If you have been to Sihanoukville or Otres Beach, odds are you met some douchebag that wouldn’t shut up about Kampot. It’s built up to be this oasis in the middle of the jungle surrounded by waterfalls & monkeys having sex in trees. But when you get there you quickly realize that everyone believes in different versions of paradise.
When I was in Otres beach with my friends Geo & Liz we were told about the beauty of Kampot. Geo approached me one day, I was working on my laptop on the beach, eating as many curries & smoking as much weed as physically possible. He told me that we needed to check out Kampot on our way back to Phnom Penh. It was only a few hours away, so we had nothing to lose. I agreed, so after one last romp in Otres I found myself on a van destined for Kampot.
The van was only about a third full since we were picking up more hungover tourists along the way. I was a little high so I decided to put on some sunglasses & take a power nap. A cheerful Australian was sitting by me, when he saw that I was trying to pass out he offered my some golden advice: “Whenever I need to pass out, I just pop some valium! It fucks you up!”
I thanked him for the offer & told him that I was already stoned as shit & didn’t need pills. To me valium wasn’t for sleeping. It was a key tool to get fucked up when I went barhopping with my friends. Due to some health issues I quit drinking a few years ago, but I’ll be damned if I spend all night sober. Luckily there are multiple options to get on other people’s level, you just have to get creative & see what works for you.
My friends had already followed the Aussie’s advice & were passed the fuck out. For the next few hours we careened around the jungle, picking up consecutively weirder tourists along the way. Dreadlocks, shitty tattoos, massive backpacks & the refusal to use deodorant seemed to be mandatory for tourists in the area.
Finally we arrived in Kampot. At first impression it looks like a small Cambodian town with a river running through it. But when you investigate further you realize it represents everything that’s wrong with tourism. There were barely any buildings higher than two stories. It wasn’t clean but it wasn’t dirty. Everything about the town was non plus.
It was around 4 o’clock so I was fucking starving. We ended up going to a bar on the side of the river called “The Rusty Keyhole”. By the end of the trip it would be officially referred to as “The Rusty Vagina”.
The bar looks like a European pub lost in Cambodia. It’s owned by a middle aged Scottish man with long hair. As I devoured my shrimp curry Geo started drinking beer. We were already getting antsy. It appeared that we were not in a suitable environment for partying. After wondering where the hell we were going to stay we struck up a conversation with the owner.
We ended up talking to the owner for over an hour. He had been living in Cambodia for years & was full of info. He informed us that we couldn’t openly smoke weed in Kampot like we did in Otres & Phnom Penh.He said plain clothed cops were notorious for shaking down tourists for money after catching them smoking a joint. He even told us that a couple British chicks refused to pay off the cops so they spent 10 months in jail for a few grams of weed.
We were pissed, what the hell was going on here? Here we were in a Cambodian town that had been invaded by hippies & you couldn’t even light up a joint? Fuck that.
We quickly realized that Kampot couldn’t offer us the wild nightlife that we had gotten spoiled with in Phnom Penh. Desperate for something to do, I asked the Scottsman: “So what’s the craziest thing we can see in Kampot?”
He smiled knowingly & pointed across the river: “You see those lights over there? That’s it.”
Across the river there appeared to be a big building that was all lit up like a casino on crack. It was just starting to get dark. We had plenty of time to kill before things started crackin’ so we decided to go the hotels that the Scottsman had told us about. They were only a few blocks away so we set off on foot.
My hotel was closest. Since I was completely broke I stayed in the $6 a night hotel. I unpacked my stuff & took a shower while Geo & Liz walked to a real hotel about a block away. After freshening up we roundevued at The Rusty Vagina.
We spent the next few hours trying to find something to do. We ended up at a big house full of tipsy tourists shouting song requests at a few hippies singing cover songs. One chick was completely wasted & cussing out the singers. We decided to play mini golf that was on the other side of the yard. After smacking my golf ball over the fence we decided to leave.
Some people pointed us in the direction of another bar so we went out to find it. On the way we walked by a big bar that was wildly decorated like someone was actually going to come. As we peered in there was nothing but 3 guys smoking cigarettes watching The Big Lebowski on a projector. One of them approached us, explaining to us that it was movie night & White Russians were on sale. We politely declined & got the hell out of there. After walking around for what seemed like days we finally decided that it was late enough to see what the Scottsman thought was so crazy.
After flagging down a tuk tuk we piled in & were off on our adventure. The driver spoke broken English, but it was a hell of a lot better than our Khmer. We finally made our way across the river & stopped in front of the lit up building.
It was a two story tall hotel lit up with bright colored lights. The first floor had a big room with the door open. It was filled with strobe lights, hookers & drunk Chinese businessmen. You could hear the sound of intoxicated Chinese men shrieking to their favorite karaoke song. Cigarette smoke & the sound of clinking glasses wafted out of the room.
There were beautiful Cambodian girls taking off their high heels in front of the open door as they entered. They all left their high heels at the door, & judging by the number of high heels there were a good 15 girls entertaining the Chinese. It was only 11 o’clock, but everyone was completely wasted. Many of the Chinese were too shit-faced to make it up the stairs, so they had to be carried upstairs by the more sober ones. Girls were laughing, other business men were puking to the beat of the karaoke music. It was madness, but to us it felt like home.
Geo charged headfirst into the room, only to be kicked out by the hotel staff. Apparently the Chinese business men had rented out the entire hotel & the party was exclusive. They told us that there was a club behind the hotel. After trying to find a way into the party multiple times we decided to check out the club.
We walked around the corner of the hotel & were greeted by a grey building. After being frisked by security we walked right in. As we entered the club we were completely perplexed at what we saw. The entire club was dark, it was only lit up by a surprisingly modern lazer system that throbbed to the rhythm of the music. There were groups of guys & girls all sitting at tables throughout the club. There was a huge dance floor, but no one was dancing. The music was equally peculiar, there was super slow Cambodian love songs blasting over the speakers.
Immediately upon entering we were approached by a guy who was more than eager to show us to a table. He was extremely touchy feely to all of us. We shook it off & ordered a pitcher of beer.
“This place is fucking weird, why are they playing slow ass music in the club. No one is even dancing, let’s go!” I told Geo & Liz.
“Nate relax, lets just see what happens.” Geo told me as he sipped on his beer.
For the next few minutes we sat & soaked up the whole scene. Everyone was in their groups huddled around tables, the only friendly person was our waiter. He was getting more & more outrageous. Everytime he would check on us he would whisper in my ear over the sound of the music. He was whispering so close to my ear that it seemed like he was giving me cautious kisses. He made it seem casual, but it was starting to piss me off. After almost having to sucker punch him he finally left.
The slow music continued to make the green lasers slowly sweep the empty dance floor. Then when we were just about to leave, all hell broke loose.
From one moment to the next the music changed from Cambodian slow jams to the fastest techno music I had ever heard. As soon as the music changed literally everyone in the club jumped up from their tables & started dancing like lunatics. It was insane, I’ve never seen that many people come to life at once. It caught us completely off guard but the change was completely welcome.
“Now that’s more like it! Aren’t you glad we stayed?” Geo told me as I almost fell out of my chair laughing.
For the next 10 minutes the music stayed the same. The club was pulsing with this crazy super fast techno with random Khmer vocals mixed in. The lights were going crazy, & the people were dancing like there was no tomorrow.
One thing that struck us as odd was the fact that no-one wanted to interact with us. This was super weird because normally Cambodians love to party with foreigners. Apart from our waiter who wouldn’t stop whispering in my ear, everyone seemed to be confused that we were there. We were the only berangs in the place & apparently we weren’t expected.
“Go dance with that girl!” Geo said to me as Liz grinded on him. He pointed at a good looking chick across the dance floor, she had her backed turned to us & was dancing with her group of friends.
I went over & tapped her on the shoulder. As she was turning around I said “Hey, whats up?” But as she faced me I knew something was horribly wrong.
“HELLO” She replied in the deepest voice I had ever heard.
“WHOA!!” I shouted as I jumped up in the air with surprise. I had seen lady boys in the jungles of Peru, but Asian lady boys were a completely new to me.
I ran back to our table & shouted: “That chick is a fucking dude! What the hell are you trying to get me into Geo?”
Geo looked at me, gave me a puzzled look & shook his head. “No bro, you’re tripping. That’s a girl.”
“Fuck no! Her voice was super deep!” I shouted over the music.
“No, that’s a girl.” Geo assured me.
“I’m gonna ask.” I told him as I whirled around and sprinted across the dance floor.
“Are you a girl?” I asked her.
“NO” She replied in a voice that made Barry White sound like a whiney bitch.
“Ok thanks” I told her. I spun around & ran back to Geo & Liz.
“Bro she even told me that she was a dude!” I told them.
“What?” Geo said.
“Yeah, you almost hooked me up with a dude! Your gaydar sucks bro.” I shouted over the music.
“Yeah your gaydar does suck.” Liz replied. Geo shrugged & continued to drink his beer.
“You have to relax Nate. If you think this is bad you are going to freak out in Thailand.” He told me as he took another sip of his drink.
At that moment the music changed back to slow jams. Everyone immediately returned to their seats. At the drop of a hat the club had completely changed once again. Our waiter came back, eager to fill our cups up with ice. He started whispering in my ear again, but this time he was so close that his moving lips were kissing my ear. He then tested the waters by licking my ear. I started to freak out.
“Dude, this guy fucking licked my ear! Lets get the fuck out of here, this is a gay bar!” I shouted as the waiter scampered off.
“Bro don’t jump to conclusions, just because there was one lady boy doesn’t mean shit. You just gotta relax.” Geo said as he finished his drink.
We looked around at the people sitting in the club. They all appeared normal from a distance, but then I saw the bathroom & the reality hit me like a ton of bricks. There was only one bathroom, & both guys & girls were entering it.
“Dude everyone here is a guy!” I shouted.
“No! Look at that chick!” Geo said as he motioned to a group of three girls sitting at a near by table.
“That’s a guy. No way a girl wearing a skirt would sit with her legs open like that.” Liz pointed out.
She was right. Even though the girl looked feminine she was definitely letting her balls breathe in that skirt.
“Shit, well what about that one?” Geo said as he waved his glass at another lady boy.
“Definitely a guy, look at how he is sitting.” Liz said.
“I told you this is a gay bar!” I shouted.
“You need to relax. Even if there are a few lady boys that doesn’t make this a gay bar.” Geo said to me.
“Dude your gaydar blows, look at the bathroom. There is only one bathroom in this entire club & everyone is entering it!” I shouted over the Cambodian slow jams.
We looked over at the lone bathroom with a men’s sign. Everyone was going in & out of it. When the doors opened we could see lady boys going into the stalls while the men pissed in a trough alongside them.
“Who cares if its a gay bar. There isn’t shit to do in Kampot, lets just enjoy ourselves.” Geo said as he filled up another glass.
Once again the music switched to demonically fast techno music. Everyone jumped to their feet & start dancing furiously. We also got up & danced, by then the pills had hit us so we were fucked up.
We danced & tried to get closer to everyone. But everyone looked at us like we were nuts. Maybe we were too white to be dancing, but in all fairness Asians have no room to talk shit. We ended up getting turned off by everyone’s attitude. It was also crazy humid, it was no secret that there was no AC in the club.
Dripping in sweat, we emerged from the club. It was now about 4 in the morning. The Chinese people had retired to their rooms with their hookers. The street was deserted, & we had to figure out how to get the hell out of there.
“Kampot is bullshit, even the gay people are super up tight here!” I fumed as I took off my shorts.
“Dude why the hell are you taking off your shorts?” Geo & Liz asked me.
“Im sweating my ass off & this town is bullshit!” I slurred as I successfully peeled off my shorts & slung them over my shoulder.
“How the hell are we going to get to our hotels?” I asked.
At that moment we ended up having a stroke of luck. A tuk tuk pulled up & his passenger hopped out. He looked at us for a moment, here was a group of intoxicated berangs on the wrong side of the river at 4 in the morning, & one of them wasn’t wearing pants. He gave a puzzled stare & went on his way. We hopped in the tuk tuk & went to a bar that was across the river.
The bar was dead. The bartender was only accompanied by one Cambodian girl who had seen better days. While Geo & Liz stayed & kept drinking, I went out to forage for food.
I got pointed in the direction of a small night market & ate some amazing noodles. After eating my food I walked back to the bar & told my friends that I was calling it a night. My hotel was close so I walked back to my hotel. I was greeted by the hotel bartender who was drinking at the bar with his friend. I went to my room & passed out.
Our bus to Phnom Penh was set to leave at 10. I woke up at 9:30 & realized that I had to eat or die. I scrambled to get my shit together. We had agreed to meet at the Rusty Vagina. I figured if I hurried up I could eat a curry before we left.
As I rushed past the hotel bar I was flagged down by the morning employee. They told me in broken English that I owed my bar tab. Thinking it was an honest mix up I told them that I didn’t drink. They insisted that I owed them from last night, so I had them go wake up the night manager.
He staggered up to the bar wearing only a beach towel & flip flops. As I explained the situation & he gave me a weird look.
“Your friends told me that you were going to pay their tab.” He told me.
“What friends? I don’t know anyone here! I don’t even fucking drink!” I told him.
“Seriously, last night your friends said that you would pay for their tab.” He said as he slid over the receipt to me.
As soon as I read “vodka tonic” on the receipt I knew who was responsible.
“Those sons of bitches…” I whispered. I payed the tab & ran over to the Rusty Vagina.
It was 10 on the dot, but I was not leaving Kampot without a decent meal. I ordered a squid curry to go, praying that it would be ready before the bus left.
Right after I ordered my food Geo & Liz pulled up in a tuk tuk.
“Hop in bro! The bus is going to leave without us!” They shouted, still plastered from a night that didn’t end.
“You bastards! You drank at my hotel when I went to bed! Why the fuck didn’t you pay for your shit?” I told them.
“We don’t have time for semantics, hop in!” They shouted as they busted up laughing.
“I just ordered food, I have to eat before we go!” I said, desperately looking back at the kitchen.
“We gotta go! Do you want to stay another day in Kampot? This place blows!” They told me.
They had a point. The only thing worse than starving to death was staying another day in Kampot. I begrudgingly hopped in the tuk tuk & we careened over to the bus stop. The bus was idling, & it started to rain.
“Sorry about the tab, we ran out of cash last night. Don’t worry about paying us back for the bus ticket. We got you!” Geo told me as they both giggled.
“As soon as I saw Vodka Tonic on the receipt I knew it was you guys! At first I thought they were fucking with me!” I said.
As we settled into our seats I realized that I might have time to go get my squid. Geo & Liz had already passed out. I told the driver I was getting something & ran off the bus. I flagged down a tuk tuk & had him haul ass to the Rusty Vagina. My food was ready, I hastily paid for my food & went back to the bus stop as quickly as possible. I pulled up just in time, the bus was about to leave.
I ran up into the bus with my delicious Khmer food in hand. As I boarded the bus Geo woke up.
“You eat like crazy bro… Fuck Kampot.” He murmured & then rolled over in his seat.
I plopped down in my seat & enjoyed one of the best meals of my life. After I scarfed down my food I realized that we were lucky. We were on our way back to Phnom Pehn, far away from the nightmare of Kampot. Little did I know things were about to get a hell of a lot weirder…