22 January 2019, 19:09
I sit in the front room of the Lovely Jubbly Villa in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Reggae, happy hour, a swimming pool. “A chill place,” Brooklyn, A.K.A. Trevor would say. He had tattoos and talked about getting “shit-faced” (as Hannah would say) and hanging out with his pals in seedy strip clubs. “Did you know,” he says, “that Portland is the strip club capital of America?” I didn’t know but wasn’t surprised, either. Nothing surprises me, just like nothing surprises my father.
I think traveling is just as much about the places you go as it is the people you meet. Linguistically, the southern Asia hostel-staying crowd is quite diverse. I’ve met Russians, Germans, Brits, Swedes, Australians, and a chap from New Zealand named James. When I asked if he had any national secrets after he lost a round of Jenga, he said, “It’s not as nice as it seems. New Zealand is known worldwide for being beautiful and scenic, but under the surface, things aren’t as nice… pollution and such.”
I miss Hannah, oddly. She was pleasant, smart, could play the piano quite well, and mature for being only eighteen. Her parents were sort-of-Catholics, and she worked in a café bar and as a tutor before going to Melbourne for travel. She’s having a gap year before going to Uni, where she’d like to study physics and philosophy. She told me about an app that hides or bounces your I.P. address when your surfing the web; people use it when they want a little extra privacy—she uses it when she looks up recipes for weed brownies. She told me to message her if I ever go to Munich. I said I would, but it might be ten years from now.
The bus here was green and tall. We stopped three times: twice for the W.C. and once for lunch. It took about eight hours. I read Osnos on the ambition and contradiction of China. I listened to Erre on predestination; RadioLab on John Scott, the hockey goon and NHL all-star; Jordan, Jesse, and Alison Becker on gift-giving and family time over the holidays. (Podcasts, boi.) Arriving in Phnom Penh, I hired a tuk-tuk to take me to my hostel. I only had Viet Dong, and they take the Riel or USD in Cambodia, so I needed to exchange my cash. What I exchanged wasn’t enough to pay him, so he took me to an ATM that charged 20% on withdrawals. I paid him extra for the trouble of escorting around a dumb tourist with a too-big suitcase containing his life in Shanghai. He was happy and spoke decent English.