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khi nok, among other things

Due to my visa’s quickly approaching expiry, it was decided that we take a drive to the Kingdom of Cambodia for what is commonly called, in the parlance of ex-pats, a “border run.” Cambodia is roughly 3.5 palm-tree-filled hours away from my village. The drive is quite beautiful; field after field of rice, tapioca, and soy, each framed with aging palms. Roped and belled Brahmin cows graze road-size.  And every hundred meters or so, family-run stalls sell khao nee-o dam* to travelers who graze car-side.

When we finally arrived at the border, we were greeted by throngs of child-beggars and beggars disguised as well-meaning Immigration aides. One of the “Immigration aides” latched himself onto me, the only farang of the group, and proceeded to lead us through the circus at the Cambodian/Thailand border. The gentleman took it upon himself to fill out my paperwork, which, uh, happened to be in English.

Cambodian man "helps" at Immigration

After he took care of my paperwork, I paid the real Immigration officers ฿1500 (roughly $45) for stamping my passport and was then instructed to pay the “well-meaning” aide ฿100 (roughly $3) for helping me, of course. And so it goes.

We hitched rides to a Cambodian market  from variously-aged men on motorcycles. I was largely unimpressed by the goods, which consisted mostly of designer knock-offs. However, a bracelet constructed out of pig’s teeth and mud, a variety of crudely carved wooden penises, and bottles of whiskey holding ever-virile tiger’s penises, did happen to catch my eye. In hoping to protect Mike from the pii mimai**, I haggled for a wooden penis that now graces our bedside table. For myself, I purchased 2 handwoven, bamboo baskets.

Cambodian Street Market

We left Cambodia soon after we arrived. On the way back to our car, we were harried by a handful of shoe-less Cambodian children begging for money. They followed us across the border, unnoticed by the Thai Military who were more interested in their iPhones than Cambodian street children. Their numbers doubled when we reached the car; sticking their skinny arms through the windows, hoping for a baht or two.

Cambodian children asking for money

It was a successful trip and I am quite relieved to have my visa updated with all the right stamps, stickers, and signatures.  I am, however, a little bitter that I didn’t get to try any Cambodian food, but there’s always next time.

*Black sticky rice: a mixture of rice, sugar, black beans and coconut milk, steamed and served inside hollowed-out bamboo trunks.

**The Divorced Ghost, a female ghost that haunts men in the night. The only sure protection from the divorced ghost are penis statues, oh, and wearing women’s clothing and make-up to bed.


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