Phnom Penh y El Loco

On Saturday morning I went for breakfast at a nice little place on riverside called Kandall House. Half way through the meal we noticed an unusual looking fellow stop nearby on the back of a moto. He was wearing something which could loosely be described as a turban, a sort of mock turban, something designed to protect his head from too much sun exposure, although, as it turned out, I think it could have been a little too late to save him.

He had what appeared to be a spliff hanging from his mouth and he proceeded to have an animated discussion with the moto driver. After this he spotted us and headed in our direction.

“Would you trust me to give me a dollar?” he said, his accent revealing him to be English, and he proceeded to place on the table an iPod touch, a point-and-shoot digital camera, his lighter, and his mobile phone. Sensing some potential entertainment value I agreed and fetched a dollar from my wallet. He headed off to an Internet café leaving his things on the table.

A few moments later he returned and retrieved his mobile on which he was obviously dependent, but left the iPod, camera and lighter with us (obviously not feeling the need to light his long ignored spliff).

This time his absence was much longer and I was left wondering whether he would return, and if we wanted to leave should I bring him his things. But then his moto driver came up to us and collected his things and proceeded to the Internet café 3 doors up. All very strange.

A while later he returned and sat down at our table.

He took out a notepad and borrowed a pen from the proprietor (well, took it out of the proprietor’s hand would be a better way to say it). On a page of his notepad he proceeded to draw around a stencil explaining that this was a company he worked for in England. I couldn’t quite make out what it said.

He then proceeded to write a number down, carefully noting it from him phone. Beside the number he wrote “OG” and “Ploce”. He explained that if I ever encountered trouble in Phnom Penh, or anywhere in Asia, I should call this number and ask for OG as he was with the police (he said pointing at the word “Ploce” on his note. He then leaned closer and said “Because I’m with the Police as well”, and put a finger to his lips indicating that we should keep this fact very quiet. He then wrote his name on the notepad and said just tell OG you know me, pointing at his name on the paper which read “Mr. K”.

How marvelously ludicrous this was all becoming. He then looked for other numbers in his phone, first adding the number of a Tuk-Tuk driver I could call if I was ever stuck and then adding the number of a doctor (which he spelt “Docter”). He said this doctor would look after me very well and wrote down the doctor’s name, which was “Mr. A”. He then drew a double arrow between his name and the doctor’s name and said to me triumphantly, “A to the motherfucking K”.

Upon completing this documenting of privileged information, he ripped out half of the pages in the notebook in order to give me the single page on which he had written, and meandered off, spliff still hanging from his bottom lip. I looked at the company name he had copied through the stencil and it read “ADDICT”. We watched as he interacted with various locals selling sunglasses or hammocks as they do up and down riverside, after one such interaction he came back to return the pen to the proprietor and said farewell again. Meandering here and there, he eventually engaged the services of another moto driver and went on his merry way, perhaps to conclude some secret mission.

Oh, as you might have guessed, I never saw my dollar again. If it was nothing more than a carefully concocted way to scam me out of a dollar I can’t imagine he makes too healthy a profit by going about it in this way.