I have a new wallet, made in Cambodia.
My old wallet is now in the hands of 2 Cambodian ladyboys.
elephant wallet, made in Cambodia
Phnom Penh on a tuesday at 10:30 pm. Our bus from Laos stops in the capital of Cambodia. The passengers are tired and hungry. We can barely get out, because a dozen tuk-tuk drivers behave as if it’s feeding time in the lion’s den.
Am I still in Southeast Asia,
or did the bus go to India?
They make a sally of my friend, tuk-tuk, Sir, Laaa-dy and guesthouse, cheap cheap. I get an allergic shock. Pushy tuk-tuk drivers are a nightmare.
I grab my backpack and try my luck on my own two feet. A motorbike taxi driver is following me, but gives up soon. This white man is walking!
Unfortunately, the bus dumped us, 5 hours late and more than 5 km from the center of Phnom Penh. Oh boy! I hobble into the night, with my broken toe.
The streets are brightly lit and several motorbikes are driving by. A Cambodian is standing there, some street corners along. I can’t believe my eyes, he is a ladyboy. He asks in a woman’s voice “Where are you going?”.
If I wasn’t in Asia,
then I’d be worried now!
I think “beat it!” and say “no, thank you!”. He asks on “Are you all alone”, now with man’s voice. I mumble nonsense and hobble on. A cloud of cheap woman’s perfume blows after me.
Cambodia is situated in Asia, isn't it?
At a gas station, I am happy to discover an ATM without handling fees. Cambodians apparently pay with US Dollars, rather than with their own currency. How much money do I need for a week inUS Dollar country?
I put 150 freshly printed Dollars to another 20 Dollars in my wallet. I will distribute the money to my money belt and money pouch in the hostel. Theft protection is important, is what they say. I wasn’t born yesterday!
Am I still in Asia
or in US Dollar country?
About 10 motorbike taxis honked and blared at me during an hour of walking. That’s a new record. Not even Indians are so annoying. Fortunately, I will soon arrive at the cheapest hostels in Phnom Penh, near a filled up lake.
Phnom Penh, the charming city?
Another motorbike driver honks behind me and demands to know, where I am going. I wave him off wearily, when a cloud of cheap woman’s perfume engulfs me. I look around. To my surprise, it is the ladyboy.
He stays, where he is, sitting on his motorbike. I limp on, down the Monivong Boulevard. I’m now on the main street of Phnom Penh, which is still moderately busy at 11:30 pm. Someone approaches from the other side of the road. It’s another ladyboy.
Am I still in Asia,
or in Absurdistan?
What am I supposed to do? I haven’t had much exposure to pushy people since India. In India, you learn to ignore pushy Indians and they will stop after a while. So, I better pay no attention to the second ladyboy!
no violence in Phnom Penh?
Ladyboy 2 grabs my balls. I push into empty space. He runs away. I watch stupefied. He runs further away. I touch my pants. He is at the motorbike. My wallet is missing. The Ladyboys go full throttle. I cry out in disbelief “No!”. The passing motorbike drivers, look at me concerned.
Am I still in Asia,
or in the wild west?
2 days later I have calmed down. At breakfast, I meet a Dutchman. He is devastated. Last night he was robbed. Phnom Penh is supposedly notorious for crime.
He was drunk in a bar, when a ladyboy took all his valuables. His wallet is gone and so is his jewelry, his cell phone and his credit card. He has had enough of Asia and wants to fly home.
Bars in Phnom Penh
I don’t want to fly home. I am only
missing a passport photo, some business cards and lots of dollars. But I want to be more cautious. Actually,I didn’t want to employ undue mistrust until America.
Am I still in safe Asia,
or already in criminal America?
After 9 months in Asia without any such incident, I felt like the Kakapo parrot. In his native island of New Zealand, there were originally no predators. Then the Europeans came with cats, dogs and rats.
The parrot was never introduced to the social conventions between predator and prey. It didn’t know, that the proper response to an attack is to flee. Rather, the flightless bird stood still and let the predators eat him.
There are only 126 Kakapos left.
I won’t stand still next time…