Thursday, March 30, 2006

Phnom Penh II

When I go cycling, people are always asking me to pick up a small gift or two to bring back to Australia for them
Today's my last day here. Just had the bike washed at a local 'carwash' - as I left, the washers were all squabbling over how to divide up what I paid (a dollar, whereas I think it probably only cost 25 cents)

I've been to a few bars/nightclubs over the past 2 nights - something I don't usually do. On Wednesday evening I went with Kevin (he's lived here for about 8 years & has produced a book of his photographs: Phnom Penh People. Check out some examples here) to a very pleasant bar across the river, run by an Australian fellow, 'Snow'. ('Snow' had a small role as an Australian expat in Matt Dillon's City of Ghosts) It's apparently the only bar on the east bank; there's no sign out the front, at the request of the local police, but it's known as "Maxine's on the River", "Snow's Bar" or the "Blue House" (by the French). Lots of lights, bells, mirrors, a lovely breeze & good music. We later went to Bar 51 (I think) and the Pickled Parrot. These were basically bars at which you can chill out, and have a beer & a chat. I drank rather more than I usually do but no ill effects the next day.

In contrast to these establishments, Martini's, which I visited last night with another local, Ian, followed by Walkabout and then the Heart of Darkness, was an eye-opener. Martini's was full of scores & scores of so-called "working girls" - many more of them than customers, it seemed. As you walk in, you are virtually engulfed by numerous women smiling & moving suggestively, giving you shoulder rubs & so on in the hope that you'll employ them for something more substantial later on. The experience was both astonishing & just a little unsettling. Walkabout was a much smaller, more low key venue, but with a similar program. Heart of Darkness seemed to be pretty much a nightclub with a lot of Cambodians in attendance, and loud thumping dance music being played by a DJ.

So perhaps tonight, my last evening here, should be a quiet one, spent reflecting on my stay here & preparing for departure tomorrow morning.

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