Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Darling viewers, it's been the best of times and it's also been the worst of times, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.  What a fabulous learning curve it's been for me these past six and a half years.  I will leave Cambodia with many amazing memories and valuable life lessons, but also with a sense of sadness for a country which seems to be going nowhere.  I will start with a quote from a very well respected expat which was posted on Facebook today....
"There is no disputing that there are still a myriad of development, social, human rights and other problems facing ‪#‎Cambodia‬ today, largely as a result of a corrupt and self-serving government and an overtly willing international donor community that continues to fund essential social services the government should be responsible for.
However, given that there is now strong evidence to suggest instead of helping to elevate the development problems, the influx of voluntourists have instead directly contributed to some of the most dire development issues in countries like Cambodia, attributing to the explosion of unregulated orphanages and schools, poorly thought out environmental, social, and human rights projects, contributing to government and NGO corruption, and potentially taking away valuable jobs from local qualified tradespeople.
The truth, however, often can’t be further from their claims. In one example, two nurses from the US are attempting to raise $15,000 for them to come to Cambodia on an eight-day mission working with local medical clinics. What they failed to disclose on their crowdfunding website was the extraordinary cost of the eight-day trip included accommodation on a private island and daily boat transfers for them to visit the nearby island communities they will be working with."

So pets, my following reflections and questions, while I know they will be controversial, are not just my own and they will be backed up with some first hand examples and graphic pictures (some which may upset your sensitive souls).

While corruption exists in possibly every country, very few could claim to have such widespread and systemic corrupt standards as Cambodia.  Point in case.  since January this year the tax department has initiated a new tax system.  Previously tax was paid on an ad-hoc basis, with all foreigners targeted, but very few Khmers - resulting in the disproportionate numbers of extremely wealthy Khmers.  Tax was not based on your earnings, but rather on vague factors such as your location, type of business and how much bonus you gave your tax official at the end of each year as a Christmas present.

The new system is now based on your gross monthly profit.  Meaning that everyone's tax has just risen dramatically for the high season, but hopefully will be much lower during the low season.  Spending is not factored in but apparently can be claimed against next year. I will believe that when I see it, but guarantee that no-one will get a rebate.  

We can't even pay tax at the moment.  Our tax officer is constantly 'not in the office' and no-one else in the department is allowed to process our tax form.  To me that leads to a question of why is she the only person who can process our form?  Surely anyone in the department can take our money and issue a receipt? Or is she still receiving extra commission based upon the number of businesses she processes?

Where is our tax money going?  The infrastructure here is appalling.  Apart from a few new roads (and many of them have been built from foreign aid and by foreign companies) and fancy street lighting during festival times, infrastructure, except in the very few upmarket suburbs of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is sadly lacking.

 We have constant water shortages, in the past two weeks we have had at least 12 power outages, our streets and waterways are overflowing with garbage, the public hospital system is not only highly unprofessional but works on a user pay system where the more money you have the better treatment you get.  The poor are often left lying on the hospital floor and are lucky if they get more than a glucose drip which boosts their energy levels but does little to address the actual medical issues.

 Now let's look at ASPARA, that's the all high and powerful authority which is in charge of the Angkor Watt temple complex.  With over 2 million visitors a year and each of them paying a minimum of $20 to visit this authority is easily making over $40 million a year.  In the time I have been here there have been no major improvements to the roads approaching the temples (many tourists are complaining), no visible effort to protect this World Heritage sight from the damaging affects of massive tourism and very little has been done in the way of restoring them.

Restoration has been apparently happening since before I arrived here but there is very little visible evidence.  We often joke that it will take longer to complete the restoration than it did to actually build the temples.

NGO's pets.  That's non government organisations set up by caring individuals to assist in the development of Cambodia and all paid for by fund-raising.  They have been operating since 1993 and Cambodia has the second highest rate of NGO's per capita of any country in the world.  But in 23 years what has been achieved?   Poverty is still rampant, education levels are dismally low and the population has become dependant upon the hand out system.  They all expect to be given everything and do nothing except look poor and needy.

Before I go on I will say that there are some very good NGO's that I personally know and many who are trying to better communities through skill learning and providing self employment opportunities.  On the whole though it seems that very few are doing it out of sheer humanitarian reasons and are ensuring they are living the high life while 'looking caring'.  I mean they all seem to be able to afford to eat out at the most expensive restaurants in town, drink at the trendiest bars and live in luxury accommodation.  I've been working hard here and even though I can enjoy a better life than back in Australia, I still can't afford these type of luxuries!

Case in point pets.  Recently an acquaintance of mine who works for one of the 'good NGO's' and is a Khmer was recently funded by Australian donors to visit Sydney and host a round of talks and fundraisers for his organization.  I was really happy for him - it's rare that Khmer's get to travel and he was getting to see some of the best parts of Sydney.  Less than 6 months later and this same person is now holidaying in Bali!!!!  Even on an above average salary this would be a luxury for most Khmers.  Question: where did he get the money from?

Case number two:  One of my staff members is from a family of 10.  His parents don't work and live in apparently horrific conditions in a tin shed, with limited electricity and running water.  Another NGO organisation operates in his village and all the children are sponsored by well meaning tourists and caring people from overseas.  His parents however have a large farm outside of town and many of their 'children' are brought in from the countryside to showcase to the visitors.

Once sponsorship is sealed the children are put into orphanages until they are old enough to work on the streets, selling books, begging or whatever to make money for the parents.  When the organization informs the family that they will be visiting and bringing possible donors the children are taken out of the orphanage to make the family look poor and needy.  I suppose you could use the analogy of a 'Potemkin's village'.  Meanwhile the older children are working, paying for their own education and still giving money back to their parents who do absolutely nothing to provide (in the western sense) for their offspring.

Then there is the people themselves.  You only have to spend a day or two here to realize that everyone is for sale.  It's easier than actually working.  There is no thought for tomorrow only thinking about what they can get today.  This is again evidence of the impact of the 'care giving' by NGO's and the tourists who 'feel good' by throwing a few dollars at the cute but needy children they are constantly confronted by.

I know after all my blogs about boys that I will sound hypocritical.  And possibly I am.  But having been both a protagonist and antagonist I will defend myself by saying that I have never taken advantage or short-changed any boy in my time here (unlike a recent guest who left early claiming that 'he never pays for sex'....jeez I wish that when I'm 76 I don't have to either!!!!!  But honestly pets I find it sad that these boys and girls (except a tiny few) don't seem to have any thought for tomorrow.

They truly believe that another tourist or ex-pat will come along and give them enough money to last them a few more days.  These boys generally give as little as possible (and I don't blame them) but promise everything.  'I love you, I miss you'.  So many of our guests have been taken in by this.  Giving email and FB contacts only to be pestered constantly by these boys for requests for money with a myriad of excuses....'my grandmother died'.....I need to pay for my sister's education'.....' my moto got stolen'......

What they don't seem to be able to grasp is that this will only work in the short term.  One day they will be just a little too old and a whole lot under-skilled and end up like my friend, living on the streets and desperately trying to find a job and money too feed himself.

Then there is there total lack of respect for other people. You can see it on the roads, you can see it in the way they litter and vandalize the environment, you can see it in the way the rich treat the poor, the way the poor treat they rural (darker skinned) class, and the way they all treat the ethnic minorities.

Most horrifyingly you can see it everyday on FB in the way they glorify death and mutilation.  They seem to have a fixation with death and the type of gore you only see in other countries if you watch The Walking Dead.  It's really scary to realise that behind this land of smiling faces lies a violent and detached attitude towards life.  The following picture (don't look if you are squeamish) was posted today on FB and is just one of countless I see everyday posted by my Khmer friends.  I get the feeling that Pol Pot didn't need to do much convincing to get these people to commit the atrocities that they all say were  forced upon them and thus placing them in the circumstances that they are still 'recovering' from.

Then there is the expat community itself darlings.  In all my days I have never come across a more vindictive or bitchy group of people who are sadly gathered in one spot.  Even today there is a viscous rumour going around about a well known local expat businessman who is apparently being connected to the murder of 3 Australian children way back in 1966.  Even though the Australian news is not giving any details except his age, the town seems to have all decided that he is guilty.  From what I have read and seen I am yet to be convinced that he has anything to do with this except that he happened to be living in the same city at the time of the murders.  I may be proven wrong but (as a person who has been through the Salem Witch Trials Siem Reap style) I strongly believe in thinking the best of everyone and judging them on what I know of their character and actions - not on vicious rumour mongoring.

I guess it must be a combination of the heat, the daily annoyances of living in a third world country or just being isolated in a small, incestuous town that leads the expat community here (again I am generalizing) to be so nasty and backstabbing.  There are some wonderful people living here, moi for example, and a small group of others who I have met but overall it's a nasty town where people all seem to have the small poppy syndrome.  

So my darling viewers, you will have guessed by now that I am leaving.  Yes pets, we have sold the business and the money is firmly in the bank.  We leave at the end of the month so this will be my penultimate blog.  I will write again once I am settled and starting my new adventure (which may not be for some time).

As I said in my very first blog I'm going to be controversial and I think this will possibly upset a lot of people.  Again I reiterate there are some good people here, both Khmer and expat, but in six and a half years, I have only met a very few of these.  I won't leave with any regrets or malice.  I truly have enjoyed my time here and believe it has made me a better and wiser person.  To my darling viewers I can't thank you enough for your support and encouragement and I wish you all the very best for the future.

So I'm off to a better place, where the grass is definitely greener, but my future is yet to be determined.  How very exciting! So once settled I will let you know about my new start in life and hopefully my new blog.  You are the best.  YOU ARE GLAMOROUS AND YOU ARE FABULOUS AND I LOVE YOU ALL.



Friday, May 27, 2016

Viewers, viewers, viewers I'm back and the theme for this blog is 'it never rain but if pours' pets!

Thankfully darlings that's exactly what's been happening in the time since I last blogged.  We have had 5 enormous tropical downpours with lashings of rain and wind.  Now I've never minded a good lashing but I've always been put off by wind - eeeeuuuuw.

We are so thankful for the rain and the slightly cooler temperatures but none of us are 'singing in the rain' yet. After 7 months of drought we are just thankful that we have had enough rain to make everything look greener and give the farmers some hope.  We are just hoping it keeps up as it will only take 4 or 5 days of hot weather to put us straight back into drought and ruin the newly planted crops, but as I type the clouds are looming heavily and looking promising.

After waiting weeks for any response to our selling of the guesthouse we were contacted by 3 people who all came for a viewing and then a local real estate agent.  The 3 viewings were interested but didn't give the impression that they were ready to move soon.  We stuck to our guns and didn't offer any discounts as the price we are asking, plus the lease terms, are a bargain.

The estate agent however was a different story.  He not only jumped on the wagon but insisted we increase our price - something which we weren't keen to do- and promised us that he had at least 4 parties who were currently searching for a property.  True to his word he called us the next day and organized the first viewing.  They came and spent over 2 hours viewing and talking with my partner.  They left very excited and asking us to arrange a meeting with our landlord to ensure that the lease terms and rental conditions advertised would be certified.  They were and two days late we had taken a deposit!

Ooooahhh pets.  Now I'm not going to jump the gun as the next down-payment isn't due until Friday and that's when we will know that they are committed, but they have since visited twice and are asking if they can drop in before Friday to take some photos 'for their designer'.  Keep your fingers crossed darlings....I really need to get out of here.

So it never rains but it pours.....coz you are all wanting to know the dirty bits I'll just slip in that my Khmer friend is still staying with us.  What a darling he is.  He is doing really well in his new job and managing to earn a few extra dollars after closing time by doing moto taxi rides.  He hasn't asked us for anything and is being helpful around the place as well as accommodating.  It was his birthday last week and he asked if his friend could stay over to celebrate.  Of course I said yes and the three of us had a fabulous night eating and drinking somewhere near the Night Market before retiring to his room to carry on the festivities.  Are you jealous yet darlings?

The best thing about having him staying here is that we have become really good friends. Admittedly friends with benefits but that is a mutual decision.  For only the second time in six years I actually have someone who I can talk with openly and honestly about everything and someone who is keen to do the same.  It will be sad to leave him (I've been writing this over 4 days and the deal is hopefully about to be settled in just over an hour) just as we are becoming close friends but that's life.  He will be one of the few decent and honest people I have met since I arrived here.

Now darlings, I'm going to leave it here and finish with a copy of the response I have had to send to regarding an absolutely dreadful guest we had this week who I eventually ended up asking to leave.  It's been on and off with guest this month, either we have been flat out or we have days where we have only one or two guests.  Thankfully this guest arrived in a quiet period, just after we had a house full of fabulous guests - including a lovely Australian (straight) guy who comes from Newtown in Sydney - one of the trendiest and gayest suburbs and one where I lived for over 6 years.  We had a great time talking about all the old haunts and it was a shame to see him go - especially after he managed to get his hands on all sorts of party favourites which we shared.....


Anyhoo, it looks like I'm getting out of here and as you will see by the following incident (one of only 3 in 6 years) not before time.....

 ' the guest had organized to be picked up to meet an acquaintance whom I also know.  This person had given me her contact details to pass onto the driver if needed.  The driver was supposed to be organized by the third party.  A few minutes before his due pick up time Mr Lenz came to our reception quite agitated and asked me to call this person.  When I got no response on the phone he became verbally abusive. He then managed to call the person his  phone and began yelling and swearing at her on the phone before she apparently hung up on him, at which point (while I was trying to organize another driver for him) he stormed over towards me  swearing and banging his fist aggressively on the reception desk. He was politely asked to refrain from doing this but again yelled at me and hit the desk once again.  My partner came in and eventually we managed to calm him down.
Twice he had me ring a driver then cancel as he couldn't make up his mind whether or not to go to his meeting, even though I had assured him I knew the location he was going to and had managed to contact our mutual friend by pm on Facebook and confirm where he would meet her.

He then had breakfast and returned asking me to find out details about a trip to (his words) Amon Van.  I had not heard of this place, neither had my staff when asked.  He continued to be rude insisting that I should know where it was as it was 'the most famous place in Cambodia).  I googled his request and was given the suggestion to 'try Anlong Veng'.  This I did (and confirmed with Mr Lenz) and then got my staff to ring a driver to enquire about the cost and time duration of the trip.  Khmer language is complicated and this information took about 4 minutes to attain - during this time Mr Lenz twice asked me if my receptionist 'was a fucking idiot'.  I did not take the bait and simply informed him the conversation appeared lengthy  due to the language differences.  When my receptionist confirmed the price $70 for a 300km round trip he accused our hotel of 'trying to fucking rip him off'.  Again I explained that this was a fair price for a car and driver for that trip but suggested if he wanted to find a cheaper option he could go to a nearby travel agent.  This he did.

Upon his return a few hours later he again approached me for help asking me to organize a tuk tuk to take him to 'the bus station' the following morning.  When I asked him which bus company he was using and tried to explain that there are 3 different bus stations he went into a rage.  Calling me a 'fucking idiot' and telling me that I had 'fucking ruined his trip'.  This is a short version of the swear words he threw at me.

At this point my still calm reply was 'I have done nothing all morning except try and help you but you have been rude and aggressive. Please let me get my partner to deal with this'.  When I tried to go outside to get my partner Mr Lenz blocked my path and again began aggressively abusing me and pointing his finger repeatedly at me.  At this point I asked him to leave.  While he was still yelling my partner came in and told him to calm down or we would call the police.

Mr Lenz stormed off to his room and came down demanding a refund.  I reminded him that he had not provided his credit card details on his booking so had not paid anything.  As he was leaving, he called us 'fucking dumb Australians' and then suggested we should pay him money or he 'would write a fucking bad review'.  At this point my partner did stand up to him and advise him not to do so as we had his details and would report any such action.

I apologize for the lengthy details and quoted language.  This is only a simple and shortened version of the incidents.  Basically I was subjected to over 2 hours of angry, abusive treatment by Mr Lenz. At no time did I respond with anything but a helpful approach. We have recorded proof of all of this on our reception CCTV and are happy to submit it should you require.

We did not charge the guest.

The decision to ask him to leave was based upon his extremely unbalanced, unwarranted and aggressive behaviour.

As a footnote, yesterday while sitting in a restaurant in town Mr Lenz happened to walk past and stuck his finger up at me and called me a 'fucking asshole'. I did not respond.'

Until next time pets, stay fabulous, be glamorous and don't be an asshole like Mr Lenz.  Mwaaaah!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Darling viewers it's hot, hot, hot!  Not only that but it's dry and dusty and we are all still melting.  Today we are lucky as the temperature has only peaked at 38.1C (100F) and so far the power has stayed on.

You must be getting sick of me complaining about the heat pets?  It's been almost 2 months of 38+ temperatures every day now and in the past 7 months we have only had 2 brief rain showers.  The whole country is in 'the worst drought for decades', cattle are dying in the fields, farmers are unable to plant, and entire communities, including many parts of Temple Town are without water.

In the meantime I've been doing everything and nothing.  It's either dead quiet with only two or three rooms booked, or it's all go with over half the rooms booked and being low season less staff to help handle the workload.  Luckily we have our regulars who tend to come in the off season as many places in town have been near to empty since Khmer New Year ( I have my gossip sources pets). When the guests are out I'm busy trying to keep cool doing as little as possible - so forgive me in advance if this blog takes longer to write.

Everything has it's positive side though possums, and with the drought the town is becoming full of lovely young country boys (and a few girls) who are flocking here in droves in the hopes of finding work.  Our daily dog walk has had to change as, after the spoils of the eye candy, the daily pleading for money or boom boom is both irritating and sad.  If we gave to every young boy that asked we'd be penniless in a week.  However it is really sad seeing these youths trying hard to earn a few dollars just to keep themselves fed. The sad reality of living in a third world country with no welfare system pets.

On the plus side though we have been able to help a good friend out.  I mentioned him a blog or two back.  He was the boy who came from Thailand with his friend and stayed one night before returning to his family farm if you remember.  Anyhoo, just over a week ago he turned up, bless him, looking very thin and dirty.  He came to ask us if he could have a shower and use the phone as he wanted to apply for a job he had seen advertised. 

Long story short, after he told us he had been sleeping rough for two nights in the park, my fabulous partner, offered him a room for as long as needed and then re-typed his CV (which was dirty and crumpled) and I gave him some clean clothes.  It took him 3 shifts (battling it out with six other candidates) and no pay before he finally managed to get the one job on offer.  He, and we, were so happy.  So now he has a full time job, a place to stay, and moi to provide some extra comforts.  Happy days for all pets!

Talking of getting my end done well for the past month or so that's all that's been happening.  The Orphanage has glammed up their entrance and extended across the road into the park.  Just the other day the children and staff were all out there digging a garden bed.  It's going to look fabulous - they've dug out the word SUNRISE in metre high letters and planted portulacas (see pets I'm quite the bottamist), which when fully grown will be a wonderful flowering garden.  It will add to our efforts in the park and make a really pretty vista for our guests.

Just down the road, toward the Old Market, they have bulldozed all the old wooden shack shops and are now in the process of building two new villas.  Finally our street will now start looking clean, tidy and a bit more upmarket. Not to mention that without the half dozen shops the rubbish will be less and the parked cars and motos will lessen thus decreasing both the traffic congestion and the noise.  Now the authorities just have to keep up with the infrastructure, aka constant power and water supply and we will all be happy.

On the same note the authorities have been out in full force during the past few weeks working with boats to clear the river of all the rubbish, algae and grass that has almost choked it due to the low water levels.  They are out there morning and afternoon  gathering the pond scum and putting it to good use as compost on the trees that have been for so long neglected.  It seems a positive change is in the air.

Now I know I said I was over the clean up campaign pets, but I just can't help myself.  We've got one on again next weekend.  It's not my initiative but rather from one of our new and very eager members.  God bless her darlings, she has such enthusiasm, but asked me for some help which I was only to pleased to give her.  I have been busy private messaging back and forth and introducing her to many of my influential members.  In just over a week I have managed to get the number of participants from just 5 to nearly 100.  I'll join in on the day but only for photo opportunities - it's definitely time to take an advisory role and let someone else do all the leg work.

Anyhoo viewers, there's not much more to talk about.  It's the quietest month of the year, and the hottest, and the town is dead.  Thankfully we have our regulars and just this morning we managed to snag a 3 month booking (deposit paid) for June, July and August from a lovely young Russian couple.  I could tell you about the night my partner went to Phnom Penh and I had a fabulous time.....

Nothing was planned and due to the heat I was seriously intending on spending the night upstairs under the air-conditioning and watching TV.  The best laid plans of mice and men....

My friends dropped in around 2pm and we spent the next few hours chatting and drinking before they invited me over for dinner and (more) drinks.  Had a great night and it was good to be away from the guesthouse for once.  Unfortunately, after many drinks and a few unexpected party favourites, my receptionist rang me to say he just had a 3 room booking on the phone and they were arriving within the hour.

As he was by himself I had to rush back, thankfully I was in a condition to rush, and got back a few minutes before they arrived.  We settled them in and luckily they mentioned that they were leaving at 5.30am as they were only stopping overnight before flying back to Bangkok the following morning.  So I was left all dressed up with nowhere to go and itching for some fun.  Just by chance I got a message from one of my regular boys who wanted to see me, so I invited him over.  A few beers later and we spent a fabulous hour or so doing room inspections before he left, not without sending on a 'new friend' to help me see it through till the morning.

I mean what can you do pets?  So many young men here and so little time.  Best to make the most of it while you can.  So I did and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I definitely paid for it the following day.  I managed to nod off around 4am, but the guests woke me up shortly after making way too much noise as they left.  So I stumbled through the day, in 40 degree heat with a hangover, and then got the shock of my life when my partner arrived back hours earlier than expected.

It didn't take him more than 5 minutes to bust me.  Bless him, he didn't care and even offered to buy Khmer take away for dinner from next door, while I finally made it upstairs to cool down and get some much needed rest.  I'm hoping he has to go again soon viewers.  Life is so much more fun when your (almost) single.

Anyhoo, until next time.  STAY GLAMOROUS AND BE FABULOUS.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Still in recovery mode from Khmer New Year viewers!  Not that I participated in any of it but it was certainly a week that I won't forget in a while. 

It all started 2 days before the official day on the 11th when we had a  'taxi' driver come in and talk with my receptionist about booking rooms.  When he left my receptionist was busy filling in the bookings sheet and I was surprised to see that he was charging $30 per night for each room.

Now as you know pets we have never taken advantage of the 'festival days' as most Khmers do and generally don't raise our rates.  When I questioned my receptionist as to why he was overcharging them he told me that the driver had told the guests it was $35 per night per room.  So the driver was making $50 per night on the rooms and $150 for the 3 days bookings - now that's more than he would generally make in a month, plus he was going to be earning money driving the guests around.

With the pricing obviously affordable and expected from the thousands of Khmers arriving we closed off all our rooms and put a sign on the gate advertising all our rooms at $30 per night and by the end of the 14th we had all rooms fully booked for 5 days and deposits taken.  Well I won't say it was a nightmare but it was definitely a trial.

The Khmer's are always easy guests.....they generally spend all day at the temples and don't come back until around 11pm.  However they come in there hundreds and each morning they spent at least 3 hours running in and out of rooms and stomping around downstairs before they all eventually leave.  On the first day my partner decided he wasn't coming down until after 10am and stuck to his plan for the rest of the holiday.

I spent the entire 5 days downstairs, organizing room cleaning, making sure there were enough sheets and towels available and turning away enquiry after enquiry from Khmers who just kept arriving expecting to find a free room.

On the first morning I got halfway down the stairs and managed to tread on something that was very warm and squelchy.  A dirty nappy that one of them had left on the first stair during the night - eeeeuuw pets!

The town was absolutely packed for 5 days.  We tried walking the dogs on the 14th and couldn't even make it to the roundabout (less than 200 metres from us) before we turned around and walked the other way.  Every night there was a constant stream of cars, moto's and pedestrians jamming every inch of town.  Music blaring from every restaurant and house, fireworks and thousands of Khmers all running around throwing talcum powder at eachother and squirting everyone with water guns.  Needles to say pets, we stayed inside.

With the town jammed packed and DJ stations set up on every corner it was inevitable that we would have power blackouts.  On the 14th everything crashed around 2am but thankfully only lasted for 2 hours before the power was restored.  On the 15th the power went out just after 2am and didn't come back on until 1.30pm that day. No shower, the hottest recorded temperature since 1960 of 42.7 celcius (107 Fahrenheit) and poor moi sitting in a dripping pool of sweat praying the power would come back on before the last of the ice melted.

I manage to make through the day and the first set of guests while my partner managed to spend the entire day asleep upstairs before coming down just after the power returned.  I spent nearly 30 minutes under a cold shower - I really didn't give a damn about the drought we are currently experiencing before coming down to be met by a new group of Khmer arrivals.

They hadn't been in the rooms for more than 20 minutes before they started to come down and head for the temples.  I'm sitting there, under the fan, enjoying a  cold bevvy and the next thing there is this god almighty crash and the sound of breaking glass.

One of the guests, a young boy of about 14, had managed to come running down and plough straight through our glass window next to the entry door.  The only thing I could do was grab the dogs and chain them up before looking at my partner (the kid is still on the ground in a pool of glass) and saying you have to deal with this I just can't cope.

Thankfully the boy only had a few minor cuts and my receptionist took him and his father to the hospital while my partner cleaned up the broken glass.  They were more upset at the damage they had caused than any injuries to their child and quite rightly offered to pay for the damages.  All well and good but being KNY we are still waiting for the glass man to come and replace the window.  Meanwhile I've got $40 in my pocket from the guests but it's not helping stop the 40+ degree heat from invading my reception area.

Anyhoo, there's been tragedy galore as was to be expected with crazy and mostly drunken Khmers drink driving all over the country.  Over 350 people were killed in road accidents during the holiday.  Even today we are still watching moto's and drivers skidding and sliding on the still talcum powdered covered roads. 

The biggest tragedy of all however (besides the death of Prince pets) was that yesterday one of the elephants used for tourist rides at the temples died of heat exhaustion.  The owners are blaming it on the lack of tourists and said they don't have enough money to feed and water them).  The truth is that they aren't prepared to spend the money on taking care of the animals and that many tourists don't stop to think that riding an elephant in 40 degree heat is cruel.  We've all signed a petition to ask the Apsara authority to ban the elephant tourist rides at the Temples.  So if you visit pet's try and refrain from exploiting these poor creatures and being a part of animal cruelty.

So on to the sale of our business pets.  We weren't expecting to sell it overnight and quite frankly it's not imperative that we do.  My partner has got an open offer of a job with his sister's firm in Belgrade and as much as we would both like to move there we are quite firm in that we aren't desperate to sell in order to move.  Surprisingly we have had quite a bit of interest but so far most offers have seemed to be a waste of our time and an insult to what we are offering.

We are selling a fully equipped guest-house, situated on the river and only 5 minutes walk to the Old Market and Pub St.  Our reviews on Trip Advisor, Agoda and are consistently high and we have a regular clientèle of regulars who visit at least 3 or 4 times a year. That's why we had a better than expected September/October last year when other places were empty.

 The only work that needs doing is purely aesthetic and the place is ready to move into and operate with minimal effort.  On top of that we have a rooftop 40 square metre apartment that would rent out anywhere else in town for a minimum of $300 per month. Our next door neighbour rents roughly 80 sq metres and pays $200 per month - our rooftop is bigger than that and our downstairs breakfast area is only slightly smaller.

Anyhoo, we had one interested buyer who visited us 4 times over a period of 5 days.  He made it clear that he wouldn't keep the name as he already runs a guesthouse in Temple Town (about 2 km from the centre) and was looking to extend his current operations.  He also was amazed at the rental price, which is $850 per month (including the new tax) as there is nothing in town to be had for under $1000 per month.

He asked us for an inventory stating that he didn't want to have any issues with the building owner.  So I spent half a day listing all the fixed assets (which remain with the building) and the rest of the furnishings etc.  We gave it to him and he said he would return the next day after looking at it.  He returned and started to explain to my partner that after looking at the inventory he was willing to offer us a price that was less than half of what we are asking!

My partner didn't even let him finish trying to justify his pricing reasons.  As he said we are selling an existing business with everything included not holding a garage sale!  I mean pets it's like going into McDonald's and asking for a Big Mac, but without the cheese, pickles, special sauce, extra beef patty and wanting to get a discount.  Why don't you just order a Cheeseburger idiot?!?

Our second offer has been an ongoing email affair.  It all boils down to 'I have talked to people I know in town and they suggest buying a business in Phnom Penh'.  Fine darling.  But try and find a business in Phnom Penh that is in a prime location, has a good reputation and existing clientèle, plus accommodation for the same price and don't expect to rent anything for $850 per month that is bigger than a shoebox.  Today (yes pets I've taken a break between blogging) and they are advertising a 2000sq m block of land in Phnom Penh for $1.2 million!!!!

The best part is that they are asking if they can make a down payment and then pay us the remaining amount at a future date.  Like we are going to stay here and wait for them to come up with the remaining money.  At just under $40K it's a steal and they know it.  So we'll sit and wait and continue, maybe even start a few new ideas to both build the business and keep ourselves motivated until a realistic buyer comes along.

In the meantime things around our end of town are improving to our benefit.  Firstly the new bus station is going to be located at the now demolished Crocodile Farm.  It's only 400 metres away from us and the buses will have to enter using the 'ring road' and newly widened connecting road, meaning they won't be driving past us but many of the passengers will be walking past as it's close enough enough to town to walk.

The orphanage next door is scaling down and turning their building into a cafe and training centre, which will mean less noise and more tourists right next to us.  Combine that with the cheap and delicious Khmer restaurant next door to us and guests won't even have to go into town if they don't feel like it.  My parter is now seriously considering re-vamping our bar to take advantage of the extra tourist traffic as that's the only thing that's missing in our location.

That's enough for now viewers.  The glass man still hasn't arrived and I'm melting.  It's very hard to stay glamorous and be fabulous when your bathed in sweat but I'm sure I'll manage it.  My biggest issue is that I have to drink quicker as my cocktails start getting warm before I'm halfway through.

Well the glass man arrived, unfortunately not cute, and the window is fixed.  Two 'believe it or nots' just happened.  Firstly the guests whose son took out the window just arrived....god bless them.  They have been in Battambang for a week's holiday and are on there way back to PP and decided to spend a night with us.  Thankfully they boy managed to find the door this time.  Secondly our part-time receptionist arrived shortly after the glass was fixed and as he has been using the open window as an entry point for a week, came straight in and hit the glass.  Ha Ha Ha.

Until next time........mwahhh!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sousday ch'nam tmey pets.  Happy Khmer New Year.  It's almost upon us and if I don't start writing now I won't have time to finish this before the seething hordes of Khmer guests arrive.  Already the town is filling up.  The decorations are being erected and a massive cleaning project is under way all along the river.  They have even put in about a dozen new concrete benches in the park which will provide much needed sleeping space during the four day festival.

It never rains but it pours. That's the theme of this weeks blog.  Not in the literal sense as we are going through one of the worst droughts since I have lived here.  Not a drop of rain for over 6 months and this week the daily temperatures have been hitting 40 every day.  The only thing pouring is the sweat down our backs. It's like living in a oven and we still have another month at least of this weather to expect.

Anyhoo it's all about love/hate and this time I've got an equal amount of both to rant on about but I'll start with the good bits.

We had a lovely night out celebrating our friend's wedding.  Thankfully it was only the final reception night we were invited to so it was short and sweet without having to sit through all the traditional ceremonial parts and not understand anything that was happening.  It was held in a lovely reception room on the river.  All decked out in white and green silk with lovely matching floral arrangements.  I wore my nicest lilac and white flowered silk shirt so I was very coordinated - as usual.

A great night sitting with friends, who brought along lots of cute boys to adorn the table.  Delicious Khmer food, which just kept coming and lots of beer and stout.  Not my favourite drinks but after the first few it all tastes good.  We stayed for about 3 hours and then headed off to The Station Wine Bar for an invitation only 're-opening' night.

That was even more fun as all our friends and acquaintances were there and the wine and beer was free flowing until midnight.  We chatted with just about everyone, watched a fabulous show and left just before midnight.  A little too drunk and too hot to do anything but crash in bed under the air -con.

A few nights after that we were invited to one of our friends (and ex tuk tuk driver) to enjoy an early New Year evening with his family and friends. Again another great night of free food and beer (admittedly warm but with ice to help cool it down) and lots of dancing and karaoke all performed by drunk and yummy country boys.  It's fun to watch them enjoying themselves.  After a few drinks they lose all inhibition and just want everyone to have a good time.  I was nearly fainting from heat exhaustion as I was hardly allowed to sit down and kept being dragged off my seat to dance with the boys.  I wasn't complaining pets.

Then on Wednesday just past we were invited to our friend's house for dinner and drinks.  It was just the four of us and we were halfway through the night, having a great time, when our receptionist rang and said we had a problem with one of our guests. Not thinking it was too major my partner decided to drive back and deal with it and return as soon as possible.  Half an hour later he rang and said the guest was quite sick and he was going to take him to the International Hospital and wait to make sure the guest was okay.  He said I could stay as long as I wanted but had to make my own way home.

So my friends and I partied a little too hard and then I rang home just before 11pm to say I was on my way home.  My partner said that everything was fine with the guest (who was now back in his room) and that he was already in bed so wasn't coming to pick me up.  Now our friends live quite a way out of town, but close to the main highway.  They wanted to call a tuk tuk but being so far out of town I said I was happy for them to walk me to the main road and just grab a passing one.

Just to get back on theme pets. It never rains but it pours.  We hardly been out socializing in months and in a fortnight we get invited to four different events.

Talking of it never rains but it pours.  The tuk tuk I managed to flag down in the middle of nowhere just happened to be a lovely young man who  I had dallied with quite some time ago and hadn't seen for ages.  They come and go here all the time.  Anyhoo he was amazed to see me and arriving back at the guesthouse I invited him in to have a beer.  In all fairness possums, I did go up and see my partner to see if he wanted to join us for a drink, but he was half asleep and just told me not to stay up to late. YAY!

Of course, one drink led to another, and that led to the other.  It's been way too long but I'm never one to hinder international relations pets.

Then two nights ago, another boy who I hadn't seen for over a year, arrives at the guest house in the afternoon with a cute friend.  Turns out he had been working in Thailand, where he was over-worked, underpaid, and eventually put in jail for 10 days because he had crossed the border illegally.  None of the Khmer workers cross legally - they all pay a small bribe at the border and then stay as long as possible doing dreadful menial work for next to nothing (but more than they can earn here) and if they are lucky they get to bring some savings home to help their families.

Anyhoo, he was looking for somewhere to stay before heading back to his family and as we had a free room we offered him a place to stay for the night without charging him.  Sometimes it's just nice to help people.  Both he and his friend were so grateful.  They were amazed that we let them sleep in one of our guest rooms....'I've never slept anywhere like this in my life' was his comment as he asked us if we were sure it was okay.

So after they showered (they even asked us if it was okay to use the shower!) they went out for a few hours and then came back and my partner offered them a beer.  I was already dagged out upstairs watching TV but he called me down as they boys went out and got some Khmer take away and wanted to share it with us.  So we spent a few hours eating and drinking before my partner decided to go to bed.  I honestly wasn't planning anything (as I honestly thought that would seem unfair and make them feel like they were only being offered a room with conditions) but as I was saying I was going to go to sleep my friend asked me why I didn't want to go to his room.

Well, what could I say pets?  I couldn't lie.  He is one of the hottest boys on my (very full Khmer dance card) and he was as keen as I was.  It turned out that his equally as hot friend was up for it also.  Didn't speak a word of English but who needs to talk when body language is universal.  So as I said, it never rains but it pours possums.  Haven't played up for months and it all comes at once.  Even now I'm getting texts from former friends all keen to meet up....It's Khmer New Year and they obviously need spending money.

Anyhoo, I definitely needed the fun times of the past few weeks.  As usual there is always something or some-one in town ready to bring you down.  It happened again pets.  About 3 weeks ago some-one decided to repost the details of my past on the 'Expats and Locals FB page'.  Now I didn't know about it at the time as I have left the group.  Not because of what was said about me, but because I decided that I was sick of all the bitching, complaining and accusations that many expats seem all to keen to pursue.  My sensitive nature and sense of fairness just can't take it and so to keep myself from getting into bitch fights I decided it was better to stay away from it all.

Unfortunately it seems you can't even do that here.  Now I don't know if some-one has a personal issue with me or if they are trying to defame our business in order to try and buy us out at a ridiculously low price but whatever the reason it hasn't made much difference to me.  Sure pet's I was a little upset when I found out, but if you read my other blog 'Gay Daze' then you will know that I've been through bigger shit than this and it takes a lot to knock me down. As they say 'if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger'.  And that's exactly what's happened.

Trying to defame me for something I did or didn't do over 12 years ago is just plain mean and petty.  The only people who have been hurt are the people I have been supporting with my various donations and clean up events over the past 5 years.  As a result of this new posting two charities have decided they no longer require 'my kindness'.  That's no skin of my teeth but now there is one family and one community who will be a little less well off all because people choose to believe the worst and base me on a long gone incident rather than the person I have proven to be during my time in Temple Town.

I could also go on about double standards pets.  One of the charities is run by a person who lives in a luxury villa, decorated to a 5 star hotel standard and all paid for by donations which are meant to go to the poverty stricken people in her community whose shacks surround her 'estate'.  I'm sure if there was an auditor that they would find her expenses to be slightly dodgy to say the least.  But I'm not a bitch pets so I won't go there.

What it has done is give me time to reflect and make decisions on both my past and my future.  Regarding my past, not only talking for many hours with a well known journalist who after much research stated that they actually believed I was a targeted victim of police corruption, but also on reflecting on the incident itself.  I actually believe that I was indeed innocent, but due to the now redundant laws (I just watched a similar case on Australian TV and the laws have been changed due to legal discrepancies in the previous law) I didn't stand a chance.  Top that off with having no money to get a top solicitor, being threatened with eviction from my own house, meaning I would have had less money to support my case, and on bad advice from my career councillor, I didn't stand a chance.  

Due to my own naivety, my desire to protect my partner and our house which we had just built and were paying off, and due to the (now obviously bias and unconcerned) handling of the case by the solicitor I truly believe I was just made a scape-goat.  How can some-one be charged with evidence which didn't even belong to them?  A fact which was never brought up in court.  It really smarts to think that I was not clever or rich enough to be able to challenge this with the above facts.  It smarts even more to think that if the same were to happen today then the prosecution and police would have to 'prove' rather than 'deem' that I had acted in a criminal manner.

Anyhoo, what's done is done pets.  Unfortunately it's affected a lot of people unfairly, including myself and as it seems that trying to be a 'role model' here is something that many expats now want to challenge, I have decided to give up on my efforts to make this town a cleaner and safer place.  It's moi time again.  So I'm going to make the most of it, have fun and not give a damn about what others think.  Life is too short to have to deal with dickheads.

In my next issue I'll have lots of news about Khmer New Year and tell you all about the so far ridiculous offers we have had for the business, which coincidently is doing really well, even though it's low season, and Khmer New Year bookings aside - we've got bookings right through till September already.

So take that who ever you are.  I'm loud and I'm proud and I'm here for as long as I need to be.  I will stay glamorous and be fabulous and you do too darling viewers.  Mwaaaah!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Happy Easter darling viewers.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and I'm sure you all went hunting for little chocolate eggs.  You'll be pleased to know that I have risen and am chomping at the bit to blog, blog, blog.

Despite blacking out on Saturday (youthful memories pets) all is fine in Temple Town and there's been all sorts happening.  We had an (announced) all day power outage on Saturday as the powers that be have finally seen the light - no pun intended possums- and are actually erecting proper power lines to connect us with Thailand.  It's true and almost unbelievable but we actually went for a moto ride and saw them in action.  One could almost believe we were in a first world country.  Anyhoo lets hope that by the time they finish we will finally have regular power and a constant voltage.

Actually it's not been a bad season in terms of power outages so the work they have been doing must be positive. Normally we have a power outage at least once a week during high season but this year we have only had two and both have been planned.  So hats off to the Electric just lower the prices pets and we'll all be happy.

Then there has been a concerted and noticeable effort by the local government to do some town cleaning. It's been wonderful to watch the town finally getting a regular and long needed clean by the people who should be doing it in the first place.  Obviously I am more persuasive than I thought pets.  Anyhoo they've been at it for weeks and on Friday they even enlisted the local police to get down and dirty and clean all along the riverbank.

The cynical side of me (can you believe I actually have one poppets?) would say it's all being done for Khmer New Year and by the end of the month we'll be back to piles of garbage festering in the streets for weeks on end in 40 degree heat - which it has been for most of this week and I nearly melted - but the optimist in me says maybe we are seeing a change for the better and for good.  It would be rather redundant if it's only being done for Khmer New Year, as all the visitors will be Khmers and mostly coming from Phnom Penh which is the dirtiest city I have ever seen.  They won't even notice it and, in fact, will trash the town in no time.

Anyhoo pets enough of cleaning and on to the juicy bits.  I know you've all been waiting.  Well it's been a gay old time here at River Queen.  Although not our busiest of months it's definitely been a lovely month with wonderful guests and lots of pretty boys coming and going (and coming and coming) and I'm not complaining.  It will be sad to see our lovely Danish guest go at the end of the month after a very pleasant stay of 6 months - but all good things must come to an end and again we will be sad to see him go.

Talking of pretty boys pets, our neighbours have been impressing us lately with their efforts in tidying up their house (I can't get of cleaning can I pets?) and seemingly improving their lot.  It's all due to the new addition to the house.  The house is owned by a Khmer family who live in America (Murica) and the grandchildren who live in the house.  Anyhoo there's the eldest boy (who spent 6 months in prison for drug dealing), Lupy Lou (whose a few biscuits short of the barrel pets), her sister ( also not all quite there) and their ladyboy sister/brother who has recently acquired a very hot, young boyfriend....

It seems that not only is he gorgeous but he has had a great impact upon the household.  They have been out daily cleaning and removing years of accumulated rubbish from around the house, watering the plants, and generally acting like a normal family.  The ex drug dealer has even managed to buy himself a tuk tuk (not sure where the money came from but who am I to judge) and it's a pleasure to finally be living next to normal neighbours and not seeing piles of rubbish. Not too mention looking out and seeing a hot boy in nothing but shorts, flexing his muscles and sweating. Ooohaaah pets!

So enough about me and on to the wonderful adventures of my staff.  This time it's all about Bros.  Bros has been with us since day one.  We actually knew him before we opened the business and he was working at a local restaurant/bar.  He approached us about a job and on telling us that he was working 12 hours a day, six days a week for $50 plus tips we immediately offered him a position at double the pay and I don't think either he or we have looked back.

Bros is the cog that keeps our engine running.  Despite his incredibly hard life and all too many set backs he is amazing.  Always hard working, always smiling and always there when we need him.  He supports a wife and beautiful young daughter, plus a wicked mother in law and until recently a very horrible brother in law (who contributed nothing to the household expenses and spent his time either drunk, playing loud music and frequently hitting both his mother and sister).  In the time he has been with us Bros has managed to build a modest house, which was then bulldozed - a long story involving road widening and the ever present corruption - and rebuilt again, and he is still smiling.

If you ever check in pets you will recognize him immediately.  He is the one who not only makes sure you are comfortable and informed, but once you are settled in your room, will be downstairs in the back room (with the door open) ironing his uniform while wearing nothing but underwear.  I'm not lying pets - every time we have a new gay guest I can put $5 on it that he will be half naked and parading around downstairs by the time you come back down.

Anyhoo darlings, last week one of our ex - guests took him on the holiday of a life-time.  A week in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.  It was all above board (well I'll accept Bros' word) and he had the time of his life.  His first time outside Cambodia, his first plane trip, his first time in not one but three 5 star hotels, and his first time getting drunk and dancing at the DJ Station in Patpong (on the go-go boys stage) and even getting a 100 baht tip from an elderly Chinese customer.

He came back on Friday and is still bubbling over with excitement.  To top it all off, the guy who took him (and what a wonderful person you are) then treated Bros and his wife and child to 2 nights in one of the resort hotels in Siem Reap.  There really are some wonderful people in the world.  If you've been to River Queen then you will undoubtedly have met Bros and know how fabulous he is and understand how happy I am for him. On saying that, it's great to have him back and not have to worry about everything being done to perfection.

Not much more to talk about pets, life goes on as normal, despite the near 40 degree heat and blackout.  We haven't been out much as we are trying to organize the selling of the business and make plans for our future move.  We actually have a few interested potential buyers so fingers crossed and I'll soon be living the life in Serbia......

However on Thursday we have two invites.  One to a wedding, thankfully being held in a  plush restaurant and not in the dust under a gaudy marquee tent, and the other to the opening of 'the new Station Wine Bar'.  Hopefully we will be able to go to both as both are offering free food and booze and it's the chance to get out and have a well deserved knees up - hopefully in the literal sense.  Anyhoo I'll let you know how it goes.

So that's all for now folks, I know it was a quickie, but sometimes it's more fun that way!

Until then, stay glamorous and be fabulous.