Outside the guesthouse a couple of tuk tuks lie dormant, inconspicuous. I walk around trying to find the drivers but my search proves fruitless, until I inch closer to the carriages and realize that both the drivers are asleep in the back, curled up and blending into the darkness. I reluctantly shake one of them up and he wakes up without any fuss, like cats when they go from snoring into action-mode in the blink of an eye. He immediately clambers to the front and we take off. Heading towards Pub Street. Siem Reap's bar central. |
The driving is frenetic and the riding bumpy but the streets, though busy, are not over laden with traffic. Warm wind in my face as I smoke a cigarette and take in the new sights as they whizz past like a collage of snapshots, shops, motorbikes, kids, westerners, sporadic flashing lights, noise and sudden shrieks which come out of nowhere and are gone by the time I look round, indistinguishable shops all merging into one, big adverts advertizing mobile phones, or is it networks, other tuk tuks with bodies in the back, some leaning back and feet up, cool as you like, others, like me, haven't quite worked out the most comfortable way to sit yet, holding on to the rail next to my head to stop getting thrown about, going through patches of darkened streets now, disorientated, not knowing where I am and where we're going and loving the feeling, out there going somewhere new and I just know it's somewhere good.
My driver does the obvious and offers me drugs and girls. I don't say no exactly, but it's always best to hold off til you know the lay of this new land. We go through more darkness and then I start to see some life at the end of the tunnel, a few more people, then, slowly but surely more crowds, we're definitely close. Then I see the big neon Christmas-like banner pronouncing that X marks the spot – PUB STREET. I jump out at the top of the street and immediately get inundated with offers of a massage, offers of more drugs, and a tuk tuk by someone that's just seen me jump out of a tuk tuk.
I look down the famous Pub Street, no more than one hundred meters long, and see the classic Asian nighttime scenery, bars and restaurants lined up and stretched out as far as you can see, hubbub and voices, music being pumped out, different songs merging into one cacophonic soundtrack, neon lights everywhere you look, feline shapes and shapely legs silhouetted against the background, drunken groups of westerners reveling and falling about, others looking in amazement and taking pictures, people shouting, nefarious locals skulking about trying to catch your eye, others going from bar to bar proffering their wares, westerners ignoring them or making silly jokes, it's just kaleidoscopic, maddening, deafening, chaotic, disorientating, crazy, seductive, alluring, and for me, comforting. I feel right at home.
I spot a huge outdoor screen showing the football and I take a pew, half watch the game as I half watch the street scene. A pretty girl catches my eye and she smiles. I smile back. She waves me over. I like this place. I join her and start hitting the beers, then shots as her friends join us and I start to feel drunk, remembering that I haven't really eaten today and feel jaded from the journey. We walk to another bar, this time we go inside and more shots, louder music, I start reeling.
They somehow persuade me to go to the local club, called Hip Hop, nice and subtle, and I think yeah, some hip hop. We walk in and the heaving crowds and thunderous deafening base hits me like a Tyson left hook as I blink and let her lead me to a table. Gangham-style Euro-techno-pop nonsense assaults my senses and pounds my head. I wanna slap the DJ. Dry ice and smoke engulfs us. More shots. Now I'm dancing. Kissing her. Dizzy. Stumbling around, bump into people, it's all good, we're all friends.
Smiley faces smiling smiling. I start to actually see the music in colours. Don't know what the hell is going on. I fade to black. Thrown about in the back of a tuk tuk, feeling sick. My guesthouse. Stumble in, one foot in front of the other. Collapse on the bed. Soppy smile as I drift off into deep slumber.
John Owens Is a writer for Vacations rental homes and holiday homes and rental condos rented directly from the owner of the vacation rental home.
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