June 14, 2002

How High Can You Try?

A Cambodian Story by Señor

Buy, sell or possess illegal drugs in Singapore or Thailand and get the death penalty. No exceptions, no alternate interpretations of the law: Death. Upon arrival at Don Muong International Airport in Bangkok, you are greeted by a sign that makes this absolutely clear. No tourist can claim ignorance.

Such stringent penalties are not the same through out all of Southeast Asia, although government attitudes about drugs are similar. Cambodia is an exception to every rule, where lawlessness is the law and corruption is King. Get busted for marijuana and it’s gonna cost you. No, not your life, just many US dollars. Unhappy about that? No problem! If you pay the government enough you can buy yourself the position of Drug Tsar. Your word then becomes law until someone comes along and ups your ante.

With this in mind it should be of little surprise that while in Southeast Asia I chose Cambodia as the place to experiment with drugs. It all started off pretty harmlessly with a trip to the pharmacy for some Valium. I thought it might be nice to take some Valium and go sit on the beach during sunset. The adorable Cambodian woman behind the counter apologized to me and explained that Valium is a prescription drug. She could not sell it to me. Lucky for me "Honest" Abe Lincoln was on my side! Five extra dollars was transferred from my wallet to the pharmacist’s pocket and I was off to the beach, Valium in hand, to soak up the sunset.

The next day I decided to charter a boat to take me to a beautiful deserted island off the Cambodian coast. What exactly I needed to get away from, I’m not sure, but for a whopping two dollars I figured what the hell! So me and the local boat driver venture off on our journey. About an hour into the trip we come across another boat and this Indian looking fellow with a British accent hops onboard. I thought nothing of it at the time. I was happy to have the company of another English speaker. He seemed to be a pretty good guy. Finally we made it to our destination and this dude breaks out a phat bag of kind and offers to smoke me up. It’s as if he read my mind! These are the times joints were made for! We puff down until we were zooted and he asks me if I want to buy some off him. My own stash? Fuck yeah! No sooner do I pay the guy, does this bastard produce an ID and badge. He’s an undercover narc! I’m screwed! Well not really, you see he doesn’t want to arrest me. He actually likes hanging out with me! I’m afraid Abe Lincoln ain’t gonna do the trick this time. I throw down two Ulysses S. Grants. My new "friend" now smiles and bids me farewell. He was alright, he even let me keep the stash! Before he walked away he handed one of the $50’s to my boat driver. They shared a laugh and he was gone for good.

I wasn’t sure what lesson to take away from this experience. Did I learn that I am a lucky son of a bitch and I better start laying low? Or as long as I got $$$$$$ I’m bound by no law in this country.

I’d heard of Happy Pizza but not yet sampled the goods as I chose to learn the latter lesson. Apparently if you go to the right pizzeria and ask for Happy Pizza you get a pie with kind buds baked inside. I tried my luck and after eating a pretty good tasting pie, I was WASTED! There I was in this exotic land amongst a foreign people who speak a foreign language and I’m tripping my balls off! I wandered around for a while and wound up in a karaoke bar where an unbelievably sexy woman sat down next to me. She spoke to me the only English phrase that she knew, "Would you like a massage?" Ordinarily, I’m not the kind of guy to turn down such an enticing offer, but under the psychedelic circumstances it just wasn’t gonna happen. All was not lost. For the next few hours through pointing and repeating this young woman taught me Cambodian. I could now say, Cho kai muy (Cheers), Sua s'dei (Hello), Sohk sabaay te (How are you?) I could now count from 1 to 5! Muy, Pii, Bei, Buan, Bram and of course I could now say, Sri sa'at (You are beautiful!) I’m not exactly sure what really happened that night, but to my best recollection that’s the way things went down.

This positive experience just whetted my appetite for a little more hardcore experimentation. Aw kohn!

How High Can You Try? by Señor is the second story in a collection of travel stories from his recent trip to Southeast Asia.

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