Breath Held / Heads In Sand – The Hope That Sanity Will Prevail
Breath Held / Heads In Sand – The Hope That Sanity Will Prevail
Siem Reap is not i assume indicative of Cambodia and so – as it seems a rather nice place with really only nominal levels of tourist harassment and where we were free and safe to wonder the streets into town of an evening – it might be necessary to attempt a second visit to get a more rounded view of this country. A sentence that is clearly unduly long and warranting of some pruning and re-shaping and yet in a world free’d from Tipex here it stands.
The most famous temples/old citadels were underwhelming for the most part but very well populated, tourist ant heaps, the ruined nature of their existence suggesting an age they don’t actually have. Not that they’re new, very much not so, just by the standard of pretty ruined old things, these are more ruined than they are old. The even more ruined and smaller plots were, for me at least, quite a bit more interesting.
We’d agreed 3 days of being toured about by the Tuk Tuk driver who had collected us from the airport upon our arrival, having ruled out bike hire and willingly succumbed to his pretty soft sell. He had ice under our seats and in among the ice a selection of water bottles, they were most welcome. The breeze also got up on the Tuk Tuk as we travelled between the clearly rather familiar drop off points. We were not alone on our route – not all Tuk Tuk drivers are equal and when out in the evening we encountered an assortment of other drivers, many struggled with finding their way about the place. They were not collectively so familiar with reading maps (either on phones or the little your hotel is here maps that would otherwise be a fair bit more useful) .. our driver on these tours, who was always such a nice and friendly chap, was great. This can be said by both meeting him alone but was reinforced in sterling fashion by comparison with the apparent alternatives.
It was trip with two positives and one notable absence.
The first and lesser of these positives was Cambodia – a different experience from any sort of standard break but roundly friendly, really somewhat warm (not in a comfortable way) and despite a notable bought of ailment by my sibling, decent food, hygiene. This may sound a little first world problems but there is something to be said for only limited illness issues or interest from locals with things to sell. There are locals and some of them have things or services for sale – a bit more vociferous and abundant in the evenings, when the Tuk Tukers take to diversifying their product range.
The second and seemingly significant positive was the ease with which the holiday went – my brother had never been far from home before and for reasons of age and geographic separation, history has not provided us with any extensive experience of what it is to be in each others company. For it to have worked well during a week in the warm with basically only each other as almost continuous company – that was a very pleasant turn of events.
Somewhere about half a week, one of us, the one that wasnt me fell ill. It fell on a day we were to have done something and while not everything was clear, there were strong indications that this was not a thing doing day. The loud and quite persistent retching sounds coming from the bathroom, gave rise to the thought that a question perhaps should be asked about fitness and the days plans. The question gave rise to an uncertain but in hindsight unnecessary answer and off i popped to advise our Tuk Tuk driving guide – who referred to himself as Dan or rather Mr Dan – that we would not be putting in an appearance today.. Bad times having befallen the one who was not me. He was as always very relaxed and easy about the whole thing as we simply settled on an alternative day with no fuss or thought. It must have been something of an inconvenience for him after all, you cant just immediately come up with different things to do when some tourists body cottons on to the lack of familiarity and takes measures to share its concerns. I also wondered what his name might be, the notion that he was actually called Dan or even Mr Dan seemed improbable.. Cambodian parents, big fans of American culture, specifically Mr T and American football player Dan Marino, looking to channel their fervent enthusiasm for such things, came together in like mind and opted to name their son its honour. This seemed improbable. Perhaps then this was his tourist name, certainly for a person unable to remember anyone’s name the concept that the fellow in front steering the Tuk Tuk was something that sat remarkably comfortably in the things i knew and remembered.
Meanwhile the retching and the vomiting was persisting and as i understand it other efforts were also being undertaken. A bell had gone off and expulsion was now the name of the game and i suppose it rather depends on where something as to what its nearest emergency exit was. As i was really very much not ill and we’d eaten and done pretty much the same things my unhelpful and questionably founded diagnosis was it was probably not about what had been consumed but more a reaction to the climactic conditions – we had got fairly baked out there on the previous venture out. Shelter had been taken within Angkor Wat’s walls but the shelter never lasted and even hidden from the glare of the actual sun the temperatures were not low. The humidity though, that was probably the main thing and no amount of shade does much to combat that, it was king around here and it had smighted us without even bothering to even notice we were there.
The day was spent, for my part, loafing around the pool and checking back in to see on how the ailing were progressing or not. Having shared the days news, a recommendation was made about some sort of orange flavoured drink or drink supplement..
Not having heard of it, it didnt seem like an international brand and not being so very locally informed – using google and the image it returned
Confirmation came back:
“yes the above, supermarkets usually do sell it . Lots of water + royal D and rest”
To summarise the passage that follows – they did not.. or if they did they had a shared position of denial and i was not to be having any of it ..
To not cut the following passage short and to take the long road to that outcome – A means to replenish the system of some necessary things in a soft and undemanding way.
A drink or drink supplement i imagined was probably what this was. Either about salts or glucose and reacquiring some of this into some of those recently vacated spaces.
Finding this, scouting it, smoking it out and retrieving it successfully back to the hotel gave me something to get on with. It was not a successful initial effort, the local shop didnt have it and after much gazing and zigzagging about the local market stall stands, i came upon the notion i might need to ask someone if they had it.. they did not.. it was quite the illusive recommendation.
Eventually i was pointed in the direction of a pharmacy and found the success my confused and rudderless efforts scarcely warranted. With this and a solid stock of stomach nukes (coke cans) in tow i returned, in triumph to the hotel, wondering as i went upon what scenes of carnage or improbably swift improvement might await me.
Another recommendation had been a show – https://bambustage.com – now i was alright with the idea of going to the show but … of my own volition – no .. and not a weak or uncertain sort of no. It was just an area where we did not align, me an my old friend now significantly more native to Cambodia than I. These things seemed more like art than entertainment and art – why? its not funny, it doesnt run around after a ball and provide the satisfaction of victory or the disconsolate stewing of defeat … its doesnt fill the air with familiar, reaffirming and atmosphere infusing tunes .. nope art is just a thing that people come to make themselves like because they feel they ought to .. like Beer – and this, this smacked heavily of art over entertainment .. In the end nothing came of this, which was probably as well as i had history of failing to hide, mask in generally not make unfortunately clear the thoughts of a captive seeking escape – which stand quite apart from the acceptable thoughts, those of the enthralled or at least moderately engaged audience member.. Thoughts had already turned to how i might do better at this – but in the end it did not come to pass.
As for the ill, by the time evening had set in the waves of attack had thinned and it had been some time of resting without incident … my thoughts, not put of my the echos of earlier noises or the smells that emanated from behind closed but not sealed doors, turned to dinner .. Its hard to imagine what was done at such times prior to the internet – but with it, i found me a place that did take out…
Over email they were so helpful and friendly .. also when i got there (finally after much trooping around in the dark hoping for the best) .. okay when i arrived there there friendliness reminded me a bit of a cult held together by a hypnotic trance state, but this said more about me than any reality. The truth was the food was good (not large portions – not small.. just not quite ample) and the service and the friendliness was such that i remember it still.
Reaching out and touching the world through the personal medium of email :
“Dear sir / madam
I would like to know whether there is the possibility of ordering food as a take home option?
As one of us is feeling unwell and can’t comfortably leave the hotel.
I had initially enquired.
A reply came – never a fromality and a welcome start:
“Thank you so much for your email and interest in HAVEN.
We’re sorry to read that one of your party is not feeling well and hope she/he will be fine very soon again!!!
Regarding your question, yes, we can take take-away orders, but preferably before 7pm, before the kitchen gets too busy with the dinner service.
Does that work for you?”
Positive feedback – they were not overjoyed to hear that local climactic conditions had bested one of our number (2) and critically – food could indeed be had.
Me -> Haven:
And thank you for your quick reply – I think/hope they probably just received to much sunshine. Before 7 is fine with us.
Because they are unwell the preference is for a soup – noodle or chicken – but not spicey or whichever is least spicey. If this sounds like something you might have (as i saw you do have chicken and noodle soups) then I will check what I would like for myself and then look to come and collect just before 7″
They came back with options and even something of a suggestion on what we might look to order, given the assaulted digestive system and withered disposition:
“Okay, I’ll order the Khmer Noodle Soup and the Khmer Curry with Chicken for you.
My brother showed remarkable or obstinate powers of recovery – and though it hadn’t looked likely we were up and running with being out and about and doing things again the following day. A little surprised and impressed – far from certain i would have emerged into the challenging heat so swiftly were our roles reversed.
The warm, that has been mentioned gave rise an unusual occurrence and not just one of them, the drinking of beer. There was no cider option, water had become sufficiently familiar and though it remained ever welcome alternatives to the necessary stream of bottled water was superior to no alternative. The beer seemed mild in aroma and watery, consumable enough when cold, workable for the none beer appreciators. I do not generally appreciate a beer. Sweetness of soft drinks, not so refreshing in the humidity of the surrounds. A habit that would be readily relinquished at the merest sight of the alternative options that would, in future times, once again lay upon the path.
With temples visited we found our initial intentions and plans were maybe not quite the best use of time. We were to have been in Cambodia for slightly more than half of our 2 weeks but found agreement in our uncertainty on what else we might fill this time with. Temples and aged buildings rescued from the forests are not without there interest but without particular inclinations to absorb the detail of the history there is only so many of them you can take in, for the sake of optical interest.
The Plan to move on to Bangkok was therefore brought forward indulging in a spot of culinary familiarity if not quality as we went.
As for the absent part – that was not my old friend, though we didnt meet up very often or for very long. I had wondered how that might pan out and had adopted no considered thoughts on it. As it turned out the initial meeting was awkward, the almost immediate ease that had been the basis of so much, the reason above all others why this had once been the person to whom i was closest, it was not there.. Its absence was not a surprise but it still caught me of guard. It was not the only time we caught up, i couldnt see it clearly or work my way past it. Somewhere between my discomfort over my own doings all those years ago and my sense in what i saw, a sense that there was disappointment and perhaps still hurt feelings in their face, there was a problem. The face i saw was probably merely a reflection of my own take on things but enough to set a person of kilter. This was a moderate improvement on how matters would otherwise have been left but there was no moment of clarity. A point when the moment boiled itself into momentary clarity, whether something of a verbal form of this apology was welcome or, as i;d always suspected merely selfish, undeserving and in no way welcome. They were a solid sort and yet not completely.. after all they had been single minded enough to pull this coffee book shop charity off …
Through the gaze of my uncertainty, it dawned on me for really the first time, the possibility that what i’d done at that train station and in some part of the time that followed might have caused some hurt, that it might have mattered.. Probably not but it could be. What good an empty apology for something done in full and deliberate knowledge – what right to offer it and to seek from them alleviation from its ramifications – none … or perhaps doing nothing is all together just to easy – the absence then from the holiday came in unwavering inertia. Im not sure it was a choice, just didnt really understand how to do anything else.
Many many years ago – i don’t know how many but its a fair few i mislaid something.. Well that’s not quite right, that not really right at all. The act of mislaying having been more a kin to Wheresmeine Leiderhosen being less a something and more a something and being less loosing and more running off in the woodland.
So in 2017 what was probably about 7 years later – i went to Cambodia.
My old friend, my once most close and well thought of friend who i deposited on a train and didn’t see much off again there after, eventually headed to Cambodia some time ago to pursue the Venn diagram of pursuing social good and books – opening a charitable coffee and book shop in Siem Reap. In any number of ways i let myself and them down for what were solid and well considered reasons. Reasons that do nothing to legitimise, warrant or lighten the burden this mis-step.
The truth of it, a lot of time can pass beneath, while waiting for that future moment to arrive, the moment when its a memory and matter for the past. So that its not that kind of thing at all. It wont simply yield beneath a weight of time to a quiet spot in the past but instead has set up permanent residence in the quiet moments between more prescient thoughts. So I know for once, in one certain moment that i regret my choices and unquestionably owe an apology, though i only know this because i owe one to myself and wont accept it.. A forgery of an apology, selfish as it would be. The time for apologies has however long been eaten by time.
Who comes up with a scheme to start a coffee and book shop in Cambodia and then goes off, does some course, finds people to help fund it, gets them to relinquish such funds and opens it – who does that? i was genuinely impressed by the achievement, something i had dismissed as the pipe dream of a flitting inclined mind, something so ardently pursued into reality, it was impossible not to be impressed in them and a little more disappointed in myself.
So i sent my congratulation through the lines of communication that remained sporadically active – social media:
“Saw photos of people carrying what looks like building material bags and commentary eluding to an opening. I think I can remember when you first mentioned your intention on for this project though they do blur and warp and move around a bit the retrospective recollections .. still I’m fairly clear not the basic premise that it was not recently.
Wanted to offer congratulations on it – presuming a correct interpretations of the news feed.
It’s difficult enough to have an idea, to get it rolling in any sort of direction..if we were to be able to ask dung beetles I’m confident they would tell the stories of two challenges, not forming the ball or warding of amorous attentions of those wishing to make off with theirs … but off commencing the balls movement and then once it was with momentum, preventing it from taking advantage of gradients in the terrain to flee from their grasp like a Gloucester round cheese on cheese chasing day.
I realise this is flawed, unsuitable, message declariffying illustration of a point but all I can see I see the little fella, hind legs going .. over grassy hillocks and dunes – it’s distracting & preventing better, more suitable options from taking up brain residence
Time and the general way of things being as they seem to be – things can’t always work or seem to be working how you envisaged or hoped … over anything occupying a pre-longed time.. so it seems to me, it must probably be quite the thing to stick with it, cut out a route forward and find a way to make it real .. it’s certainly not a small thing, least it doesn’t seem like it would be ..”
Despite myself and avoiding the concept of the apology of lost legitimacy i’d covered it .. well sort of.
A reply even came back, they didn’t do that as a rule even then communication had been more of a regular thing.
Well yes the polite invite .. the fleeting re-post, i wasn’t against the idea but … the offer, it wasn’t real, not any more.
“There is” another reply in relatively quick succession
“I’m In” … that’ll put pay to this, i didn’t want it to … but i wasn’t going to to be the one to end this back and forth.. going there, why not… back out and re-enforce the wrongness you already – no…
And then with remarkably little delay – this came
And so, with that – a plan was set in motion that took form and ended up as this – my trip to Cambodia, not alone but with my very much younger than i, brother. With it the thought that had so long resided in those quiet moments finally fell quiet, if only for a bit. And all that was needed was to go on a pleasant trip to an interesting far flung place – not a bad solution as they go.
Of course – its not a solution but it was the closest thing that had presented itself. Cambodia in March, its not a mild place, it was in fact really quite warm.
There had been thoughts in my mind of hiring bikes to explore, these thought were not shared by my brother, he was right.. based on the experience of the place while being ferried about by Tuk Tuk, it would not have been easier, breezier or in other ways better with the exposed, effort requiring qualities of a push bike. We booked up 3 days of Tuk Tuk touring about the area, the first was to be a trip to the “floating” village that gave a name to this post.
The boat was simplistic, long and wooden with an outboard motor. It spluttered out, past a vast number of sister wooden floaters, many of them verging on half submerged having surrendered any thought for recapturing the time when they must have been watertight. The water, as captured reasonably accurately by the camera was really very brown – a sort of mass spillage of somewhat watery, supermarket own brand, litre bottles of chocolate milk. Chaps were flinging nets in and other chaps were swimming, swimming did not seem like a solid or appealing choice. Transparent forms of water brought with them questions – it was not so much the prospect of large beasties, more the small to the really small / bacterial ones – no thank you.
The houses stand aloft on stilts on the water bank.. the water needing to get a whole lot higher before any illusion about floating could be witnesses.
Which i can only assume it does, given the images that pop up on Google if you type in something which seems reasonably relevant:
Thats a lot of additional water coming from somewhere, assuming the sky – that would be some rain.
Apparent alternative – water abundant look examples – according to Google results.