Chaz and I are now almost 2 weeks into our voyages, and are currently in Kampot, Cambodia. Essentially, this has rendered us a bit sleep deprived, a bit paranoid and a lot sweaty. That being said, it is incredible here. I feel that our whirlwind of experiences over the past 12 days has made me extremely knowledgeable and thus I shall impart my gap yaar wisdom unto the masses in the form of some of the lessons learned along the way.
1. Just because they are fit does not mean they are right.
On our bus journey from a Thai island to the gorgeous city of Siem Riep in Cambodia, we spied two peng boys seated in the back, each one by a window with 2 seats between them. In true coy fashion we sat in front of them, until we were made to leave our seats by fresh scowling passengers. We wept tears of bitter despair as we were forced to snuggle between their sweaty, bronzed bodies. We got talking, and found out they were Swedish and really quite clever and funny and did I mention fit? According to them, we were being ripped off for the journey, as word on the traveller grapevine was that the drivers would intentionally delay the wait at the Cambodian border, then drive us outside of the city to their business’ tuk tuk service, which would charge us 10 dollars for a ride and force us to stay in one of their shitty hotels.
Obviously we believed them because they were perfect and right. They asked if we wished to get a taxi with them to the city from the border, but since we had already paid a lot for the bus we politely and unobligingly declined. But we worried for the duration of the journey about our rookie traveller mishaps.
To conclude, they were wrong. It was all fine. They were being dramatic and perhaps a bit excessive with the spreading of their overly-confident know-how. Alas, we never saw them again. But every time we spy a vaguely Swedish shaped boy, we breathe the sweet sigh of women who have loved and lost.
2. Go where the fun is.
Having arrived in Siem Riep, after 11 hours of sitting and whining in a bus, we had quite exhausted ourselves and needed a cotch with some fellow travellers with whom to revel in the exasperation of being middle class and without adequate air con. We found a hostel with a dorm that we thought looked promising, but after having settled there, realised that there was only one working fan and no other people in the room. Also, just saying, after removing my shoes at the entrance, I stepped on a frog’s head. It survived the impact, but our friendship did not.
Thank God, we found our new saviour in the form of the Hostelworld app, which took us the following day to the paradise that is Onederz. Do not mention Onederz in front of Charlie or I, as we will happily explain its radiance to you until you politely remind us that you do not care. Onederz means socialising. Onederz means a pool. Onederz means cocktails for $1.50. Onederz means people buying you drinks (‘for the first time, people didn’t just buy us drinks because they thought they could get action’ exclaimed Chaz in awe and Oneder). Sometimes, you just have to give in and go where the crowd goes. Trying to be original leads to you sharing a single bed in a dorm room just to absorb a fraction of the cooler fan air, and having amphibian guts between your toes. You can justify it to yourself by visiting the less frequented areas in the daytime, and LETTIN LOOSE at night (just a side note, LETTIN LOOSE really entails going to the Chinese night clubs as their dancing is quite remarkable).
3. Guard your money.
Yeah so, in Bangkok, I lost money. I am slightly more extravagant than some people (Charlie) with my spending, mainly due to the fact that I like trying different things on menus, which can mean splashing out. Whilst being in food bliss may seem a worthy cause for being broke, it means that I am already a bit behind on the funds front. Pair that with having lost over £20 somehow (reckon I accidentally gave it away as change) and you suddenly become very aware of your spending habits.
In equal measure, it is no myth that locals can be bloody money grabbers. One of our tuk tuk drivers halted the vehicle and walked back to us halfway through the journey, kindly demanding more money than the agreed amount. When he was greeted with a confident no, his thoughtful demeanour mutated into a rage at being cheated of money that he was never owed. It was forehead vein galore.
Fortunately, other peoples’s losses exceed ours. A couple of fun men from Newcastle told us of a journey in which they had forgotten to remove money from their padlocked luggage, and when it emerged hours later from the storage section of their bus, the lock had been dismantled and £600 was missing. This is why we work our sexy bumbags all day long.
The bad news is, at our current hostel, we order on a tab. This reckless ignorance of our spending, I feel, shall entail us getting extremely cocky about ordering endless milkshakes and looking at the barman through our sunglasses saying ‘Stick it on the tab honey.’ RIP our bank accounts.
4. Your photos are making you boring.
It is no secret that I am not an Instagram kind of gal. I actually had to stop using it months ago because I find everyone so annoying on it. As I have come to realise, the difference between a gap year and a gap yaar is that gap years are what actually happen, and gap yaars are what happen to people who have Instagram. In a gap year, you fuck up every day. You sweat so much that you can quite literally slip your shoes on and off. You get mosquito bites on your face. You must part with having much regard for your appearance, or else the whole thing would be really quite upsetting. You cry because you suspect the presence of a jungle animal in your cabin. You get food poisoning before a 10 hour bus journey on a bus without a toilet (Colpamin guys). You get charged a fiver to get money out. It is wonderful, but it is wonderful in a wholly unglamorous way.
However, according to the images of our peers, their experiences have been far more seamless. They have no fear of the jungle animals – in fact, they are the animal whisperers and can hold the poisonous ones, as somehow posing for photos makes you immune to venom. Their hair is in place, not plastered to their forehead and crispy with sea salt. They seem to be doing spontaneous gap yaar things in a way that remains very photographable.
It makes me a bit sad to see so many of my friends living their travels through their camera lens. This is primarily because in detaching ourselves somewhat from social media, we have met people whose values differ ferociously with those from our familiar Chichester hive. Sometimes, it involves your lives touching momentarily before you both blend back into the mismatch of travellers that congregate here, from existences that contrast to such an extent that elsewhere, they would not overlap. You do not need social media to prove that you have this in common. You have conversation and adventure. Bun your selfies.
Although, on a hypocritical note, here are a few shots of our trip so far (not of us). Got to keep the fans updated.