If you like drugs, go to Cambodia. Go directly to Sihanoukville and start running your fucking mouth off. This is a vague account of what happened to me in that life-sucking paradise.
It was a blisteringly, hot afternoon. Nick and I were sitting in the bar outside our shack. I was in agony, the sunburn I’d inflicted upon myself days ago still going strong. I gazed along the beach. The young girl who sold fruit made her way towards us. As usual, we purchased some out of kindness. I’d been holed up in my quarters for the last few days, mainly because moving was so painful, partly because I was fed up of seeing people’s expressions when they saw my pus-filled, incinerated face. I paid her two dollars for the one dollar papaya.
“What happened your face?” she asked.
I feigned nonchalance. For a brief moment, I considered saying: “Well basically, in an attempt to sleep after all the crystal meth we’d been smoking, Nick and I resorted to snorting pure heroin all night (China White). I lost the ability to walk and fell headfirst into the sea and having temporarily lost all motor functions nearly drowned. However, an act of God washed me back to shore, where I vomited my way through the night and into the next morning before passing out. Such was the intensity of the China White that I remained unconscious for most of the day, occasionally waking to vomit as the sun-baked me alive.” After some deliberation, I decided not to tell her.
Following some small talk, she pointed to the neighbouring bar and asked me if I’d met Alex. I hadn’t. I made my way over and introduced myself. He shook my hand and invited me to sit down. We introduced ourselves further; he was from Scotland and had been in Cambodia for two weeks, as opposed to my month. We relaxed into each other’s company and drank heavily from then on. After getting the gist of each other, the conversation inevitably turned to drugs. He told me about his time in Thailand, and the eight days he’d spent awake on ice – crystal meth to those not acquainted with the terminology. Like some ecstatic tour guide, I informed him that we could get it here. Or rather that we could get virtually anything here.
Skip forward half an hour. Me, Alex and Nick are locked in my new bungalow, chasing ice off the foil of our cigarette packets. We’d already gone through the Yabba; ‘Hitler’s drug.’ What a load of shit, it had barely touched me. I remember being furious after smoking it. Not due to the effects, rather the lack of them. This shit was supposed to be responsible for ruining South-East Asia. Anyway, the ice was doing its job, and we were still sane at this point. The most efficient way of me describing the next few days for you would be by showing you a clock where the numbers had been replaced with the word ice, and the second hand was made out of Yabba pills.
Day five: I haven’t slept, I haven’t eaten, I’m schizophrenic. The prostitutes have left to get more ice. By this point, the paranoia’s indescribable. Nick’s putting Sellotape over the letterbox to stop people posting snakes through it, and I’m in the bathroom looking for bugs, not insects but the type the CIA deploy. Looking back, this probably should have rung alarm bells. However, at the time, it was a perfectly reasonable concern.
The Cambodia Incident
It’s the middle of the night. I grit my teeth and summon the courage to look in the mirror. I highly advise against this if you’re ever in the same position – my previously blue eyes had faded into a kind of grey, reminding me of the smoke coming out of a chimney on an industrial site in Yorkshire during the 1970’s. After an insulting amount of time, the hookers returned, and Nick’s hastily prepared a bong out of a plastic bottle. They advised that this time we combine the Yabba and Ice. Naturally, they went first, they were the ones with addictions to tend to. When my turn came, I insisted on a fresh dose, I toked maniacally and held it in for as long as I could. As I was nearing the end of my breath, it kicked in. The floodgates of serotonin burst open and drowned me in pleasure, what grace of God was this? Overwhelmed by chemistry, I paced up and down the room, congratulating the girls on the success of the cocktail.
We carried on for days. Though succeeding in hiding the paraphernalia whenever the cleaners knocked on the door, we couldn’t hide the smell – but no one cared. As Nick and I drifted deeper and deeper into psychosis, the girls actually seemed to thrive off doing the hourly drug runs. And why wouldn’t they when we were all so close to paradise?
After a while we didn’t even have to leave the house anymore. People were hammering on the door throughout the night, and eventually the day, pushing smack and meth on us. I use the term “pushing” very lightly. We took it but began to grow more and more wary. Soon they would likely just kill us and take our money, no one would have noticed or cared. When I cracked the bungalow door open, it was reminiscent of the Notting Hill scene where Spike opens his front door to crowds of paparazzi. There were people everywhere waiting to make money from us. Motorbike taxis competed to get to us first and make a sale. They could actually have given up being taxi drivers by this point and just sat outside my bungalow selling ice. That night we politely asked the girls to leave. The fact that mine had one eye was really starting to freak me out, and as Nick’s tolerance to the drugs grew, it became increasingly difficult to overlook the fact that his had AIDS.
The three of us hid in the toilet and discussed our getaway. We decided to head to the capital, where we could continue in peace. The next morning we left the beach-side paradise of Sihanoukville and its myriad of temptations behind us – but what awaited us in Phnom Penh?