February 22, 2009


That same, first evening we were due to meet some business friends of P’s for dinner. Notwithstanding we were both more than usually jet-lagged, this normally would have been an event to which we’d have really looked forward. The opportunity to catch up with a couple of friends who’d emigrated some years before and we hadn’t seen since.

I say 'normally' advisedly. For, in the meantime, I’d hit a problem. A big problem. Namely that my trousers and top were drenched, my suitcase had gone AWOL at Siem Reap airport and the hotel 'boutique' (selling, judging from its window display, mainly national costume) was closed for the night. Well, apart from throwing my arms in the air and screaming like a banshee, was there anything I could do? After much brain racking and picking, basically, er, no. Then, when all seemed lost, a Blue Peter moment! Or rather Michael Winner suddenly came to mind in that Siem Reap hotel room. (Siem Reap and Michael Winner together in the same sentence? Yes, I admit, an unlikely pairing). But why not make use of his favourite wheeze - the hotel hairdryer? (Does he keep falling into pools of water too, I couldn’t help wondering?)

Anyway, to cut a long (and extremely wet) story short, I managed to get the clothes dry enough so that they didn’t, well, cling. Yes, they still looked a bit damp and extremely crinkled (no, there was no time to iron too) but I tried to pass this off as the latest avant-garde Rei Kawakubo creation. If our friends noticed, they were too polite to comment and the evening went off quite well - or as well as can be expected in the circumstances.

Back at the hotel, P was about to have another laugh at my expense with the photo when he suddenly caught sight of a small parcel on his pillow. Far East hotels are in the habit of leaving bedside gifts at night - usually chocolates but I’ve come across anything from sashimi to a box of candles and even a miniature croquet set. (Had, I wondered, John Prescott once stayed there?)

Feeling peckish, P popped into his mouth one of the small conical, chocolate-coloured tidbits and started chewing - and, almost immediately, choking furiously. Spitting it out in panic, he glanced more closely at the tiny label on the parcel. No, those delicious-looking conical tidbits weren’t chocolates after all. Though the label simply read ‘lemongrass’ (British-style Health and Safety regulations have some way to go in Cambodia), a closer examination revealed them to be… miniature lemon grass-scented incense sticks.

It was some while before I got to sleep that night - for laughing…

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