The Mischevious Italian in Sianoukville
Lorenzo lit up a bidi then started to tell us another one of his stories concerning his mis-spent youth which apparently never ended as his tales encompassed his early 30’s, 40’s and current 50’s. He was two marriages down and had an only child who’d followed in his father’s mischievous ways apparently encouraged by parenting skills that would never make it into a staid child rearing book. My opinion is that if they did it would be a best seller.
It was New Year’s Eve, we were sitting in one of the local bars and Lorenzo was regaling us with hilarious tales of past misdeeds. The village, all four 4 streets of it, was dark (no electricity) and very subdued for the time of year. There was no obvious signs of celebration and I would go as far to say that our group was the party. There weren’t a great deal of people around possibly due to the fact that it was the year that the tsunami hit Asia. I’ve heard many stories starting with “we were supposed to be there but” and my story is of a similar nature. Normally there is a break between Christmas and New Year for school holidays (my partner was teaching in Bangkok at the time) and we’d planned to be on one of the islands for the holiday. But for the first time ever the school decided not to close, we had to change our plans and spent Xmas on Ko Samet and New Year in Cambodia. It was a lucky break as the island we had planned to spend the holiday on was hit by the wave.
As our party moved around the bars we became more and more cheerful, Lorenzo more and more expansive and, as the man was permanently lighting up spliffs, more and more stoned. In all the days we were with him I don’t think that slightly glazed look that comes with smoking substances a lot less harmful than a normal cigarette ever left his eyes. The other significant fact that gave the game away was that he always carried a bagful of snacks around with him to stave off the munchies. Things died down after midnight – not hard considering there was only one bar open at that point and about 10 customers. We all dispersed to our respective beds in preparation for a day of recovery on the beach but Lorenzo was still in a celebratory mode and, as he informed us, horny. He decided to head out and use some of his Italian charm on the nearest available female he could find.
The next day we’d been sunbathing for a few hours when we saw Lorenzo weaving his way up the beach. He flopped down beside us and immediately started rooting through his bag for food. Not finding anything suitable he called the nearest vendor over and soon we were surrounded by hawkers. He bought a lot of dodgy looking food off a lot of dodgy looking people and then, as we declined to join him , proceeded to eat it all whilst recounting his exploits of the night. Not finding a single female/brothel/girly bar around the area we were staying, he’d jumped on the back of a bike of some random local who agreed to take him down to the dock area – suitably renumerated of course. After visiting several salubrious areas to no avail he ended up somewhere that you’d only go if you wanted a fight or to get mugged. Amazingly not only did he find a woman to spend the night with but he also returned unharmed and still cashed up.
We left to return to Bangkok but Lorenzo stayed on. Purely by chance a year and a half later we met him again at Bangkok International Airport. He told us that he’d never left Sianoukville, bought a broken down boat, fixed it up and lived onboard with his new girlfriend and her family. For income they took tourists on trips up the river. He’d just returned from a visit to Italy and was heading back to Cambodia. Unfortunately, we never got back to Sianoukville on that particular trip and didn’t manage to take him up on his offer of a boat ride – one experience that I’ve always regretted missing out on.
I’ve no idea if he’s still there, so if you are heading that way look him up for me and say hello. Better still spend some time with him – the man is a comedy show on legs and real nice guy.