Scent of Cambodia
I keep replaying the lyrics from Billie Holiday’s song “strange fruit” that go “scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh,” but replacing the word “magnolia” with “Cambodia.” Don’t ask me why.
then the sudden smell of burning flesh…
I’m really ill. The morning after the Full Moon Party, I woke up with a sore throat. I figured it was just from all the screaming and dancing and sweating until dawn with 50,000 other people. Nope. That night, after a day relaxing on the beach and drinking a fresh lemon- ginger juice for only 20 baht from the night market, I had what I can only describe as a cross between a night tremor and a hallucination.
In the middle of the night, I woke up and suddenly felt like if I tried to lie on my back, my body would explode. When I tried to shift to my sides or stomach, my arms started to uncontrollably shake. My brain was telling me that if I clenched and squeezed, I could rid myself of this feeling, but it didn’t work. Instinctively, I moved to the cold floor. It wasn’t enough. So I literally left my dorm room, went into the hallway, and lay underneath the bottom of the stairs on the cold tiles for about 45 minutes until finally the feeling passed.
That’s fucked up, no?
In the morning, I knew I was in trouble. I went to the pharmacy, and, as luck would have it, antibiotics are sold OVER THE COUNTER in Thailand. I bought some strong amoxicillin and some throat spray. But it was a travel day! I had to walk 1.5 kms, then take a 3 hour ferry, then a 3 hour bus, then a 1 hour flight to get back to Bangkok where I spent the night before catching my flight to Cambodia today.
Yes, I’m in Phnom Penh. And I feel like ass. I also look like I’ve been attacked by a weed whacker.
Two flights in less than 24 hours can’t have helped things.
Oh well, I can’t officially complain. I’m in Cambodia! Are you in Cambodia? No! Just me! ME!
Phnom Penh, the capital city, is pretty crazy! The traffic reminds me of India! 3 lanes of traffic becomes 7, but at least in India drivers would stick to their side of the road. Not here! Drivers and cyclists and scooters have no issue driving the wrong way through traffic, against traffic, in oncoming traffic, just to get where they want. And if that’s not bad enough, if there’s no space, scooters have no problem running pedestrians off the sidewalk! The scooters mount the sidewalks and use them as short cuts!
The population here is pretty dense. Building upon building, wreckage upon wreckage. And tonight I was approached by a few child beggars. Just like India. It breaks the heart. I didn’t see anything like that in Thailand, maybe I got used to that.
That’s not to say Phnom Penh isn’t amazing. It’s loaded with culture and wondrous food and smiling people and a wonderful sense of community. When the French colonized this area in the past century, they created huge promenades, parks, waterfronts, and public spaces. Today I saw children playing badminton, adults doing jazzercise in the park, couples snuggling next to the waterfront, and families going for long evening strolls.
This is the night market where I had my dinner. You get your noms at one of the many kiosks and then sit on the carpets in the middle (take off your shoes first before sitting on the carpet, otherwise it’s hugely impolite). I had a tofu skewer, a potato bhaji skewer, and spring rolls for the grand price of $1.50 and then a fricken delicious sugarcane juice for a few cents. I’d never had sugarcane juice before!
I’m only in the capital for tonight, tomorrow I head to the beach town Sihanoukville, where I hope the fresh air and salt water will do my health good.