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“Hold your bags”, the driver of my tuktuk tells me in a broken english. As of the rest of Asia, Cambodia is known for bag snatching travellers. I wave at him, sure sure. I guess I did well, looking like I’m a traveller. He doesn’t know what I have done. He doesn’t know that I’m a fugitive. I can’t believe I managed to escape the fucking FBI. I’m sitting at the back of this tuktuk in Cambodia, riding through the night in direction of my hotel in Phnom Penh -and no one will ever know I was here. We get stuck in traffic and my eyes lock with the ones of a man on his bike. He looks at my bag. He looks back at my eyes. Don’t try me man, I’ve killed for less than that. He sees it -the look of someone that have even less to lose than he has. He looks away. The tuktuk unstuck itself from the swarm of bikes and we are now in front of my new home. I laugh.

To get myself a bad-ass bitch resting face, I often invent personas like this. If I can believe it for 5 min, people looking at me can too. Call it method acting. Lol. In the fraction of a second, I can go from a vulnerable ginger girl travelling alone to a serial killer fleeing her country not to get caught. No one knows me. I chose what I project. And when everyone (even the traveller you met so far) warns you about how bad Cambodia is -you gotta do what you gotta do. I survived my 35min nocturnal tuktuk drive, and I still have all my stuff. I can switch back to normal Steph, see you later psychopath bags saver.

My hotel is pretty nice. I have a private room, a decent bathroom and there’s a pool and a restaurant on the rooftop. I feel hot though. The a/c is on, so that doesn’t make sense. I take my temperature. 37,9. Ok it’s not fever but that’s damn close. I decide at that moment to take these two days of fancy hotel to just relax. I haven’t really take the time to do that since the beginning of my trip, early November. I will not leave this hotel until I need to switch for my next hostel. I will rest, eat, go in the pool, watch Netflix, get a massage - do everything to reset my body, cause it’s clearly warning me that I need to, right now. My next two days are passed exactly doing that. And also wondering if I spend 500us on blowing a rocket on a car full of gaz barrels. Some travellers I met told me about this place in Cambodia where you could launch a fucking bazooka. I mean hear me out again -still against this. But i’m all about trying new shit and doing things I couldn’t do anywhere else in the world. I’m now googling to know where it is and how it works. 500us for one missile, okay. Then you need to choose your target. You have the choices between: a car, fuel barrels, a cow, a house and a tuktuk. Wait, what? A cow?!?! What in the actual Cambodian fuck. There is no way in hell i’m blowing up a cow. I spiral down some articles to confirm that this cow situation is true (it is and I recommend not watching the videos cause the cow is alive when you shoot it) and then decide that IF i do lauch an RPG, my target will be gas barrels. Double rainbows explosions, what does it mean. It sound chill. I think about it for a few hours and decide to whatsapp the guys at the shooting range so they can answer my questions. Talking with them I realize that in total, the cost will be around 1200$ cad (i can’t just target barrels, they need to be in a house or in a car -so it adds up to the price). Ok, the idea was fun to entertain but there is no way i’m spending 1k on that redneck bullshit. May this day be remembered as the day I didn’t shot a rocket on any target whatsoever.

I wakeup the second morning feeling rested and not feverish. I did needed that break. But now it’s time to switch to my hostel and get back in my adventure mindset. I grab a tuktuk (no need to call psycho Steph back, it’s day outside and bag snatching mostly happen at night) and 8 min later, I am at my hostel.

The hostel is on top of a sports bar and the crowd seems to be a mixte of old creeps and frat boys. The only girls I see are working behind the bar. Fun. There’s also a match tonight for the world cup, so that’s promising. I check in and get my first annoyance of the day: Cambodian do not accepts bills if they are a bit crumpled or even if a corner has a small tear. I got this cash from the bank so i’m a bit irritated, but what the fuck can I do about it. Also she ends up refusing only one dollar so it’s fine. I’ll try to pass it to a tuktuk some time. I go up to my room- private- thanks to past Steph who knew I would tolerate only a very small amount of sleeping in bunk beds during this trip. The room is as great as you would expect a room from an hostel in Cambodia to be. I unpack and decide to go explore around the hostel. I’m a bit unsure at first, because literally everyone warned me about Cambodia, but after about 10 min walking around I just have a very good vibe about this town. I feel safe. Like safe safe. Safer then I ever felt in the streets of Vietnam. Maybe my brain just got used to Asia? Or maybe it’s just really safer for solo woman here? I still make sure I walk cautiously, aware of my surroundings (that’s for my mom)- but it feels good to finally have that peacefulness of mind. I visit the museum of cambodia, i walk through the market, on the riverside park and in front of the royal palace. Unfortunately, we are Sunday so a lot of things are closed. The sun is about to go down so I decide to go back to my hostel. I am trying to find stuff to do around town but I cannot find shit. Except like nightlife and I never was into that really, so im not starting this in my thirties. I chill at the bar/reception downstairs for a while and then decide to just go upstairs and watch Netflix. I have a tour tomorrow morning to go to the genocide museum and the killing fields. I watch two episodes and then I start hearing screams coming from downstairs. My walls are so thin that I can hear everything, so I decide to go downstairs to get the visual also. The bar is jammed pack. I order one beer and then go next to the door to not hide any tv from the cray cray world cup crowd. An old Russian guy starts talking to me about the fact Ukrainians are the bad ones and I am trying my best no to start an argument. I finish my beer as fast as I can and decide to go back up because I already saw two other old guys watching me like sharks. I am now upstairs, trying to unlock the fucking door, when I hear my neighbour puke his life out. I enter my room and close the door but continue to hear as clearly as if I was holding his hair. That’s gonna be a fun night. I end up finishing ‘Wednesday’ and manage to fall asleep around 2 am. The next morning my tour leaves around 10. We have two tuktuks, I am in one with two other girls. I wish I could tell you more about them but they were pretty fucking boring- i already forgot what they looked like. The first stop is a school that was converted in prison by the khmer rouge -it is very interesting yet extremely saddening. Most of the people that were detained here weren’t even aware that they would be, at first. They were intellectuals, doctors, teachers -but also all their relatives. We then go out of the museum, direction the killing fields. It is basically where the prisoners were taken to get executed. Through the ride, my new tuktuk-mate (the two girl have switch tuktuks because my face prob told them i found them dull) keeps talking about all the different prostitution laws in asia. He is clearly here for sex tourism and he isn’t shy to talk about it. I get hoes stories after hoes stories until we finally arrive at the field. I run away from the weirdo and start my exploration. I learn that no one was executed by gun, here. Everything was done with any tools they could find. It was barbaric and cruel -especially knowing how long they already were tortured back in the prison. I quit the field with an awful disgust for the darkness humanity holds. Arrive back at my hotel, i go for pizza and then back to the room to make up some of the sleep I didn’t get yesterday night. In the morning I am leaving for Siem Reap -the city of temples.


I was about 30 minutes early when I went downstairs to checkout. “Your car is already here”. Well look at that, another positive difference from Vietnam. All my experiences would later confirm that people in Cambodia are always on time and plans are as you were told they would be, without exception. I hop on the car for my 6 hour drive, the window wide open to take in some of the fresh morning air. Half way through our journey, my driver asks me if I want to stop at a spider market to get a taste of a Cambodian delicacy: a fried tarantula. I say yes, obviously, but as we approach I start wondering what the texture will be. I am all good with crunchy, but if that motherfucker is juicy I might just pass out. We arrive at the market and I am greeted with several woman showing platters of different insects. I select one tarantula and proceed to have a bite. As my teeth touches one of it’s leg, the body detaches and fall in my hair. I scream of terror- it’s fine for me to bite it but not fine for it to dare touching me. My driver laughs and tells me it’s is favourite part of driving foreigners. He never even tried to bite a spider. I try to taste again, biting one of the remaining legs -it actually tastes more like oil than anything else. And it’s crunchy. We hop back in the car and about 3 hours later I am greeted by the staff of my hotel.

The hotel is located quite far away from the city centre, but I am there for only one night so it’s not really the end of the world. It is very calm and beautiful, I know I will be able to rest properly before starting my Indiana Jones adventure. But, it’s only 2PM now and I feel like I still have a lot of energy, so I decide to ask the hotel if they have any tour to go see the sunset tonight. They do - they tell me to be in the lobby at 4. At 3h50, I arrive at the lobby and they tell me my Tuktuk driver is already here. Mr. Khom appears from behind his tiny vehicle, all smiley and ready for adventure. He introduce himself with a broken English and tells me what the plan is. He will bring me to a temple on a mountain, so I can check the sunset -and then will bring me back to the hotel. That’s a deal, Mr.Khom. I sit in the back of the tuktuk and about 30 min later I am in front of the mountain I need to climb to see my magnificent prize. The ascend isn’t quite so bad and even if it was -the sun shimmering through the jungle is promising a reward that will be worth every steps. At the top, there is a temple, crowded with people sitting and waiting to see the sunset. I decide to go down a bit and find a place without anyone, above the jungle, to watch it peacefully. The lighting changes drastically everything it touches to red and suddenly it feels like I am in a totally different place. Everything becomes silent -as if all the insects and animals were also speechless by the beauty of the event. I stay there for several minutes, watching the mist vanishing into the air and the darkness slowly desaturating the beautiful colours that were so vibrant a second ago. It reminds me that everything is impermanent. Everything is in constant change and we really need to live every moment in the present because not a single one will ever come back the same. I smile, because I have never lived as much in the present moment as during this round the world. Some insects are starting to snack on me, so I decide it’s time to go back down to the tuktuk. About 15 min later, I am on my way to the hotel. Mr.Khom asks me what are my plans for the time I am in Siem Reap. I tell him that I need to switch hotel tomorrow, but I have a 5 day pass for all the temples so I want to do that until I leave. He asks me if I want him as a driver and I agree (I didn’t think it was an option at first, as he was affiliated to my hotel -but then I realized he only makes a very small amount from the hotel clients he takes care of- and he is more like a free-lancer for them). I go dinner and then back to my room - I am meeting Mr.Khom tomorrow morning to go do some temples before he brings me to my new hostel.

The next morning Mr.Khom brings me to see Angkor Wat. It is the biggest of the temples in the Angkor complex. It has been restored but it is still very impressive to see. There is a few tourists, but nothing really crazy. I wonder around for about two hours, sporadically reading information on Wikipedia at the same time. I go back to the tuktuk and we are now on our way two the second temple. And this is when my heart literally skips a beat. The temple is way smaller, deep in the jungle and there is absolutely nobody else, except me, around. There is a giant face carved in the rock, above the main tower of the temple. The nature seems to have taken back it’s due, because there are trees growing on top of the walls and some of the rocks have fallen down. It hasn’t been restored -it is in ruined, but it is much more powerful to see in that very state than the massive temple I saw earlier. I start walking around and I notice that there is absolutely no sign to tell me not to climb or touch things. I can actually explore this temple freely, without any restriction. This feel absolutely incredible. I am alone, in the jungle of Cambodia, climbing the rocks of a temple that date from the 9th century. I feel like Tomb Rider. This is fucking awesome. I stay there, exploring, for about one hour -speechless from the experience I am able to live right now. Mr.Khom then drive me to two other similar temples, both of these mind blowing me as much as the first one. I then get drop at my second hotel - an hostel that honestly look like a 5 star hotel. There is a sky bar, a pool on the rooftop, two restaurants, one coffee shop and even the dormitory are amazing looking. It costs me 24$ for three nights, what a joke. I decide to stay at the hotel for the afternoon/evening, to relax, take a swim and write a little bit. The next morning Mr.Khom is picking me up at 5AM -we are going back to Angkor Wat but to see the sunrise, this time.

Thankfully, my dorm-mate also need to wake up at 4AM, so we give each other support when our alarm rings. In 10 minutes I am downstairs and Mr.Khom welcomes me with the plan of the day ready. It takes us about 20 minute to arrive in front of Angkor Wat. Everything is pitch black and I need to walk about 20 minutes to a good spot to watch the sunrise. It is quite a magical sight -but my heart still belongs to the sunset. I walk back to the tuktuk and visit a few other temples around. Then, Mr.Khom drives me about 40min away from the area- to a more secluded temple that I end up not liking as much but the drive to get there was pretty amazing. I ask him to stop in a local restaurant on the way back and I eat one of their national dish: Amok. It is basically a curry in a coconut shell. Very yummy. Mr.Khom drives me back to the hotel so I can refresh a bit before he picks me up again to bring me to a restaurant I had been recommended by a tourist in Vietnam. About two hour later I am back on the tuktuk. We enter a dirt road and about 10 min onto it Mr.Khom asks me if we are going to the right place. I laugh. Yes -the girl told me that this was at the end of the fucking world. We finally arrive at the end of the road and there it is - a magnificent building reminding me of the Jurassic Park entrance. After Mr.Khom agrees to come pick me up two hours later, I am greeted by the owner of the place who walk me around the farm. It is modest now, but they are in the process of expanding their land. In comparison, the building feels even more luxurious. There is the restaurant on the first floor and a bar upstairs. They invite me to sit with a welcome drink and present to me the menu of the night. It is a seven courses - only 34$. Such a fancy dinner would be about 400$ in Montreal. Plates after plates, I am amaze by the creativity of the chefs and surprised by all the different flavours I’ve never tasted before. My evening wraps up with a delicious home-made waffle and I think I will have time to go for a stroll around the farm but Mr.Khom is already waiting for me outside - earlier than the time we said, as usual. He drives me back to the Hotel and that is when I decide that in a few days, I will surprise him with a gift for Christmas.

The next morning I am once again greeted by a very happy Mr.Khom. The plan of the day is to do a few temples and then getting dropped at the Pub Street for lunch. I want to take that time to find a box to put his gift in -there must be something available at the market near the pub street. I manage to achieve everything I wanted to do and walk back to my hotel to chill for the afternoon. Mr.Khom picks me up at 4 and brings me to his secret place to watch the sunset. I need to go up a flight of stairs and then walk up a mountain -but the view is just fucking incredible and there is not a single soul around. I sit on a rock, overviewing the fishing villages and I am extremely grateful to have met Mr.Khom. He definitely made my experience in Cambodia unforgettable. He showed me so many hidden spots I feel like tourists do not get to see usually -and he always found the way to bring me everywhere touristy when there is no one else around. That is when it hits me - I was about to put 500$ to launch a fucking rocket on a car. Might aswell use that 500$ to thank Mr.Khom for his amazing hospitality-and who knows maybe change his beginning of the year for the better. I watch the sunset trying to figure out when will be the right moment to give mr.Khom the money -and how to get it out of the ATM without him noticing. I go back down once the night as set in and ask Mr.Khom if we can stop at an ATM on the way back to the hotel. He agrees -there is no way he can possibly know what is about to go down.

I arrive at the hotel exhausted, but happy. Tomorrow we are doing my two last temples of Cambodia, but my excitement is now focussed on surprising Mr.Khom.

Mr.Khom arrives to pick me up around 9AM. I have the gift secured in a small box, in my bag. We are driving to my two last temples, which I like a lot. I say bye to the Indiana Jones in me and mr.Khom drops me off the pagoda in the city centre. I pay him for the day and he asks me if I can also do a small video or post as a promotion for him. I am ecstatic because that is the best possible moment to praise mr.Khom and than surprise him with the 500$. I start filming and telling the viewer how Mr.Khom is an amazing driver, how he knows all the good places to see and when to go to beat the crowd. And then I address myself directly to Mr.Khom. I thank him for always making me feel safe an for always showing up early and with a smile. I give him the box. He opens it. I can see that he doesn’t know what to say or what to do, so I stop filming. And then Mr.Khom’s eyes start watering. I don’t want him to cry because he will make me cry. So I just say thank you again for everything and Merry Christmas -and I start walking towards the Pagoda. I don’t know if Mr.Khom ended up crying, but he texted me a few days later saying that the gift meant a lot to him and that he was very touched. He asked me if I had a ride to the airport -he wanted to pick me up- but my new hotel had already one arranged for me so we just said our goodbyes via text and I promised him I would be back one day.

After the Pagoda, I was pickup by my new hotel -which was a fucking fancy one because Christmas was coming and I wanted to celebrate it by feeling like a queen. When the staff showed me my room, I was already amazed by the extravagance of it -but when they told me that the bottle of Champagne on the table was from my friend, I got a bit confused. My friend? My eyes looked around and stopped on a note - “Merry Christmas my beautiful friend. Cheers to this amazing adventure -Vero”. I tried my best to not cry but tears were now going down my cheeks and the staff was feeling very uncomfortable. Sorry mate but one of my best friend just surprised me from across the fucking world, so you gonna need to act like everything’s fine here. The guy quickly goes over the rest of the instruction and leave the room to his great relief. I read the card again and smile -while crying- because the attention touches me and I feel like she is here with me in that very moment. My room has windows all around it, with a private pool outside. Everything is circled by walls, to provide me some intimacy. I decide to pour myself a glass of Champagne and hop in the magnificent bath. I leave all my curtains open -the views of the exterior walls isn’t the best but I want to take in the natural light. About 15 minutes into my bath, I see something moving on the top left, outside. It takes me a few second to realize that the movement is coming from a Cambodian frenetically trying to pull some curtains on a rooftop -there is a wedding reception and about 35 people can see me naked in the bath, from above. I instantly stand up and try to close the curtains on my side, but without success -they are stuck behind the bath- I decide to go out of the bath and run for my towel. During my dance for an escape, I bump the Champagne glass that now breaks in thousand pieces on the ground, at the exact moment one of my feet goes down. I feel the sharp pain and quickly sit down to assess the disaster. I need to pull out a piece of glass from my foot -nice, now I need to run for my towel AND for the first aid kit. There is now blood everywhere but I finally manage to cover myself and close the curtains. Well, I just gave them quite a show haven’t I? My foot finally stops bleeding and I pass the next 30 min cleaning the mess and making sure my wound is well bandaged. So long for a relaxing bath. I decide to put the Champagne in the mini-bar and go for a walk to the old town. I have my Christmas eve dinner in a french restaurant and come back around 8 to do a video call with my parents. I tell them the bath incident and my dad says i’ll probably end up on Internet. We both laugh but deep down I hope that no one had the reflex to film because i was never interested in an OnlyFan career. I see my cat on the video and when I start speaking she becomes all excited and meows -searching for me everywhere. It makes me cry, I miss her so much. But I know she is in great hands and that my parents are spoiling her very much. The calls end with my parents but now I have one with Vero and then one with Rali. It feels me with joy to talk to both of them -and to see them aswell. I miss them very much. I finally go to bed and wakeup on Christmas with one of my favourite tradition: watching an Hallmark movie. I pass my day wandering around the old town and relaxing at the hotel, aknowledging that this Christmas was a success. Tomorrow I am leaving Cambodia and a part of my heart will forever stay here.

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