Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Massage...Boom-Boom!...Massage Boom Boom!?!?!

Tiffany and I have done nearly everything together on this trip. As boring and over-involved as that might sound, it makes sense, partly because we are traveling for the same reasons (seeing sights like the Angkor temples, enjoying food in India, etc), but also because we tend to have the same threshold. After 4 total days hiking around temples in over 95 degree heat, substantial humidity, and most of all, punishing (that IS the right word) sunshine, we both where "templed out" in a major way.

But I digress. Before we did all this, I was trying to find us a good guide and/or driver for all of this. Now, it's not as if it's hard to find either, with people shouting such services at you from every street corner in town. But what about credibility, english skills, and experience? I was trying to contact a guide recommended on an internet site, so I needed to call him. It was perhaps 10pm and since we don't have our own cell phone set up in cambodia, I needed to walk to any of the "phone booths" you can find on the street, which have an aluminum and plexiglas box which looks like a phone booth, but is to small to actually stand in, and is often filled with junk anyway. However, somewhere nearby to all of these, you will find somebody willing to charge you around 500 riel per minute to use their cell phone. Usually this person is involved in a shop or some other business.

So, I go out to make this call, Tiffany stays in the hotel room where it is cooler and cleaner as there is no need for her to come along. I need to walk only about 600m to the phone booth. I am wearing REI-ish pants and an orange t-shirt with no printing, as I recall. very "normal". so, I walk out of the hotel and immediately, as expected, a moto driver asks me if I want a ride "moto, moto?" I respond "no, thank you, just walking". He comes a little closer "You want smoke?" and again "no, thanks" I hadn't gotten this one before but had heard that many moto drivers would know where to find pot. Next, "you want girl tonight?" I laugh..~> read more

 "No, thank you" and apparently he has run out of his script.

In Bangkok and Phnom Penh and to a lesser extent Siem Reap you see a lot of western men, usually between their late 40s and early 60s, out at restaurants and bars with khmer (cambodian) or thai young ladies (early 20s usually). The lady is their "date" though it is quite unlikely they aren't being paid. It is also hard to miss the massage parlors around town, particularly in siem reap, which according to our lonely planet guidebook are rarely 100% "above board" so to speak. However, there are many tourists seeking a foot massage after the temple hikes. There are also a number of bars that "freelancers" (prostitutes sans madame) hang out at to pick up business. Whatever our judgements on this, it is certainly present.

Anyhow, I walk past the shady karaoke-massage place on our street (yes, really) past a few more offers from moto drivers, past another massage place and a gay oriented western owned place that I think offers food and booze as well as massage ???, and I spot a public phone booth. Great! However, you need a prepaid phone card to use the booth. ok, there is a sign next to the booth pointing directly in between two storefronts saying "prepaid card sold here". One storefront seems to be a bar, but here in SE asia you really can't rule out a bar selling prepaid phone cards. the other store is closed, but there's a lady sitting out front on a bench. I approach the lady, asking about phone cards. she isn't understanding me, but beckons me closer. I come over and say it again. still no luck, but she strokes my arm sensually. Huh. There is a moto-driver or security guard coming over, so I bring him over to the sign and just point to it, because it says "phone card here" in khmer as well. "no, no" sounds like the place is closed. ok, so now I'm noticing that the bar has way too many ladies hanging out near the front. uh-huh. time to find another phone booth. as I walk away a young lady sitting on a motorbike strokes my arm again, saying something nice. I think this one might have been a lady-boy but that's another story and certainly a tough call.

So yeah, on down the street. 30m further and I see the plexi-aluminum non-phonebooth I'm seeking. turns out the phone owner runs a fruit stand here. she motions for me to sit down. doesn't speak a bit of english but I have the phone number printed out on paper. we dial. it rings a bit then tones I don't recognize. huh. she seems to want me to wait. OK, I don't need to leave right away. Pretty soon, an attractive middle aged khmer lady with a tight tank top and red underwear sticking out the top of her jeans (in the front) comes up and starts arguing/asking about how ripe various durian sitting there are. I look behind me to see a stack of durian husks, now that must be where the somewhat vomitous smell is coming from. A western guy in his late 40s, (I think american) that looks like he has smoked a dump truck full of weed and cigarettes at led zeppelin concerts shows up, with a pushy-acting khmer girl in her 20s. she seems to want to show off how cheaply she can buy fruit. red-underwear-in-the-front lady gets into a conversation with the (other) pushy girl. Seems to be an argument but those high sharp springy tones in the khmer language could make a friendly greeting sound like an argument.

we try the phone number one more time, same tones. A younger khmer guy comes over and listens. He tells me in great english that the mobile phone I am calling is probably turned off. OK, maybe my guide has gone to bed. I thank the english speaker and the fruit lady and head back, moving quickly past "zanzi bar" which I now suspect to be a freelancer joint.

However, I was quite done yet. As I was about to dip into the hotel gate, a moto driver pulled up. "Massage...Boom Boom!...Massage Boom Boom!?!?!


Blogger jskalet said...

great story!!!! i felt like i was there.............lots of streetlights?

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Nancy Moore said...

My word, Andy, every hour of this trip seems like an adventure! Did you feel safe venturing out to try and find a phone booth? Do people get mad when you say "No" to moto rides, pot, masseuses, etc., or do they just go onto to someone else and try to sell their wares?

Every blog story is truly a unique story that I quickly read/race through to make sure everything ends fairly okay--then I go back and re-read the story--slowly-- savoring all the little tidbits you guys add!!!

11:13 PM  

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