travel thoughts and experiences
How often have you been asked about a dangerous and exciting moment you have experienced during your travels in a “not-so-safe” country? And how often have you got no answer? Or, how often have you yourselves been eager to hear one, only to get the same old boring “nothing much happened”. Seems like there is no real adventure out there in the exotic and “wild” Asia!
Well, after about two years of travelling around the place, I finally got one story to tell!
It was hot and humid day. The sweat was pouring off me even more than usual due to a slight fewer. Needless to say, I wasn’t in a mood for a conversation, wandering around Phnom Phenh trying to find a bike rental, when a man approached me.
“Hello, nice to see you! Where are you from?” he began talking straight away, as they always do. “Hello” I replied in an unconscious attempt to get rid of him politely; one that usually works. This guy was persistent, though.
“Ah, I know Slovakia, my niece is going to study to Czech Republic. It was one country, you split right?”
He got me with that remark. Not many people know about my place, not to mention the history behind. Naturally, I got intrigued.
He is this and that, works here and there, has all these and those troubles – I got to know every sad detail of his life in an instant.
“You have time? No? Ok! Evening what time you can?” I barely had a chance to catch the question in between the small talk, trying to concentrate and decode the Cambodian English of his. He would not give up, so I agreed to meet him later at five. With his niece, that is; at least some consolation.
How I regretted my lack of assertiveness, returning later from whole day of biking around the city, looking at dead people’s pictures and bloody stains at the walls of Tuol Sleng prison – not really a perk up. Agreed I did, and there was still the chance of him not turning up.
He did. Let’s get it over with, I was telling myself hopping on his moped. After an hour of him balancing on the edge of killing us both trying to slip through the rush hour traffic, I began to question my decision again.
“Almost there!” he shouted at me as if reading my doubtful thoughts. It took half more hour to arrive at his brother’s house.
“We have diner here first” I heard him saying with relief. Finally my ass was safe and sound on the ground, even some food to be expected – genuine Cambodian home cooked! I thought it was turning out to the better, forgetting about what was agreed – meeting the niece at a bar nearby the centre.
The memory came back after exchanging pleasantries and finishing the delicious dish-style curry with rice. What on earth am I doing here, I was asking myself!
“Do you gamble? Play cards? Poker?” the brother brought me back from drifting away. Well, I know how to play, of course, if that was what he meant to hear. He immediately caught on that and began giving me a picture of his unmatched skills in the field, being a croupier on the famous boat cruises.
“You know, you pay two thousand dollars and go on a cruise for a month! Come, I show you some tricks. You are obviously knowledgeable; I have some proposal to make. Let’s go to the gaming room, I show you!”
Hmm, gaming room, where might that be. I remember the wife’s eyes looking away when we went upstairs. It was just a moment, one I have only realised later when it was too late.
It was just the brother and I in the “game room” first. He began slowly unfolding the plan, touching just the non-important details. Told me all about his work as a croupier, emphasising how good he is and how well he understands the system.
After a few minutes my driver came in, sat way too close, acting as if not understanding what was going on. At that point it got to me – being alone with two guys in a closed room with no one being aware of my whereabouts.
“Are you up to the plan? I sense you feel nervous!” the brother had me read. “Ok, I tell you how we do it, but you have to commit first!”
Damn right I do! The guy had the greatest plan to fool the casino security by having a signal set up for the two of us. I would be the winner; he’d arrange my stay on the cruise for half the price and be the wing card-player. What a plan, I thought. I could not but think of all the movies about the smart-asses being bold enough to try to fool a casino, ending up with no fingers to play with.
With my being reluctant the brother got a bit fed up. He’d blame me for going up, for stealing the big time plan of his, for being a coward. I stood up to go, he would not let me. I’d made my way anyway, leaving him no chance to react.
“You know we know people, do not try to mention this to anyone. We know you!” I could not believe my ears. Getting downstairs made me feel a bit safer, all the more seeing the lady of the house. Looking at her eyes again, I realised she saw this happening before – a guy got fooled by false hospitality, realised later on what was going on and left with bad impression about her place – she was not happy about that, obviously.
The drive back was a dream. My new “friend” did give me a ride, fortunately. I could only think of what could have happened, how could I have been so trusting! Maybe cradled by the life on the countryside, where the people are genuinely hospitable.
I completely forgot about the niece and the initial plan. He did not. Getting me off nearby the place he picked me up, he asked for a fifty-dollar bill – for his sick mother.
“My niece is there at the hospital, that is why we did not meet her.” Not even turning around to respond, I went away with one and only thought – I got lucky the guys are just amateurs, at the beginning of their prank business – so obvious I could not believe myself being so stupid and falling for it.
Hope they would keep the non-violent style for the sake of other travellers. If not, then beware Phnom Phenh and its dark alleys!
I know, nothing close to the shootouts we tend to see in the movies. That’s all I got, though, probably the most dangerous thing that happened to me while traveling.
Care to share yours?
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