My objectives for the day were fairly straight-forward: finish my US$2 bag of marijuana and make my way back to Phnom Penh from Sihanoukville.
After completing the first task, with time approaching midday, I made my way to the bus terminal and managed to buy the last available seat for the bus destined north. I then sat myself down in the cramped confinement of the bus, stoned.
Falling asleep half way through the journey, as the bus approached Phnom Penh I awoke in pain. While sleeping I must have contorted my position and twisted my knee.
Now, after arriving at our destination, I limped off the bus and climbed on to the back of a motorbike taxi.
Already the motorbike taxi rider had sensed my weakness.
I had asked to be dropped off close to the river bank.
"At the guesthouse above the bar that doubles as a whorehouse."
Instead he dropped me off at a commission paying hotel, rather nice in appearance but lacking character, such as mirrors on the ceilings.
But I was at his and all the other Cambodians mercy.
Sorry – let me rephrase that.
I had positioned myself to be even more at his and all the other Cambodians mercy.
I hid myself in my pleasant air-conditioned hotel room.
Tomorrow I would put my plans into action and escape.
It was dark by the time the bus passed into Vietnam and, once past the border, we were hit by a traffic chaos all the way to Ho Chi Minh City. Bright lights of the motorbikes below lit the night sky above as the bus came to a crawl; inch upon inch, metre upon metre, we were within a bright-light casino, chance tearing us apart from our destination.
Finally we arrived and later, while lying upon my bed, I looked up at the ceiling. This time there was no mirror to look down upon oneself. For this time I was damaged, my knee inflamed, puffy and sore.
I needed solace, to find my old friend the Mekong River. Getting out of my hotel room, I limped towards a tourist agency and booked a three-day Delta tour; marketed not as a tour of adventure or excitement, but as a tour of happiness, of smiles and of laughter.
Next day, as the tour group minivan crossed a bridge into Can Tho, the city hub of the Mekong Delta, I was in agony. Fortunately the tour group had spent most of the day confined within the minivan, succumbing to the urban sprawl. I had been given eight painkillers by a French couple, more by an Italian, told a tale by a Hungarian male of how he had twisted his knee climbing up a pole while drunk (very painful; water puffs up the knee to protect the bone) and a Spanish guy had talked to me about reflexology.
It all sounded interesting.
So I took all their advice and found myself on the table of a blind massage therapist, who somehow started to massage the wrong knee.
But relax – apparently that is how it works. The nerves in one part of the body healing the nerves in another part.
Take some more pills to ease the pain - pain at the base of one’s foot, the splitting headache and the sore shoulder...
And by noon the next day I was at the Can Tho hospital. Taken there by a Vietnamese tourist student who wanted to improve her English. X-rays, bills and more pills; by noon of the third day of the Mekong Delta tour I was fine.
Except the tour group had left and I was still in Can Tho.
I now had to negotiate my way back to Ho Chi Minh City; with the best option been lies, deceit and deception.
The hidden truth.