Cambodia, Day 10 (Aug. 7, 2007)

Ate breakfast at our Guesthouse -- lemon honey crepes for me; potato puff, bacon, eggs, toast, juice and coffee (aka "The American") for Brad. Then Brad and the gang walked to Serendipity Beach* and back while I sat in a papasan chair at Dara's. The fever has finally broken, but I'm still feeling weak, and Dara's was just what the doctor ordered. I sat in that chair for seven straight hours with only a short swim in the Gulf to break up the day. I took a magazine with me, but every time I opened it, I thought, "I could be staring at the Gulf of Thailand." So I did. Despite the steady stream of beggars, children, pedicure hawkers, and musicians, it really was quite relaxing.

The guys all wanted to go to the Snake House for dinner, even though we knew it was a tourist trap with crummy food. We should have known something was amiss when the tuktuk driver gave lots of excuses why it would cost $5. After some discussion, we decided to pay $10 round trip, but only if he waited for us. That's when the fun began.

First stop: the base of a dark hill with a LONG flight of stairs up. Meg says, "Snake House at top?" TukTukMan says "Yes." Meg, Eric, and Phil ran ahead to make sure it was open before we began the climb. They returned with the news that we were at Chez Claude's, not the Snake House. TukTukMan laughed and laughed. "Oh, you want SnakeHouse. That sound like Chez Claude." No, that sounds like Dump-Dumb-Tourists-at-Pricey-Restaurant-Where-I-Get-Kickback-And-I'll-Go-Away-Before-They-Come-Back-Downstairs. We hopped back into the tuk-tuk just as TukTukMan says "It cost more for Snake House." Wrong. We made our sentiments fairly clear, for which we were rewarded with a bumpy, unpleasant, circuitous drive past a shanty town with abandoned buildings where homeless people were hovering over burning barrels. For free, he threw in an awkward stop at a traffic circle where we thought we might possibly be tossed or mugged.** We did finally reach the Snake House only to discover it catered to a more, um, masculine, Russian clientele. Brand new humvees were parked out front, and loud dance music poured out of the bar area called The Snake Pit where Phil discovered you could actually buy your own dancing girl. Brad ordered the Chicken Kiev, and I ate vareniki, a potato ravioli. When in Rome...

The room was filled with large tanks full of venomous snakes, and many of the tables had cranky-looking snakes under the tabletop glass; there was also a crocodile on a leash.*** The overhead television blared Fashion Week coverage from Sao Paolo in Russian. Pretty sure we were the only non-Russian (and probably non-mafia) customers there. As we left, we passed the saddest birds I've ever seen in captivity. Two scarlet macaws in one cage looked as if they desperately wanted out. In summary, we ate Russian food in the Cambodian jungle surrounded by snakes with a waitstaff:patron ratio of 8:1 (all gorgeous Cambodian women who seemed puzzled by our presence.****)

Just to reaffirm that TukTukMan had been screwing with us earlier, we zipped home in no time using only three major roads. The trip home was uneventful except for the parade of 30 sweet rally cars that forced us off the road. I really do love this place.
Brad's footnotes
* In keeping with the spirit of irony, I walked barefoot -- a mistake -- on the beach where drains from businesses ran right down the beach and into the Gulf. I remember a paralyzing fear when I stepped down and felt something puncture the skin of my heel. So, for future reference, bring your flip-flops.
** She's not exaggerating. There were no streetlights, traffic or commercial development at this
traffic circle. Nevertheless, our driver stopped here for a few minutes. I thought, either he's lost or he's waiting for his friends, the muggers.
*** You'll note there are no pictures from the Snake House. None of us had the guts to take any in front of Bruno-witz and Left-ovsky. You can find some here, though.
**** So, not a bad place, really.

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