After just over three great weeks, it’s time to leave Siem Reap, tomorrow morning. I’m leaving with a fantastic teaching experience behind me, lots of new e-mail addresses in the back of my notebook, and a furrier liver than when I got here. The Sangkheum Center, Earthwalkers, Siem Reap, the people and the temples have added up to a memorable time. It’s just the evenings I have difficulty remembering.
The Angkor What? Bar in Siem Reap is mainly responsible for this furry liver and patchy memory (and a large bruise on my hip), but the Laundry Bar is also to blame. The Angkor What sells buckets of Cambodian Mekong whiskey, Coke and Red Bull for four dollars, and they’re enough to get an elephant feeling tired and emotional. The walls of the bar are covered in writing from the hundreds of drunkards that have patronised it, and the word used most often is ‘regrets’. People seem to come over all wise after eight beers and a bucket of whiskey, so sayings such as “It’s better to regret the things you haven’t done than the things you have done” compete for wall space with “It’s better to have no regrets at all”, and “The Bromley Massive was ‘ere 2003”.
On one night in the Angkor What, I had to talk convincingly to a pretty Dutch girl for two hours as if I was a writer for Lonely Planet, after I met a genuine Lonely Planet writer and he pointed at me when she asked who the Lonely Planet writer was. “Yeah, there are some great places to see here, but you have to get off the beaten track and into the countryside to get the real Cambodia” I said sounding thoroughly authoritative, resisting the urge to laugh my ass off and admit I’d only been in town for four days.
Something does mystify me though – I swear every single student I’ve met traveling studied at Leeds. Even all the way out here, you can still have a conversation along the lines of “Yeah, Headingley is just so commercialised now”, or “Skyrack? No way, maybe the Oak”.