One might be tempted to dismiss Koh Kong, Cambodia as simply another same-same dusty-border-town™ astride that long and lonesome trail and, when passing through, therefore hole it up inside of one’s hotel room all the day long in a bid to escape the overwhelmingly oppressive heat. Better had watch where you point that thing, though, ‘cause Koh Kong’s denizens are stone-cold, down-right, lock-it-up, ass-bumpin’ cool. They’re the kind of cool that don’t know they’re cool, don’t have a clue in the world what cool even is, and wouldn’t give a flyin’ fuck if you explained it to them. In other words, they’re the badass kind of cool. (Or perhaps there is no other kind?)
Maybe it’s the proximity to the frontier, allowing enough of the Thais’ too-weird-for-words voodoo to admix with the inherent Cambodian laid-back disposition to create just that perfect, syncretistic, the-fuck-you-lookin’-at? blend. Koh Kong: The goddam swirl cone of Southeast Asia. Mostly, the cool people are riding bicycles.
It’s reminiscent, in that way, of Bhairawa, Nepal — another favoured-by-me dusty border town whose bicycle-ridin’ inhabitants elevate it to near legendary memory-bank status. (And indeed, much as does Thailand’s in Koh Kong, the influence of Nepal’s inescapable southern neighbour in Bhairawa is surely most palpable — yet in the end cannot, thank the maker, be said to completely overwhelm the indigenous Nepali vibe.)
See below a few hastily cobbled photographic examples. But in case the evidence makes it appear that I’m overstating the case, please know that it’s near impossible to get good best shots of the coolest scenes – even with camera at the ready, by the time you realise that you’re in the presence of cool, the moment has already passed.
I humbly and ashamedly do report that I missed one of the very, very best all-time photo opportunities – an eight- or nine-year-old boy ferrying Durians to the family’s Market stall in a rickety wooden cart. ‘twas not (as fate would have it) in this instance the case that it all played out too quickly to capture on film; but rather that my hands were full of produce, and it would’ve made retrieving camera from pocket such a pain in the asshole. (Guess that’s the difference between myself and a real artist: The latter would be willing to suffer any indignity, to take on any burden — even if it meant rustling their bags of fruit to and fro’ – to reel in the shot they wanted.)
Oddly enough, the Kong also appears (to top it off) to be some sort of furniture hub. Walk around town, and every five minutes or so, you’ll see somebody transporting a massive piece of same from shoppe to home — atop their motorcycle, no less. From the Buddha’s arse to my lips, I promise you’ll get a giggle out of it. Heh, there’s even a local cafe whose sign boasts of its prowess in dealing “every kind of furniture” in addition to its culinary offerings.
So Koh Kong deserves a day or two of your attentions, sez I. If you stay at 99 Guesthouse, you can even score a free bicycle to go and check out the local surrounds – or, simply to ride around town pretending that you’re a goddam citizen of the Kong, secure in the knowledge that this fact alone makes you one of the coolest peeps now-or-ever alive on this-here planet of the Earths. (Just don’t arrive on the fucking king’s birthday, or you’ll be shit-out-of-luck attempting to suss out an inexpensive bed for the evening…)