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**Develop conference 2016: Blog entry, article on HIDEO KOJIMA**

Source: **Develop conference 2016: Blog entry, article on HIDEO KOJIMA**

We don’t talk about The “S” Word.

Source: We don’t talk about The “S” Word.

We don’t talk about The “S” Word.

6 months on and I still can’t stand the word. To speak it, to hear it, to see it written all over the pamphlets that smear the walls of the room where I am supposed to feel the safest during my bereavement counselling.

Survivor of Suicide.

What a savagely sharp and inadequate word for what happened, even worse when began with ‘committed’ or followed by  ‘completed’. These are the formalities served up to me in that room and by society. They present like choices and that bothers me most because he did not want to die. Lets just stop calling it his choice. Just because his illness, his demon went by no other name does not make it any less terminal.  He died because he so wanted to live. Everything smells wrong –  committed; as if he couldn’t commit to life but only death. Completed; like the final level in a game. Both are so impersonally wrong.

Off the junction, Stapely road bus stop. That small, stuffy room in the community hall, it smells of stillness and oddly of Sunday school. Flyers for baby classes, Alcoholics anonymous, over-50’s-without-children-meet ups follow me anemically up the stairs.

The room where I can hear the over 70’s barn dancing or keep-fit while I try to relay how my week has been, how still, when I manage to sleep, I hear my brother asking me to come home. That he is trapped somewhere dark and foul and wants to be back here among the living, amongst his two children, wife and broken parents.

‘Survivors of Suicide’ – apparently that’s what we do – survive them? Not that we were given much choice in the matter and ‘surviving’ is of course a matter of perception.

I don’t say the S word.

When I hear people use it – it’s a shudder through my being, a blunt knife to my spine as I pretend nothing like that ever happened, not to him, not to me. Jarring.

I’m defrauding his death with my smiles and unwillingness to stop and say ‘wait a minute, hold on, this big thing happened to me and I am hurting and screaming inside so shut the fuck up, shut up, shut up SHUT UP.’

A rabid guttural spear-head that wants to cut out through my flesh with such force that it quells me. It sears me open and scabs over into disguise every single time. But instead I ignore, I shrink a little bit but I smile and ignore the word that I recoil from yet seem to hear the most. Spat, screamed, mimed, wispered from the TV, Radio, and films I used to love; the News; my friends and their casual references in conversations which of course have nothing and everything to do with what happened to my brother.

Yeah, I don’t say the S word.

I guess that’s the thing about surviving, it doesn’t matter how you do it, whether you stumble through it or soar. I hadn’t ever considered it as surviving. I still don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe we only recognise survival in other people in the news, the one’s on TV or in the books I read, all. For the rest of us the every-day John and Joanna Doe, it’s just known as plain old living.

Is this surviving? Is it multi-tasking? Is it denial or suspended grief, acceptance?

Should my bitterness be clearer? Should I go off the rails? Even my reaction seems pathetic. Like I can’t even grieve messily, selfishly or productively. I haven’t turned to drugs, had violent outbursts, regular sex or become the loud poster child for ‘triggering’ anxieties.

I haven’t raised money, ran a marathon, become a positive ambassador, started a blog, Charity or ‘channeled it’.

God damn the incredibly bland sensible way I have been handling this. God damn the polite grieving Britishness of the whole thing.

The job I started soon after, the smiles and secret wails. I have been sickeningly stationary.

Treading water every now and then overscome with debilitating cramp, waiting for something, anything to take over or take me over.

My body to fall, stumble, preferably spurned into overachieving tremoundessly at some point in my life, rather than being this tiny clump of ugly ineffectual flesh to which I feel. A clump of raw flesh covered in the skin and clothes of me, sitting in a small stuffy room in a community centre surrounded by the words I haven’t really been able to form much less apprehend since he died. Suicide and now Survivor.

Lauren Stevens

May 26th 2017

lauren.s.stevens@gmail.com

via Daily Prompt: Survive

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Siem Reap, Temples, Trees and Tears (shortened travel copy).cambodiasiemreap-templestreesandtearsjpeg

Legends on The Future: Hideo Kojima in Conversation with Mark Cerny at Brighton Develop 2016

Room 2: Keynote. Weds 13/07/16 :  9:30am

“Everything you can do with movies, you can now do with games…”

“When I think of games in my head, I smell things, I see things, more so now because of the technological advances, things get closer and closer to what I imagine them to be” – Hideo Kojima.

This was my second talk at this year’s Develop, one which came highly anticipated for most attendees including myself. Rightly so the room was packed out, press photographers ducking around like SWAT teams people with camera phones ready to record what I imagine they believed to be one of the highlights of Develop 2016.

My notes are stunted for this talk for a couple of reasons but mainly due to the Q and A between Mark Cerny (whose appearance formed an uncanny american Hideo), Hideo’s translator and of course Hideo himself. This Q and A  three-way became a somewhat awkward gilted process. The kind where someone’s always waiting awkwardly for their turn and no one seems fully satisfied.

I have no doubt of Hideo’s enigma, it’s just a shame that this style of presentation did not allow for the kind of intimate ‘conversation’ I was hoping for and resulted in a fairly disappointing and un-engaging hour.

At one point the audience were treated to almost ten minutes of rather nasally compliments exchanged between Mark and Hideo. I have no doubt this may have been very sweet and noble had the audience felt they’d been given more from Hideo at this time (bearing in mind many a holiday could have been had for the price of a Develop pass this year).

I am not sure what I wanted from Hideo, actually – no I am a bit. I wanted to know about his childhood, I wanted to hear about personal experiences that have informed the way he sees the world and develops ideas and games. I wanted to know whether he will cross over with film or any other medium anytime soon, about how he works, his processes, combatting language and conveying what he wants in the way he wants and whether he still wrote letters to the Wachowski sisters.

I wanted human condition and some kind of philosophical dialogue, as well as insight into technical processes. To hear him talk for an hour about what he wanted to talk about even if this had to be pre-recorded with subtitles – yes! That’s it! that is what I wanted.

legendsonthefuturehideokojimainconversationwithmarkcernyDespite various other reviews of this talk written by way more experienced game developers and reviewers out there who paint a rather romanticist, existential version of events inclusive of quotes I swear I didn’t hear. Maybe I am wrong about it all, Maybe I, in my inexperience, completely missed the point. Maybe all the meaty insight became lost in translation somewhere between the three of them on stage,  my own annotations and the Develop lunch buffet.

Instead, what I can tell you is that the word ‘game design’ and ‘polygon’ are the same in Japanese and that when asked – Hideo agreed that VR will change the industry a lot.

The Island of Koh Rong

So… In the South of Cambodia there lies the seaside town of Sihanoukville, or rather Serendipity beach which acts as the main backpacker dive and is quite unashamedly the Malia of Cambodia. On the other side you have Otres beach which I was assured by everyone is the more beautiful and chilled of the two (why I did not wish to visit there I don’t know?). Having never been on an 18-30s holiday I was keen to try it out like a new hat and hay I had already cried over a boy in an alleyway, I may as well get fingered in one too (Joke).

I rocked up from a bus around 9pm at night and in full backpacker swing I had not booked ahead. Unfortunately because of the upcoming Vietnamese new year it turns out… I really should have.

This resulted in me and a few stragglers doing the arduous ‘carrying backpack march’ to each and every hostel. It doesn’t take long before a skinny white guy in dreadlocks complete with ex poetry slam, loser-groupy girl kissing him in between giving us a rundown of his current DJ set and also trying to persuade us to spend the night in Sihanoukville’s cheapest and dirtiest dorm… UTOPIA.

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At 2 Dollars a night at 10pm when I’m tired and hungry you’d think I really couldn’t complain, but unless you are a vegan on acid looking to debate over fracking with other pretentious fennel lovers on what I can only describe as a giant communal mattress on the floor, then it’s probably not for you, just as it wasn’t for me.

Any other night I would have perhaps been in the mood to join in this giant playpen of pink eye (probably not I’m just saying that to sound flexible), but the crumbs on the plastic liner and the crumpled bodies strewn around and the judgmental stares of its greasy occupants turned me off, much like pound lands dairy range.

In the end me and a random (mysterious but nice man from Israel with the air of a covert hitman about him, complete with ironed T-shirts, intense eyes and small black duffel) found a twin room – literally the only place available by that time. I would have taken the unease of sharing a small room with this complete stranger slash potential murderer in clean sheets over the communal thrush that was Utopia any day.

I really grew to love Sihanoukville, it had such a classless edge of danger to it, I stayed in a number of hostels there and by far my favourite was ‘The Led Zephyrs’ (four dollars for 6-8 fan dorms, secure lockers and friendly reception).

By day the beach is okay as long as you are playing dead. The club promoters will incessantly give you flyers and the Cambodian child sellers will touch you, beg you, sell to you relentlessly and quickly turn hostile when rejected.

At night the beach strip transforms to its true Malia / Magaluf self; fire dancers, shot girls and pub crawls usually always ending at JJ’s by the end of the night. A bar called Sessions (there’s always a reggae bar isn’t there) was the place to go for all those seeking more than alcohol. Anything from drugs to a passport or hit contract could be obtained from those crafty but well-mannered men! Every Thursday there is a jungle rave in which you have to take a small raft to a bamboo bridge, where there is a small camper van blaring out acid house – it really was amazing – I still have a scar on my knee from falling off the raft back to the mainland.

The Island of Koh Rong

Now the Island of Koh Rong is about an hour from Sihanoukville, first and most importantly make sure you take all your dollars out with you, for there is no ATM on the island. There is only the lost dreams and virginity’s of gap year students and the remnants of an intestinal virus which works its way around the island perpetually. (No seriously all are true).

Accommodation is not available for pre booking so make sure you arrive on the early ferry to walk the beach whining ‘is there any room at the inn?’. Oh and for gods sake head left when you get off the ferry not right, I went right and nearly fell off the arsecrack of the island. There is much construction and re builds going on as a result of a fire that devastatingly spread across the beach side last year due to reckless travellers. This story is  still recalled by many an islander.

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I stayed at the wonderfully rustic Bongs hostel, 5 Dollars and a fan that sprung into action seemingly by the power of prayer alone (electricity is as much a problem as plumbing). Bongs staff were absolutely amazing and helped me a lot when I fell victim to the notorious and merciless ‘island bug’. They also had great dogs hanging around and a decent menu. On the topic of food, Koh Rong doesn’t host many budget and trustworthy (island bug-free) meals, however the fresh fruit shakes are costless, delicious and healthy. There was also a small fresh Thai food stall down an alleyway near the pier cooked by a man whose name I think was Ziggy. I liken this man to most janitor characters in kids films, in that he would only appear to be open at odd times of need.

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I loved my time on koh rong, I began my love affair with snorkelling and it was here I started conquering my fear of open water.

The island trips are a must, particularly swimming with the luminous plankton at night, which is quite honestly one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had and the closest to avatar’s Pandora you could get.

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There is also the trek to long beach, which aside from the beaches in the Philippines is one of the most beautiful stretch of beach I have ever been on.

Long Beach - Koh Rong
Long Beach – Koh Rong

At night Koh Rong transforms into what I can only imagine Koh Pha-Ngan used to be ten years ago (before the 16-year-old white westerners commandeered it). It has a maturer hippy chilled, crazy vibe to it and there is a good mix of ages and of live music, house and jungle raves available.

Must visit bars that double up as hostels too: Island Boys, Vagabonds and Mango’s

The Hot Crepe Guy

Okay so during my time on Koh Rong I and anyone else with eyes could not help noticing one of gods delicious creatures AKA- the hot crepe guy – who was and did exactly what it says on the tin… He was ridiculously hot (half Moroccan and half french) and he made crepes on the island. (Of course he did – the dreamboat). As a being of insecurity naturally I averted my eyes and awkwardly shuffled past him watching queues of beautiful ladies lining up to talk to him everyday for the six days I was there.

Well, on my last night I attended a rave at the Skybar (this bar quite literally is around 1million steps up into the sky and many a raver has been forced to sleep halfway down. In fact my friend recently told me she took some rather potent drugs and had to stay up there for two days. A lesson to us all – ‘Take snacks not drugs’ or snacks and drugs if you really must.

Anyway this bar was awesome, with a hippy-ish Ibiza feel to it complete with people perilously dancing on the rafters of the ceiling like an angel dust cliché whilst beautiful long-haired men converse deeply with beautifully pierced and tattooed short-haired girls.

It was this night that I chose to attempt to smoke a bit of weed (now I don’t really like weed and frankly it gives me indigestion) but tonight was my last night and damn it I would be a rock star. Except I soon remembered why it was I didn’t smoke weed, particularly after consuming alcohol. It is at this dry mouthed pallid point of the night when I’m staring into nothing when I notice the hot crepe guy looking my way. I did what any rock-star would do, I sleepily nodded to him and continued swaying my long arms to music.

Whilst I’m thinking to myself how do I escape the foggy walls that are enclosing me, I feel a tap on my arm and its hot crepe guy. ‘You not going to say ‘ello to me properly?’ he asks in a sexy french coy voice. Even though there is some significant awareness in my mind that this beautiful human has chosen to talk to me, either the weed has taken all common sense away or its my awkward insecure nature but I think he wants to be friends and I’m tired, tired from the steps and from resisting the impending weed hole. Perhaps my neurotic eyes are giving me away, as he soon asks if I want a drink and the only words I utter blankly and repeat in no real context of a sentence are; ‘Orange juice. Orange juice. I need orange juice’. (I’d heard somewhere orange juice is the PG drug takers elixir of life).

It’s an hour or five later and I’m sipping my orange juice sat on the pavement outside talking to hot crepe guy. I remember seeing friends walk past and giving me a huge thumbs up which I would brush off awkwardly. I had also thankfully found my way out of the hole and I am pretty certain he had no clue as to the mental and indigestion-induced trauma which I had undergone. By this time I’m very tired and thinking of all the steps back down to bed. I turn and tell him ‘I’m tired and I want to go to bed now, goodbye’ but that it was nice talking to him. He just stares at me and asks in that sexy soft voice, ‘it iz your last night on ze island and you do not want to sleep in a private room instead of a crowded dorm?’.

Oh bless him.  ‘Wait, what ? You would actually want to swap rooms with me?’ I say – still oblivious to the fact that this olive skin and perfect smiling hippie, crepe-making-man may be flirting with me.

‘No I want to ‘ave ze pleasure of your company and to pleasure you’.

I didn’t even notice the steps down.

Siem Reap: Temples, Trees and Tears

The town of Siem Reap is pretty much a resort built solely for swarms of tourist traffic directed to the famous temples of Angkor. All the surrounding hostels, guesthouses, restaurants and bars are crammed in, creating the illusion the town is much smaller than it actually is. A short 1km ride North (for this I’d recommend the $30 quad bike tour, pricey but worth it ) and you will enter rural villages, rice paddies inclusive of actual village people and the most beautiful Cambodian children. A stark and stunning contrast indeed to a city whose fickle lights of ‘pub street’ and cheap Angkor beer (0.50-$1) can keep a traveller there for days doing little else.

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I jumped in heavily at the deep end of the tourist trail by staying at the infamous Mad Monkey Hostel ($7)

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Upon arrival, tired and hungry from my scam bus ordeal I was shown to my twelve bed dorm by the pool and then forcibly warned by a drunk room-mate that it was ‘a pretty big night (for him and his ‘lads lads lads’) so apologies if I wake you which I probably will!’.

It was 9pm and I decided my body needed fuel despite not feeling hungry and opted for the lazy trope of attempting to eat at the hostel bar.

Now the rooftop bar of the Mad Monkey Siem Reap is quite a structure designed to replicate a beach, complete with South East Asia’s “shoes off ” policy i.e.; When you enter most dorms / minimarts / establishments of any kind you go bare-foot. Here after what feels like ten flights of stairs you are greeted by sand and receive your free arrival draft beer. (Many a traveller at mad monkey has walked off drunk wearing someone else’s flip flops so just a side note here leave those Haviana’s in your room, I was eyeing mine like I would my child in a public park).

It appeared I had walked into mayhem. There were topless men wrestling in the sand, there were beautiful girls with pupils like dinner plates dancing on tables and Aussies referring to themselves as ‘the wolf pack’ whilst downing their jäger. Then there was little old me just trying to squeeze by the turmoil, take the only free seat at the bar (which meant from then on everyone leaned over me sometimes on me to shout their drinks orders) all the while with me attempting conversation every which way to an unwilling audience.

Mad monkey boasts great American style food and indeed it was but with it boasts a much heavier price tag of $1.25 for chips $4 + breakfasts and mains (which although expensive for Cambodia, in hindsight after visiting the Philippines and Indonesia is actually very good).

Next day I was due to move rooms to a six bed dorm upstairs and I couldn’t have been happier by this, for the dorm by the pool attracted only the most angriest of mosquitoes and the noise from the Wolf pack returning kept me up most of the night.

As soon as I entered my new room there were others entering too – sweet Jesus other humans!!! Naturally I latched on immediately – my first victim a musically spoken guy from Inverness – the loveable Innis, who spoke like a character from one of my favourite films How to train your Dragon. Innis had cycled from Bangkok to Siem Reap and told me stories of staying in temples and waking up to monks watching his family videos on his laptop – I liked him instantly of course :).

By the next day there were 18 of us going to dinner including a super hot US marine who came quad biking with me.

Why oh why had I made friends with the hot twenty something blonde swedish girls In my dorm, told them I fancied him and then invited them to dinner as well. He was definitely flirting with me, we went to a karaoke bar and he even made us sing summertime sadness by David Guetta (because nothing says passion like attempting to sing badly written EDM). After karaoke we retire to pub street’s most infamous bar/club – the aptly named Angkor Wat (or as I referred to as ‘Angkor wat? What the fuck!’). After buying me a tequila he begins kissing my Swedish dorm mate. Yes the one I had invited out, the one who had given me clothing advice on what to wear that night.

After they left I did what any mature feminist 27-year-old would do….I practically sobbed my soul out in an alleyway then I kissed an Irish man. What a grown up. I had devolved to an 18-year-old. Oh Siem Reap look what you’ve done to me! Get me to the ancient temples quickly, clearly I need the clairvoyance of ancient ruins.

The Temples of Angkor Wat

I am such an earth child and if there’s one thing I go wild for it’s not only a good sunrise and silhouette scenario, its ancient trees and forestry with half collapsed ruins whose stories I yearn for.

You can spend hours losing yourself in these great temples, imagining the engravings being carved, the people who may have lived there – or simply reenacting tomb raider.

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A tuk tuk from around sunrise (4.30am) till 10am a good 5 hour stint will set you back $12 and between 4 people 4 dollars is not bad at all. For those with less time or the real hard-core temple runners you can go all day until 4pm for extra dollar dollar.

We had a lovely scrawny guy named Mr Sin who had a penchant for laughing manically at almost everything I did (including when I lost my temple ticket and had to buy another).

A day pass costs $20 and the next one up is the three-day pass ($40 which you can use over the space of the whole week not just consecutive days). For those on a budget or with time restrictions I would suggest purchasing the day pass and firing through the three main temples in one long day. However if time and budget permits and you are more of a cultural lover then stay longer – there are always more temples and ruins to roam.

Bring snacks for gawdsake and sunscream! 

Mr Sin would often pull up on the side of the road and hand us sacks of sugar cane in plastic bags to sip. They have these giant caine smashers which juice them into an odd sweet tasting and rehydrating drink.

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I absolutely adored the temples of Angkor most particularly the famous ‘Tomb Raider’ – Ta Prohm tree temple. However some of the best ruins for me were the ones that became parts of the forest lining the grounds leading to the main temples. Despite the famous temples drawing thousands of tourists there every day, the sheer scale of all the ruins allows for collecting of thoughts, walking freely in moments that make you feel not merely alone but transported.

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Suffice to say I shed different tears that day to my previous immature ‘he won’t love me’ pub street sobs. Silent tears of awe and of empathy for the stories held within these great ancient walls and always of course, for the trees.

I give the ancient site of Angkor Wat a travellers TEN that’s 10/10 for overall experience from silhouettes at sunrise to touching trees which have grown around rock. A world wonder and certainly a must see destination for all age groups.

 

Bangkok-balance in the chaos

Bangkok is one of the most visited and by extension – busiest cities in the world, the very phonetic sound conjuring words on my tongue like brash and bold, quick and run. I spit out the word the way the locals spit in the streets: Dirty, inappropriate, harsh, bristle, push, pulse, skyline, lights, nights, malls, scraper, inhale, life.

In this sense Bangkok has an automotive conveyor belt purpose of sucking, sometimes chewing churning then spitting you out and before you know it you’ve returned, usually for onward travel connections, but never the less you are back on that belt trying to balance. I cant quite work out how I feel about Bangkok. I flew Asia’s high season of January with Etihad airlines 470 return. Not bad at all, my cheapest trip to date. Upon arriving the airport is sheek, clean and smiling, then subsequently you are quite suddenly born out onto the streets of taxis and tuk tuk relentlessness. I remember arriving after a fourteen hour plane ride and being greeted by two drunk hippy travelers stroking my blue hair and offering me help as well as a swig of ominous alcohol.

WELCOME TO BANGKOK Khao San road is like an old spinster madame who still attempts seasons in Bognor and Magaluf, I feel sorry for her one moment then angry, affronted then just as quickly amused.

I HATE BANGKOK – with its scams at every corner every agenda every person. TRUST NO ONE. There is no lucky Budha For gods sake do not purchase a suit or be lead to any ‘tourist information centers”. On my second and third trips back to Bangkok I avoided Khoa San Road in favour of Siam or Suhkummit districts and I fell in love with the BTS skytrain / metro system in the way one does in say Berlin.

I LOVE BANGKOK – with its 50Baht (1 english pound) pad Thai and its rows of foot massage bars in the road and its cheeky chattering locals. My first sleepless night in Bangkok was a lonely planet hostel – Suneta. I was awoken by the cry every traveler waits for ‘BED BUGS GET UP AND OUT”. By this time Id barely slept three hours in the 24 I had traveled. Off with my clothes it was. Having said this I would still recommend this hostel for its location, staff and price (US9). The tourism in Bangkok is as obvious as the humid smog, you cannot move for travel agents selling tours. For this very reason I did not visit much as I was adapting to life alone and this new ground which felt screamingly similar to Delhi to me. Ping Pong shows are offered nightly, every tuk tuk driver making crude popping sounds in their mouth’s with menus such as;

“Pussy swallows razor” “Pussy eats banana”  “Pussy spits out ping pong”

All very Dusk Til Dawn-esque lude descriptions of human trafficked vagina. I met countless travelers who like me didn’t agree with it but then changed their minds thinking “it is something I have to see” (As a feminist and a decent human I did not change my mind but I did ask many a traveler questions). What they saw? Every single traveler I spoke to sold stories of young women looking dead pan and miserable to the point of making the audience unsettled as they performed lude atrocious acts upon their genitals to the sound of western jeers and laughter all the while not once emitting a smile. Am I surprised? Not an ounce. Most but not all are immigrant women trafficked from neighboring countries who rarely see any of the western money, some stories I researched grazed my female soul and left me angry at my peers and countrymen. Because of this I have distinct memories of making friends with two Swedish girls and devouring “chang towers” these are like liter towers of the local beer and then barking at the tuk tuk drivers about ‘feminist ping pong”. Those same towers had me puking long into the hostel toilet the morning after, a cleanse if ever there was of the taste of Bangkoks darkest traits.

  I decided fairly early on I wanted to flee into Cambodia’s arms, my first ‘big border leap being to Siem reap – home of the famous Angkor Wat temples. For this journey I needed a long distance bus, now I had read about this border crossing being Asia s most notorious for scams and fake borders with every message board advising the government run bus at 750Baht was legitimately the safest option. I was all set to be a good solo girl and take this route when I met Louise a lovely swede who said she was going by 200Baht minivan but was aware of every scam. The lure of adventure and the inviting price made me agree to this sketchy plan, along with the knowledge that as a natural born worrier and over thinker I had revised every single scam like it was a university test.

CROSSING THE BORDER – SCAMBODIA “YOU NO PAY? THEN YOU STAY FOREVER”

Classic Asia- the bus was late but surely enough an older man appeared with  minivan and then ‘visa application  forms’. SCAM 1

“But there will be queues, this is the way, the bus no wait for you”

Me and Louise exchanged knowing looks of “here we go”. At every chance we had to insist upon doing the application at the border against cries of “önly 1600Baht if you do now” (almost double the price at the border USD30). SCAM 2 Constantly change drivers leaving no one and everyone accountable along the journey. When we got into our minivan it had other victims in the form of Daines and Italians. I quickly ascertained to everyone that the road will be full of scams and noone STRICTLY noone is to give any money until at the border. Oh how quickly people fell off that wagon. I felt like I was harboring a Jew among Nazis Germany telling everyone DO NOT BETRAY US, STAY QUIET.(Yes I am indulgent and dramatic but its my one time at being a leader .. kind of). Soon we arrived at a fake border SCAM 3 – a sketchy cafe, one guy had GPS which showed we were a mile left of the real border. Out come the ‘applications’. I am first to decline and say politely how I will wait for the real border. The guy leaves me alone, not wanting to make a scene in case I alert the others, which I do. Those nearest me who remain with shifty eyes that look at me as if to say “äre you sure…Maybe I will just do it y’know”. Some people fall victim and begin filling out, then when of course money is asked and a great deal indeed for a supposed “express service” that’s when shit hits the fan and it all goes off.

My one mistake on this path and me and Louise kick ourselves for it now was giving this man my bus ticket (SCAM 4). Automatically I assumed it procedure, however once the Daines start rejecting the applications and shaking their head and we all agree not to pay, we ask for our tickets back…. People begin to get angry, fists bang tables, shouts for police, at one point I even have an 18 stone Thai madam in a bum bag shouting in my face “THEY SAY YOU BUY VISA, YOU GO YOUR OWN WAY THEN…GET OUT”. There are suddenly camera phones out on each side, somewhere in the border town of Poipet a man has a photo of me wearing not only a makeshift bandanna but a frown mixed with an “im aware someones taking a photo so angle your face a tad” photograph. The Danes demands the man to stop photographing him to which the small man turns towards a nearby plant insisting he’s simply photographing his trees THANKYOUVERYMUCH. Im not even hiding my laughter at this point and still posing (just in case) urging everyone to calm down and put their backpacks on. A fellow westerner points us in the way of the border and we walk for ten minutes in blistering heat to the lines where borders combine and part. More traps await in the form of scam signs and “helpful” locals. Once again I urge everyone to just follow the official sign which we do that leads us to safety. Or almost. IMMIGRATION So at immigration an official sign reads VISA USD 30 then below on paper is scrawled USD30 +100BAHT. I had read about this scam too. However once again in my group I was the only one standing my ground (okay it was only 2 English pounds but still, were all tired and exhausted and its principle!). Two times immigration turned me away half barking to me that I “stay here forever then”. Then low and behold after all the people who are willing to give 100Baht pass through, me and Louise are let in. YES !!!! I HAD BECOME TOUGH!!! It was perhaps the toughest moment in my life because I am a sensitive bean and natural crier but my God that day I felt not only survived but strong AND SASSY (and also because everyone else seemed impressed and that’s what counts right? :-p !

I wont go on but there were two more scam buses from here (because the Thai Madame had taken our onward tickets as punishment) and then a “free” tuk tuk, which in poor Louise’s case wasn’t free at all as she was the last among a group of Khmer men in the dark alone in the fuck end of nowhere.

Fifteen hours later and I arrive at Siem Reaps “Mad Monkey” chain. A chain of hostels I will come to love and rely on throughout travelling Cambodia. They are pricier than the average ($6-7) but with that comes the promise of clean beds, tours, and most certain debauchery.

Next chapter will give an insight into Siem Reap from nightlife on pub street, to me crying in an alley over a boy, to the wonder that really is Angkor Wat. – Stevie xxx @lightofthedragon #longandlost

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