Bits From The Beach – August 2014

Another fire to report this time it was a boat well in fact three. It was reported that an electrical fire stated the fire but witness statements suggest arson.

The triple decker Sun Boat which has been plying day trips to the islands for some time and the German owner has been quite successful. So jealousy could be a factor especially considering a new contract had been signed meaning a second boat would be needed. The second boat arrived about a week after the fire so business was not interrupted too badly.

The other two boats were speed boats moored alongside. One belonging to the same owner as the Sun Tours and the other belonging to a tycoon.

New restaurant to try is The Spot which is located at the very end of Ochheuteal beach just before the head land with Otres and one road back from the beach. The Dubai/Russian owners with an Uzbek chef have been cooking up a stir with some suggesting that this is the best restaurant in Snooky. Baked lamb is their speciality, but it has to be booked a day ahead. But there are other delights including a sumptuous beef stroganoff. Word of warning. The restaurant is currently BYO beer & wine & closed on Monday.

Ochheuteal beach was the site of an unfortunate incident recently involving some American military. This prompted the American embassy to issue a warning to the effect that Ochheuteal beach is dangerous late at night with gangs of youths fueled with drugs & alcohol. Big thank you to the American Embassy for promoting Sihanoukville’s tourism.

Maybe just maybe the military personnel were fueled by the same drugs & alcohol and were acting like complete arseholes and got what they deserved. Two were stabbed and one succumbed to his injuries passing away in hospital a few days later. As a result the new chief of Immigration police and the new governor visited the area late at night, well 11PM. Probably late for them but I doubt you would find too much going on that time of night!

There are rumours that the late night bars may be forced to change the style of bar are even force them to close. The owner of the bar where the incident happened is a local police officer so he should be alright.

On the long road to Independence beach from Eckhareach is the 5 Men Fresh Beer brewery run by the brewmaster that set up Cambodia beer. They are Sihanoukville first micro-brewery and offer a blonde and a dark beer for an unbelievable 50c & 75c a mug respectively. They also offer some Khmer style snacks and BBQ. The beer is a bit cloudy but this is only cosmetic as it is true LIVE ALE (not pasteurized) and does not take away from the beers wonderful taste. Check it out.

Phnom Penh Pub Page – August 2014

It’s been another odd month around the Pub Page – I actually got back to doing serious research – and have certainly paid the price for it with a 24 hour hangover and a torn muscle in my drinking arm.

Only hit only two new bars this month – I saw that Rovio had finally expanded its empire to incorporate hostess bars and opened a beachhead facility in Phnom Penh on 130 St – unfortunately this was a beta version that was not really ready for release based on my first visit.

Hopefully the brains at Rovigo will retool and re-release quickly as there seemed to be a few issues. The place looked good, it was well lit and the music was quite reasonable while I was there. However this expansion lacked even basic user interface or interactivity. When I walked in, the entire staff was either playing cards at the bar or watching other play and enjoying their beverages. They were actually louder than the music by a significant degree. I felt lucky that one broke away from the flock long enough to serve me a beverage but there was no reaction when I decided that listening the card game hysterics was not the best way I could spend my evening and no one even looked up when I slipped money onto my table and walked out. If Angry Birds is a ladies card club, it seems like it will be a great success. If it was meant to be a hostess bar, serious debugging is in order.

I also wandered into Happy Girls bar on 110 St. It has only been open for a month if I understood correctly (actually to be honest I was so drunk that I just could not remember what was probably very clearly explained. The bar is really basic and for some reason feels particularly long and narrow but the place still seemed spacious which I enjoyed. In sharp contrast to the other new bar I tried, the staff here was attentive – perhaps a bit too attentive as I was the only customer so the entire staff surrounded me. To be fair, they were not annoying and except for a few odd bits of conversation seemed willing to wait for me to decide on the level of interaction. Overall big points for the staff – I was too drunk to really speak and they were content to be available while allowing me to consume my beverage in relative peace. I have already recommended the place to a couple of friends who I think will enjoy it.

The rest of my month has been occupied skulking around more familiar hangouts – I realized I have not bumped Larry’s 110 St Bar & Grill lately. I mostly go for meals – one of the few times I promote food on the pub page is remind people that the food there is great – but I decided to stop in for a couple of beverages this month. Well worth it – it was not too busy but there were enough people to keep the staff occupied. It is clearly a place where regulars hang out but all are welcome. The staff is friendly and service is quick.

Speaking of good food SKIRTS!!!! – the evil publisher has noted my lack of product placement and seems to be with- holding payment until I satisfy my contractual obligations – Skirts!! Skirts!!! Skirts – by the way, if you go to Skirts early you can get the best Fish & Chips in Cambodia shipped in from The Pub next door – just a thought.

Basically the rest of my bar crawl- ing this month was filled with old regulars – spent more time on 136 St – Oasis was quite busy every time I dropped by but I was pleasantly surprised at the reasonable volume being maintained – except by the other customers – it actually seemed almost mellow last time.

I went in Xanadu – much more boisterous and unfortunately I was greeted with the site of male customers dancing on the bar – fully clothed but still not what I want to see when I walk into a bar.

Best 136 not sure it is the best but it is still a fun bar to drop by with attentive staff and good atmosphere. Candy – used to be one of my favourite bars (and really loved the lunch time pizza specials) – it was probably the first hostess bar to go 24 hours and was a great hang out after it took over the Huxley space, I thought it took a real dive and was looking forward to enjoying it back in its original location. Unfortunately, it is my least favourite of Chea’s bars and I have a much better time at 69 and Mister Butterfly.

I was supposed to be reviewing bars in Sihanoukville again this month but I was so hungover that I missed my bus and did not feel up to the trip – honest more new bars (well new to me anyway) next month – really – this time I mean it.

Unfortunately our reviewer was let out unsupervised this month resulting in some injuries. Next month he will be under adult supervision courtesy of the Hunchback! ED

Cockroach Corner – August 2014

Do as we say not as we do. Nice to see the boys in blue out and about the other night. They may not be fining everyone at the moment but were out at 4am in a jeep on St 51. Only problem was they were going the wrong way with no lights on and had blacked out windows! Don’t know if they were drunk or not but at that hour it seems highly likely!

Duhhh. A guy sat at Golden Sorya mall on 51 and was approached by one of the local ice queens. No surprise there.

She became very affectionate and draped herself all over him. It was only after she suddenly left he realized he had been pickpocketed and his Galaxy phone had gone. No surprise there.

A quick search of the local area proved fruitless. On hearing the complaints another girl approached and said she knew the girl and would get the phone back for twenty dollars. He coughed up the loot and the girl was never seen again! No surprise there.

The next day he went back to the mall in a bad mood. Talking to some girls he told the story. One girl said she knew her and actually knew where she had sold the phone. After some back and forth discussion he gave her one hundred and fifty bucks to retrieve his phone. And the girl was never seen again. No surprise there then.

We are now all eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Tuk Tuk driver that, “I know her house!”

We stand corrected. Oscars bar on St 51 was sold recently and to everyone’s amazement the new owner named it “Muff Divers.” This isn’t Pattaya, so people wondered how long it would last. About a week before he was apparently told to change it. Pretty sure the cops had a laugh when it was explained to them what it meant!

Swapsies? Rainsy returns for yet another overseas trip (strange they always coincide with problems here) basically sells his party up the river (mainly due to the main members of his party being locked up). Then swaps a position with one of his MPs to take a parliamentary seat? He didn’t even stand in the election! Can I swap too? I want to be an unelected MP. Many in his party are disgusted with his deal and rightly so.

As for the beating of security (thugs) at freedom park, general consensus is they have been dishing it out in the past and they were well due for payback. No doubt the circus will continue for some time with them being squeezed into a corner in the not too distant future. By the time you read these things could have changed dramatically.

Batty. They spent a fortune on revamping a parrot in the past. Then BAT spent a ton on withdrawing Ara Blue lights from the market (which were popular with foreigners) and replacing them with Ara silver. Now the Silvers have been withdrawn. In the last few months though reports have many packets being stale and mouldy with speculation that they randomly insert flakes of old car tyres to help you cough up a lung. All from a company whose premium brand here used to be the cheapest supermarket smoke in the UK!

WTF. Golden Sorya mall managed to sink to a new low recently with two dead in a murder/suicide bringing the total this year near double figures. The night after the sad event there was a fight in a bar opposite supposedly involving a US embassy staffer. A while later SUV’s pull up and embassy goons got out with a K9 dog! Were they trying to track the other party or just intimidate the surrounding area? Whatever they succeeded as upon entering the mall half the customers left. Not sure who was at fault but judging by locals throwing stuff at the staffers SUV when he first drove off we have an inkling who may be responsible!

Phnom Penh Prison Diary – Part 4

A serialised story of the judicial system and its processes in Cambodia. A work of complete fiction. Any resemblance to people alive, dead or locked up is purely coincidental.

I am now three months into my stay at the exclusive VIP suite,33A, at Prey Sar prison.

I share my cell with the cream of corruption: a killer – who is also a pornography connoisseur, a rich General’s son – who has been sent to Prey Sar by his angry father, a drug dealer – the only person who I have ever met who sleeps with his eyes open, an American returnee – who is not named Elvis, a very ugly lady-boy – who’s notable feature(s) is a large pair of breasts, 13 bike thieves – aged between 12 and 23 and an obsessive compulsive who insists on jogging (or stomping) on the spot, at 05:00 every morning.

While I read the bestselling thriller, “What to do when some- body dies”, kindly provided by my embassy, I note how my cell mates pass the time; Eating rice, while glancing at lady-boys breasts, viewing the killers endless porn marathon, comparing with lady-boys breasts, smoking, followed by staring at lady-boys breasts, playing cards, followed by watching lady-boys breasts, singing karaoke, at the lady- boys breasts and playing with the old chap, while cupping lady-boys breasts.

The rainy season has finally arrived, bringing slightly cooler, though humid weather and an ankle deep lake of sewerage. However, inside Prey Sar, there is another benefit – rain water is slightly cheaper!

At some point, in the distant past, some NGO did something useful and fitted 16 x 5,000 litre rainwater storage tanks around the remand block A. The rainwater falling on the massive red tile roof is piped into large blue plastic tanks. Logic would suggest that the cool, clear rainwater would be given to prisoners for showering, helping reduce the current scabies epidemic. The storage capacity would allow 4 buckets of water for each of the 1,000 detainees in block A.

Logic of course doesn’t prevail here and overnight the taps at the base of each tank has been padlocked closed and the tanks are now literally overflowing – wasting this precious resource.
The queue of Khmer prisoners, each carrying a 20l paint bucket, are informed by a stick welding Vietnamese prisoner, who is responsible for the grey market water trade, that rainwater is priced at 500r a bucket.

While this is 45 times more expensive than Phnom Penh City water, it is half the price of the shower water which is delivered daily by truck in white plastic bottles. There are plenty of takers as the line of grinning inmates, wait to pay – for rainwater – in a country which has no shortage of this basic commodity.

The drains around the prison are not maintained during the dry season or cleared before the wet season and the resulting mess is quite predictable. First, a mass of cockroaches crawl out from the drains and climb the prison building, followed by rats the size of donkeys and then raw shit.

It is the rats that now have a group of Khmer prisoners excited – lunch! I watch as they work together in order to corner the rats and then club them to death with a stick. I am thankful that I am in a VIP cell, where rat meat is only delivered in fillet, soup or sausage form. Either way, I decide that I will play it extra safe tonight and make myself a packet of chicken noodles.

The prison routine is designed so that nearly everyone can understand. There are two daily work sessions, the first doors are opened around 8AM for workers who are responsible for carrying “brown water”, to replenish the brick tanks inside each cell. The brown water is pumped in from a storage reservoir, just outside the prison walls. Some deal with the daily delivery and distribution of “clean” shower water, in white bottles and drinking water, in the standard 20l blue bottles. The clean water is delivered twice daily on trucks which carry around 400, 20l bottles. Others are responsible for sweeping the yard and carrying buckets of putrid garbage to the prison dump.

Khmer prisoners are lead out into the exercise yard, a room at a time, where they are forced to stand in the burning heat and recite the new prison rules – word for word. Prisoners are sent back to cells at around 11AM, when the lunchtime meal of soup and rice is delivered, and the prison is locked down for lunchtime. The afternoon session is roughly the same, starting around 2PM and ending at 4PM. Simple. If you can’t work it out by the end of the first week, you must be retarded.

One of the only English speaking prisoners in my cell is a Khmer/ American returnee. Like the majority of returnees I have met since, he is polite, well spoken, helpful and reasonably well educated, having been in America for most of his life. The reason he has returned is that he had been convicted of a crime in America and following a US prison sentence, he was sent back to Cambodia – a country which he doesn’t know, where he has no surviving relatives and where there is no social support system. He could certainly function as a constructive member of society, but instead, he has been sent to Prey Sar.

Many of the returnees in his situation, go by an English name, but not Bill, Steve or John but (yo! mo-fo! stick a cap in your ass!) street names like Tank, Shotgun, Trip and in the case of my cell mate – Trigger.

Trigger has a great sense of humour and he is good company, but having never seen an episode of Only Fools and Horses, he doesn’t understand why his action-man name makes me smile. On returning to my cell, I am surprised to receive a wedding invitation, one of my cellmates informs me that as privileged, VIP prisoners, it is quite common to be invited to weddings, by guards or in this case, by the Director himself.

I am quite excited at the prospect of getting some decent food and perhaps a few drinks, but it appears that I haven’t fully understood the situation. My cellmate, Trigger, continues to explain that while I am certainly invited to the wedding, it will not be possible for me to attend because I am in prison. Trigger is certainly living up to his name today.

So the correct protocol in the unfortunate event that you cannot attend, is to fill the oversized envelope with cash, which will then be collected by the room leader, the block chief and finally the Director. Still, it’s the thought that matters. So I think for a moment and then into the envelope, I put a crisp new 50 reil note, that I had been saving for a situation just like this.

While on the subject of money, the room leader announces that block A will shortly have a new exercise area. However, authorities require a donation of $50 from each cell to complete the project. Wonderful.

At this time, block A consisted of just the cell block, plus, in the yard; a tin hut -single seat – barber shop and the wooden market shack. It is lucky then, that the Directors wife, just happens to own a very competitive building supply business. As VIP prisoners, we are expected to grin like retards and, on request, hand over unlimited handfuls of cash for major improvement projects such as this. I struggle under the circumstances to grin like my cell mates, but I hand over $10, just to keep the peace.

There are 48 cells in block A, which means that our new exercise area will have a total budget $2,400, I visualise a large cement slab, perhaps a basketball court, volleyball or a football pitch. Perhaps a gym area with some weights. The following day, two small trucks arrive, one of sand and another with 20 bags of Portland cement – maximum cost $150. It takes a group of volunteers an- other day to mix and lay a wafer thin layer of cement 10m x 20m, straight on top of grass and mud. The finish resembles a miniature lunar landscape, where prisoners can now stand in the rain, and recite the prison rules.

I am still held on pre-trial detention, charged with a crime that is just not possible. The downside seems to be that the Cambodian police are just perfect. A 100% detection rate, 100% conviction. Every day since my arrival, I have been subjected to continuous karaoke, inhuman heat and the never ending ecstatic screams of my killer cell mate’s porn collection. Plus the flies. And the all night card games. And the stupid lady-boy jiggling her/his tits.

Today I am sick. I have a headache. So I request permission to leave block A and seek the expert advice of our very own vet, who is also a doctor. On the side. After many forms, I walk to the prison hospital, which is around 400m from block A.

I explain that I have a headache and I would like some pain killers. It’s a gift doc, an easy one. But he is Khmer and has seen “House” on AXN, he no doubt believes that my headache is the physical symptom of a much more serious problem. Probably lupus. He checks my arms and legs and appears a little surprised that they are all there. Not lupus, so it must be my heart or kidney stones. As the prison MRI is sadly missing, the doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to my kidneys. The doctor fills a small bag with funny coloured pills and I return to my cell, picking out the paracetamol on route.

That afternoon, two guards arrive with handcuffs to take me away. My cellmate, Trigger, translates the bad news – I have a weak heart and I am being transferred to an off-site hospital. I consider the situation, I am innocent. The police, 100% detection rate. The courts, 100% conviction rate. I have a headache. Cambodian prison doctor – shit, I’m going to die. The guards however are trained professionals, I am cuffed and forcefully removed, my wrists snap and my hands turn into purple balloons. We walk to a prison van where we join three more guards with AK47 assault rifles – rust coloured. Five guards, a driver and three guns – for one prisoner, who judging from the prognosis, is unlikely to survive the night. I think of the 50 reil gift for the directors wedding party – I didn’t make the vig. And now he will shoot me in the head, a fake prison break, my chest tightens as we drive out towards Phnom Penh.

Monivong hospital is not on Monivong, it is just over the Monivong bridge in the Chbar Ampouv area of Phnom Penh, somewhere to the right of highway 1. The hospital is a large four story, rectangular building with a red cross painted on the front, a car park for 40 cars – empty. The perfect place for a Mafia style execution.

To be continued.