.

 

After that it was pretty chill. The band had a mini Madonna-Rama moment and “The Kids” came out of the woodwork!!! Cambo Ladyboy!! Yes, chile, Yesssssssssssssuh!!!! She was so FIRECE! Would have given those RPDR* mud ducks a run for their money!! #WERK! They tried to switch over and sing “Mickey”, but FAILED horribly!

How do you mess that song up!? Crazy!

After that we left. I was beat and Cousin P had to get up for work the next day. Plus…I was headed to Siem Reap, via bus, at the ass crack of dawn. #Goodgrief.

The bus ride was uneventful…because I fell asleep.

When I arrived at the bus station, Cousin P had arranged another driver for me. This guy took me to #1 RI’s family home, where I met her cousins, her aunt, but, most important to her, her grandmother.

I was kind of nervous. I know that elders are a big deal in the East, definitely more respected and well taken care of than their Western counterparts. I mean RI was all like, “You have to know how to properly greet my grandmother.” I was all scared and whatnot. I was doing Google searches for “Khmer manners and greetings.” I learned how to count to 10, and to ask how are you and to tell people my name. I was still shook though.

I knew how much of a big deal this was for RI. When I talked to her about my trip, we always ended up talking about how I’m going to meet her family in Cambo. She would be so feakin excited, with a giant Kool-aid smile that could clearly be heard through the phone. Then she’d get a little sappy on me and it always sounded like she was 2 steps away from breaking down and crying, because this was so special to her. I mean, I wanted to meet her people, but I didn’t want it to stress her out either. I figured if my grandmom lived in another country and she was going to be visiting ancient historical sites literally around the corner from my family, I’d expect her to stop through and say hello too. It’s just what you do. That’s good form. And as her friend, it’s the least I could do.

So, my first night in Siem Reap, I had dinner with RI’s family. Glad I looked up the rules to being a good guest, because I was supposed to wait until her grandmom started eating before I started (Thank you interweb!!).  Dinner was AMAZING. RI’s aunt, made me a feast! Steamed fish, rice, soup, and my favorite lime, chili and garlic sauce! It was sooooo good!!! So good! And when they asked me to join them the following morning for breakfast, I said yes without hesitation!

I was a little late showing up for breakfast (I know. I know, but I was sleepy!) I ran over and had a type of rice soup with vegetables, (I think) chicken, and fried bread sticks. Again, very tasty! After breakfast, it was time for my Angkor Temples tour!!

For 8 hours, I went from site to site, standing in awe of the ancient civilization that once graced those temples. Then I got annoyed.

 

Umm, I thought Angkor Wat was all engulfed in vines, and shit!? WTF!? Yea, there were no vines or trees taking over buildings. At least not at Angkor Wat. So I pressed on, in pursuit of my “Tomb Raider” moment. Still a little pissed.

 

I headed to Bayon. At this temple, the stone pillars have these intricately carved faces coming out of them. Each one has different characteristics and personality (if you’ll give me that). Ironically, I loved this temple, and wasn’t anywhere near getting my Laura Croft on. Definitely my favorite one of my trip so far, maybe even the whole year.  Next was a temple was across from Bayon, and was set deep into the woods/jungle (it was like a hybrid, though more on the woods side than jungle). There was a massive entrance walk way to the front of the temple, but you couldn’t enter. I was blocked off to tourist, but you could see the UNESCO people at the top doing their surveying and what not. Then I was taken to a smaller set of temples. I don’t know their names, but the paled in comparison to their predecessors.

Finally, finally, FINALLY, I was taken to Ta Phom. This is the iconic site in Tomb Raider, where she’s following a little kid. Be fore warned, Hollywood is the biggest liar on the planet and a lot of what you see in the film isn’t real. Damn CGI. Also, that movie was made like 12 years ago, and at the time they hadn’t started their conservation efforts, so it very well could have looked more ruiny at that time. Nevertheless, it’s pretty amazing. Giant, viney trees enveloping moss covered stone buildings, determined to reclaim the landscape. It’s beautiful.

It’s also eerie. There is a heavy silence that finds you there. Its not like regular “shhhh, be quiet, no body talk” silence. This was different. It was calm, still, but very heavy. IDK, I could be crazy, but I know it was different.

After seeing this site, I was pretty much done (smart, you save the best [eh]/ most coveted for last. Good job tourism board).

I headed back for the hostel and got there around 5:30ish. I hung out in my room, editing my pictures and relaxing. Unbeknownst to me, RI’s grandmom was worried sick about me. Apparently there was an unspoken rule that for the rest of my time in Siem Reap, I was supposed to have dinner with the family. Damn. I really didn’t know. I felt terrible because I know RI’s grandmom was looking for me to show up, and thought something had happened to me when I didn’t. And, if I wasn’t feeling terrible enough, Auntie came past and laid into me also for not coming to dinner!

I’m sorry!!! RI didn’t tell me. Plus, I didn’t want to over stay my welcome or be a burden. I mean here I am a whole stranger, that can’t speak the language, eating these people’s food and being all in the way and in their faces. Not to mention how every two seconds I was talking to RI via AIM (Don’t sleep on 1997) or FB chat, to give her a blow by blow of my comings and goings. I hate feeling like I’m annoying someone. I felt like I was doing the most. Stalking her across at least 3 different communication mediums. #Creep.

#Sad.

In spite of my rough landing, I really had a lot of fun. #1 RI’s family was so warm and welcoming. They are just like my crazy family, except in Khmer. They opened their home to me on the strength of RI, and I really appreciate them for that. I wish I could bundle them all up and bring them home with me as a surprise for RI (she’d probably die of shock, or happiness, or a combination of both). RI, I know how much my seeing Cambodia meant to you and I really, really appreciate you letting me meet your family. All jokes aside, thank you for brining me closer to this amazing country and its even more amazing people. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 

This crazy summer adventure of mine is nowhere near over, but I am so thankful that I’ve seen what I’ve seen thus far. Honestly, I am having the best year of my life! Never in a million years did I think I’d be where I am, see what I’ve seen, or do the things I’ve done. I’m going to beat the breaks off the rest of this summer!!! Because, so far, it’s been phenomenal!

 

Now, Meanions, off to Vietnam I go!

 

Speak your mind…

 

*Note: HKIC = Head Khmer In Charge. A little twist on an old saying!  RPDR= RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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About themeanblackgirl

My name says it all!
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