After a week's stay in Sihanoukville Nick and I were ready to take a bus to Phnom Penh. Both of us a had enough of the sea, san, and sun. Upon hearing of our departure Roland from the Angkor Arms wrote down the address of a salubrious (good-drinking) hotel in Phnom Penh.
We drank ourselves into oblivion, but made the 9am bus.
We slept all the way to the Cambodian capitol.
Three hours later we deboarded at the bus terminal near the city's central market, I searched my pockets. The scrap of paper was gone. I had probably used it as a toothpick and Nick laughed, "You can't hold onto anything."
"Do you remember the name?"
My mind was a blank after last night's 27 vodka-tonics.
Nearly 50 tuk-tuk drivers crowded around us echoing, "Where you go? Where you go?"
"No idea, thanks to genius." Nick lit up a cigarette. "Let's stay the same place as last year. You remember the name?"
"Who can take us to Mike's?" The name dropped from an old branch of the brain stem.
"Not Mike's anymore?" The youngest driver pushed his way to us. "Now Hope and Anchor."
"There's a Hope and Anchor in Islington." Nick loved pubs. He also loved bars. I shared the same affinity for a wooden counter with a cold glass in my hand.
"Hope and Anchor.
I nodded to the driver and we scrummed through the rejectees, who muttered Cambodian curses. Business was slow this time of year.
"You come to Phnom Penh before?" The tuk-tuk gracefully weaved around the market's stupa structure.
"Many times." Nick and I had avoided last year's Songkran here.
Sophie's, Martini's, Sharkey's plus an assortment of smaller establishments dedicated to the pursuit of in vino veritas.
In wine truth from Latin.
"Now many girls go home for new year." He veered onto 51 street. The public sanitation squad were still recovering from the Khmer Rouge purges and garbage lay uncollected on every corner. Vagrant families camped before vacant buildings. The pace was 100 times slower than Pattaya.
"What about Sophie's?" This bar was rated #1 sleaziest bar in the world by anyone who had been to the short-time lounge.
"Closed for the holiday." We were nearing the river.
"Closed?" Nick and I chorused in unison.
"Governor say close for religion."
"Damn." That closure blew out our first destination.
"But many other bars open. I drive you later."
"No, we're going to rent motorbikes, so after the hotel you can take us to Lucky's Bike." I was acting as tour leader, since my memory was better than Nick's battered brain cells. Not all the time, he was really strong on 80s pop hits and 70s punk classics.
The driver stopped on Quai Sisowith before a renovated colonial building.
The Hope and Anchor.
Nothing had changed since a year ago other than the bar staff.
We took two rooms. I got the better one and Nick complained, "Why you always get first choice?"
"Because you always tell me it's up to me."
25 Bucks for AC and Cable TV plus a good bed.
Beers 28 baht for drafts and 34 baht for a can of Angkor. Vodka-tonics 34 baht too. Phnom Penh is a drunk's paradise and the Hope and Anchor was a good harbor offering a storm of libations. Food was not bad either. Nick and I swear by the creamed spinach.
"Makes you regular in the morning."
The attractive girls behind the desk are most helpful in arranging travel plans and the boss, Peter, was a good man to drink with as the night nears the dawn.
But I'm not sure if it is still there.
The website is gone.
Same as Nick and I.
Wish we were back there. Ten years ago.