Singapore Adventure

Monday, October 09, 2006

Thumb Wrestling in Cambodia
by venitha

"You know they're full of bean paste."

"Yummy! Probably egg yolks, too. Just humor me. It's not like we have to eat them. I'm curious. And it's important to stimulate the economy."

The main thing we stimulated at the Siem Reap roadside stand was great confusion in the salesgirl. Shock that Caucasians would buy such goodies? Difficulty in jacking up the prices and adding them together at the same time? The universal hand signal for I'll take this one isn't actually universal? I can't say.


Back at our hotel, we freed our booty from cocoons of plastic, arranged the three unidentifiable treats on the bed, and wished we had a knife. Jim bravely took the first bite.

"It tastes just like it looks."

"Like masking tape?"

"Well, now that you mention it... but I meant chalk. And grainy... bean... goo."

"But there's no egg. I'm so disappointed."

The tragedy was short-lived: numbers two and three delivered on the egg front. But not that short-lived: they were just as yucky.

I looked in disgust at the detritus strewn across the faded bedspread.

"I can't believe that not one of these is worth a second bite."

"I can't believe you're surprised."

We slid the mess into the trash can, and I went to find the Pepto Bismol.


The next morning, we pooled our dwindling financial resources on our unmade bed. With three strikes against us, we were almost out.
  • Our hotel doesn't take credit cards. A sign claims the machine is out of service; first in English, then in French, and then laminated.

  • ATMs are less than common, and the one we found and used in Siem Reap felt so shoddy and took my card so suspiciously slowly that I was very relieved to get it back and fervently wished I'd read beyond the headlines of all the recent skimming news.

  • Cambodians like their cash in good shape. In a strange contradiction for such a raggedy, war-torn country, no one was willing to take a $100 bill with a 2mm tear in it. Nothing was missing from it; it was just a tear. But I don't think we could even have given it away. A young girl in the market followed us for a block complaining loudly after we'd purchased her exorbitantly expensive postcards. Jim finally figured out the problem and exchanged the offending dollar for another. "So there you have it: beggars can be choosers."

We slowly stacked our remaining cash against our remaining expenses. $43/night for the hotel, plus $12 for our restaurant bill, plus $5 to get to the airport, plus $30 in airport taxes. Jim was still clutching a stack of $1 bills. Woo hoo! Breakfast! I had visions of a frothy mocha latte and crusty French bread, treats a former French colony can deliver in style.

Oh, wait, our massages! We'd scheduled an inedible treat before our late morning departure. Jim slowly counted ten ones onto the pile. We both looked at the lone remaining dollar in his hand and laughed.

"I'm sorry I squandered our limited funds on yucky desserts. What a bummer."

Jim kissed my pouting lips. "Thumb wrestle you for the masking tape."