Dogster: Live from Siem Reap

Aug 25th, 2008, 09:27 PM
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Dogster: Live from Siem Reap

Not quite a blog, not quite a trip report - and most certainly not a description of 700 temples. Just a little exercise I'm setting myself for the next six days to stay in the zone...

This is my fifth visit to Siem Reap - so I'm playing literary jazz on a familiar theme. You can help. Read on.
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Aug 25th, 2008, 09:28 PM
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‘I go with you,’ she said softly.

It wasn’t a question.

Pub Street in Siem Reap was quiet, it was nearly midnight, her options extremely limited - and it was dark.

Strangely, on arrival in Cambodia just eight hours ago, the lines on Dogster’s face had disappeared. On crossing the border a miracle of time-travel had occurred. I was suddenly handsome. The Dog had knocked back a dozen propositions from all three sexes since he arrived.

She grabbed my hand and pulled herself closer. Her breast glistened with a thousand fake diamonds plastered all over a fake designer T-shirt. Perhaps her breasts were fake too, who knows, certainly her sudden enthusiasm for the latest stranger in town was manufactured in a sweat-shop in Taiwan.

I smiled.

‘No-o-o-ooo, darling, that’s not possible at all,’ I cooed smoothly, ‘but good luck for tonight…’

‘I love you,’ she said.

‘I love you too, sweetheart – but not in that special way….’

We parted company. She spotted a solitary back-packer, made a bee-line for his grubby jeans, a lunge for his spotty face. They may well have done the jiggy-jig right then and there for all I know; the big back-packer banana peeled and paid for by the time I made it back to my room, but, strangely, I felt no sense of loss.

I ran a listless gauntlet of massage girls, still hanging around hopefully outside their empty shop, walked down The Alley to the Lingha Bar. Sprawled on a table top was what appeared to be a dead child – but he was sleeping, recovering energy for another day of wandering the streets, a bag of books in his hand.

‘You want a book?’ he’d said earlier.

‘No-o-o-o-o-o-o,’ I smiled.

‘You want a book?’

‘No-o-o-o-o-o-o,’ I said gently. The Cambodian lad who had joined me at my table [uninvited] smiled.

‘What you from?’ the child asked.

I resisted a sigh. How many times a day had I been asked that question in the last six weeks?


‘I know the population of Australia,’ he said. He wasn’t going to budge.

‘And what’s the population of Australia?’ I asked, sticking to the script. This was a little performance I had participated in many, many times.

‘Twenty-two million,’ he replied,

‘Very go-o-o-od,’ I said.

‘I know the population of everywhere,’ he said. He had very good English. Unlike the uninvited guest at my table. We had already labored thru a grisly five minutes of small talk.

The little boy was about seven. I was about seven hundred. He pushed on with his spiel.

‘I know the population of Cambodia.’


‘And what’s the population of Cambodia?’ I said. This was like a little soft song.

‘Fifteen million,’ he said.

‘Very go-o-o-o-d,’ I said.

‘Do you want a book?’


‘Why not?

I can see we’ve moved into the next verse.

‘O-o-o-o-o-h, little sausage,’ I said and held one finger up to my lips. ‘Sh-h-h-h-hhh.’

I call all children ‘sausage’ – I don’t know why. The small ones I call ‘little sausage.’

‘You’ve seen me many times,’ I crooned. ‘Now I stay here,’ and indicated my hotel room up above, ‘for six whole days. So you’ll see me many, many more times. Six days… mmmm. Long time. No books for me, sausage – but good luck, eh?

‘No book today?’


‘No book tomorrow?’


‘Bye bye,’ he said and just walked away.
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Aug 25th, 2008, 09:29 PM
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‘I’m sorry,’ said my uninvited guest with a smile on his face.

‘O-o-o-oh, everything is business, my friend. That’s fi-i-ine. Everybody has to earn a living,’ I said quietly, ‘even little boys…’

But I had a big boy next in line. He was ‘practicing his English’, that all-purpose phrase that leads, generally, in exactly the same direction. Only this young lad was a bigger sausage and selling books wasn’t on his agenda. His particular sausage was dangling limply between his legs. It sure wasn’t going into my frypan.

‘I’m going upstairs for a massage,’ I announced and stood up.

I think he was about to say, ‘I go with you…’ but I blocked that statement with an outstretched hand.

‘Very pleased to meet you,’ I said formally. We shook hands in the particularly limp way Cambodians often do and I walked inside the foyer of my hotel and up the stairs to the Lingha Spa.

The Lingha Bar, the Lingha Spa, the One Hotel and my latest hotel of choice in Siem Reap, The Be Angkor are all part of a constellation of businesses run by part of the local gay mafia – as a consequence they have more style than the rest of Siem Reap put together. Impeccably designed, they boast a staff of young Cambodian men who veer from the extreme side of limp to the limp side of extreme, a gaggle of gays rescued from starvation through the good instincts of Mr. Martin, given a trade, a home, training, a profession – and dignity. Most of them lack parents, siblings or any real education – but they are learning, some with great success, the rudiments of the tourist profession.

That lesson number one is how to charm old guys like me is no real surprise. If I was them I’d do exactly the same. We’re in Cambodia, remember.

But the one thing in this youthful town of Siem Riep that nobody chooses to remember – is history. I’ve been to Sol Klung, that pre-school turned into a death camp, looked at the hundreds and hundreds of photographs on the walls, a gallery of young faces just like the ones I was meeting today, pictures taken just before they were killed. I see those same faces every day.

I stripped and showered in the Spa, lay naked on my back as my young masseur laid a green towel over my nether regions, a futile attempt at dignity as, once my legs were lifted, pummelled, stretched and massaged, all of Dogster’s faded glory was well and truly exposed to the lad. He was twenty-one.

‘How old you?’ he asked.

Luckily the lights were low.

‘Very very old,’ I said. ‘Nearly one hundred years old.’ This appeared to satisfy him.

He squeezed my lower legs.

‘Very small,’ he said.

‘Skinny,’ I corrected him.

He squeezed my cadaverous thighs.

‘Very small,’ he said.

‘Strong’ I said.

Then he reached over and tapped on my willy.

‘Very big,’ he said.

I didn’t correct him.

‘Willy sleeping,’ I said.

‘Ahhh, he replied, ‘sle-e-e-ping.’

‘We’ll let him sleep,’ I said gently.

We did. The massage continued. There was no happy ending. I’d already had that… but not quite in the way you’re all thinking…
dogster is offline  
Aug 25th, 2008, 10:16 PM
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Let’s set the scene.

Yesterday morning I woke up in Bangkok on the 43rd. floor of Centara Grand, a new, as yet officially unopened tower of power slap-bang in the middle of Central World, a vast shopping complex and cinema multiplex that, for some insane reason, attracted me when I booked. After four very strange days and nights I was plex-ed out.


My day hadn’t started well. I woke up late, showered and hurtled out to the executive lounge for breakfast. It was 10.22 a.m. Breakfast finished at 10.30 but I thought that, as a privileged member of their Executive Club, I’d be allowed a little grace.

I pressed the button for the lift and waited - and waited - and waited. Nine minutes later the lift arrived. I stepped in and nearly died. The toxic fumes from the still uncompleted work on Floors 45 to 55 had filled the lift-well. The doors slammed shut. I held my breath and pressed the button. The lift stopped five times between my floor and the Lounge, housekeeping trooped in and out, wearing face masks and light blue and grey uniform. I truly thought they were doctors and I was being delivered to surgery.

I’m never at my best before breakfast.

Each time the lift doors opened a blast of sound hit me. Drilling, hammering, strange noises I couldn’t identify, humming, screeching – all accompanied by that horrible, horrible paint-stripper smell. By the 51st floor I was close to death. It was 10.35 by the time I arrived in the Lounge.

Breakfast had vanished.

In a fit of extreme Asian efficiency the smoked salmon, the papaya, the scrambled eggs, the pastries et al had all been ruthlessly dispatched, as per the schedule, sent down to the restaurant fifty floors below, doubtless to be re-constituted and turned into building material for unfinished restaurant on the 55th floor.

Was the Dogster pleased? Not really. Did he perhaps pass a comment or two? Possibly. The Executive Lounge staff nearly turned inside out in apology. If Cirque Du Soleil had made an acrobatic display of bowing, scraping and that Thai pressed palm greeting they couldn’t have done any better. I felt that, short of falling to my feet and disemboweling themselves, there was little more than they could do.

They sucked and groveled and giggled profusely – did everything they possibly could – everything BUT bring my breakfast back from the bowels of Centara Grand at Central World. I sat, mute and steaming, with only myself and, at that idiot moment, the entire Thai nation to blame.

Doggy, doggy, Dogster… Recover yourself. You are the mighty dog!

So, with all the intelligence, style and grace of a thirsty Thai cockroach I came up with a plan.
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Aug 25th, 2008, 11:23 PM
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I returned to my room, opened my laptop and booked a flight out. Where to go?

Perhaps Siem Reap WAS a little extreme. I could have just checked out and gone to any one of the dozen other hotels I adore in Bangkok – but I was crazed, as Dogsters often are first thing in the morning. Siem Reap it was.


On my first trip to Siem Reap I chose Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor. Heritage room, perfectly fine, in the Raffles kinda way. The usual stuff. Guide. Temples. Artisans D’angkor, You’ve all done it. I’ve read the reports. Cookie-cutter tours. Totally cool by me.

Second trip: Raffles. Same, same.

Third trip: Eight days at Hotel De La Paix, Stunning. A suite so wonderful I wanted to ring home and crow – but by now, the better the places I stay, the more my pals hate me so I decided against telling them. I was getting used to the Angkor ‘thing’, settling into the temples and discovering more and more and more. Amazing. In-depth exploration, tuk-tukk-ing my way off the beaten track, sucking up that delicious ambiance like a drowning man. Then nights alone in that wonderful suite, slopping in the bath, watching T.V., stuffing my face with excellent food. There was still more to see.

Fourth trip: this time bringing my 69 year-old ex-agent as a present. Hotel De La Paix again. She arrived with gammy legs, a liability she hadn’t really disclosed. This time we’d head off to the temples, she’d make it [just] to the front entrance, then gently expire. We’d sit on a stone and she’d take photographs. Then we’d leave. Was this just a little frustrating? Yup. But, I guess, a little bit was better than nothing at all. It was all just old rocks to her. She was more content to sit on the swinging tables in the hotel restaurant, guzzle way too much wine and stuff her face with the ten course Khymer meal than brave another temple. Oh well.

This time I wanted a change. I could happily live [and die] in the Hotel De La Paix but I’d had my eye on an oddity for a little while. This place:

but then, with a bit of a search, I came up with this place, an even newer property right next door, run by the same guy.

Something told me that THIS was the place to stay.

I was right. I'm writing this from the Bamboo Room. Here was my happy ending.
dogster is offline  
Aug 25th, 2008, 11:24 PM
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That's it for a while. I've got a tuk-tuk waiting and a temple with my name on it. Check you later.
dogster is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 01:19 AM
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Well..I did say you missed your calling as a journalist, Nigel... )
Mitch04 is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 01:50 AM
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The clever literary device of time-shifting is duly noted.

This SR hotel sounds much more interesting than the HDLP.
Gpanda is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 06:27 AM
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I IMPLORE you to write a book, i would buy it and a copy for all of my travel loving friends......
Smeagol is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 06:55 AM
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Thank you dogster, I await your next chapter.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 07:20 AM
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Loving your writing. We all await, breathless for more.
Kristina is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 08:20 AM
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Thanks ladies - and gentlemen. Don't think for a moment I take your kind words lightly. There's a moment when I start posting - a shudder of fear/adrenalin/tension - dunno what - 'cos I know that once I start I HAVE to keep going. In a funny way this is a bit like doing live television - for a very small audience. Lol. I'm sure there's only about ten of you reading any of this - but, hey, that's ten more people than are interested in my stories back home.

I was rather worried in retrospect that you might that first part a little rude. But that's the thing with these 'live' reports. Self-censorship comes a bit later in the process, with a second draft, an edit, a fine-tune. Like 'The Great Stumble Forward: India' this is all straight-shooting: write it, read it through - then post before you re-consider. Hence the occasional grammatical oddities.

I'm just training myself - quite what for though, I'm not sure. So thank you for bearing with me.

For those not in the know, a 'Nigel' is an Australian term of mild abuse. It couldn't possibly be my name. I'd kill myself.
dogster is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 08:53 AM
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Your reading audience may be both larger and more appreciative than you realize. More of this literary jazz, please.
marya_ is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 09:53 AM
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Please, no censorship, I love the original.
moremiles is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 10:12 AM
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Definitely no censorship! And I would put the audience here well over ten.
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 11:11 AM
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No need to censor. We're all adults here. Or - most of us are anyway.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 01:02 PM
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Does Gpanda count as an adult?
Smeagol is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 02:15 PM
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The audience applauds lustily. Immortalized in the annals of Fodorites.

Wouldn't you be disappointed if I were more mature?
Gpanda is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 02:20 PM
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No need to censor. We're all checking in here for the lastest installment because we're fluent in dogster now.

Just play it to us like it happened.

Jaya is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 08:04 PM
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not mature, but open to change...
rhkkmk is offline  

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