Exotic Cities, Part Four: Snuol, Cambodia
April 16, 2009
Tired of spending your hard-earned vacation money on some popular destination, only to find out that it’s so yesterday? Wouldn’t you like to be in the avant-garde for once, instead of bringing up the rear on a pokey donkey, as always? Well, now you can! There is a place that is not yet on tourists’ radar but will be before long. That place is Snuol, Cambodia (or, as it is also called, Angk Snuol).
Conan O’Brien calls it “the most brilliant unknown vacation spot on earth.” And you will, too. Happy Cambodians are eagerly awaiting your arrival. They love Westerners. Angelina Jolie found her first adopted baby in Snuol. And now Madonna says that Snuol is her next stop if things don’t work out in Malawi. They’re in the know!
You’ll fly to Kratie and then ride south by bus on Highway 7 about fifty miles to Snuol. (Keep your camera ready for the fabulous Temple of Golonka, half-way along, on your left. It was one of the locations used in the 1970 movie Horror of the Blood Monsters.)
If you could float above Snuol and look in all directions, you would see an amazing array of environments: to the north, forested hills of cedar, mahogany, and baobob; to the east, endless fields of artichokes, pumpkins, strawberries, barley, and beets; to the south, a wind-swept mesa populated by penguins; and to the west, a painted desert of cacti, vultures, and gila monsters. The area around Snuol is a zoologist’s dream, hosting many rare species, including the flying moose squirrel, the red elephant goldfish, Swanson’s screaming bat, the pink-nosed iguana, the tiger anteater, the worm hawk, the trumpet-eared monkey, the Mimico diving giraffe, the Hungarian zipper snake, the Corinthian warthog, the barking sand toad, the gunga viper, the buzzsaw moth, the wild buffalo chicken, Hondo’s chameleon mole, Corman’s monster crab, and the blue-speckled burping manatee. Exotic fauna are too numerous to list, but visitors will not want to miss the Snuol Museum of Slime Mold, which was established by a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
On the outskirts of Snuol, Donald Trump will be breaking ground later this year on a 50-story condominium/hotel/casino complex, which will be the tallest building in Cambodia. Until that’s finished, you can avail yourself of the more-than-satisfactory amenities of the Park Inn, Snuol’s only hotel. Manager Betty Liu was hired in 2006 to clean the place out after the Giant Spider Invasion and now confidently promises, “No spider you will see, or your room it will be free!” Liu is an enthusiastic booster of Cambodia: “Very honest country. Very progressive government. No corruption.” Rooms at the Park Inn are only $55 U.S. per night. Cheap!
Snuol people are friendly. And most of them speak some English. But you’ll make a really grand impression on them if you use these handy phrases in Khmer:
“I am happy to meet you.” (“Choi ch’kai anh.”)
“It is very pleasant here.” (“Choi k’det anh.”)
“I am looking for the toilet.” (“Choi k’doi anh.”)
“I will see you later.” (“Choi mai misa pang.”)
“Thank you.” (“K’daw.”)
“You’re welcome.” (“K’doi.”)
“I would like this one, please.” (“K’doi mai vi’en.”)
Don’t be surprised to see warthogs on the streets. (I’m referring to the common Cambodian warthog, not the rare Corinthian one.) People have been feeding them for years, so they have lost their fear of people and now walk into town, expecting to be fed. But don’t feed them! There is now an ordinance against it.
Snuol’s great urban myth is the existence of videos of women having sex with warthogs. Some people say they were produced by the Khmer Rouge to raise money. Others say they were produced by friends of former King Sihanouk. And still others say they were produced by officials of Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (an allegation they hotly deny). Almost everyone swears these videos exist, but no one claims actually to have seen one (perhaps because there are very few VCR’s in Snuol).
Well, even if you can’t feed the warthogs or watch videos of warthogs fucking women, you can at least eat warthogs — at The Tusk, one of Snuol’s restaurants. The owner is an American expat, Justin Franchi Solondz, who is a self-taught cook. The food is, shall we say, interesting. The “warthog with truffles” is served with a gravy containing brown clumps that we sincerely hope are the truffles, or at least some kind of mushroom.
Oddly enough, all the restaurants in Snuol are run by non-Cambodians. The Oriental Garden (pretty good mainstream Chinese) is run by Harris Dempsey Ballow. Bagelicious (Kosher, fair-quality, cheap) is run by Chaim Yehuda Reich. Seventh Heaven (good but overpriced soul food) is run by Odowa Roland Okuomosa. The Olive Tree (Italian, not the best) is run by Juris Teteris. Khmer Pizza, run by Fernando Grijalva, is reasonably good, but avoid any toppings that are still moving before they hit the oven.
Snuol’s most unusual attraction is the Elvis Park — a large, complex maze of hedges with statues of American music stars scattered throughout. It’s an odd collection. In addition to Elvis Presley, you will find the Everly Brothers, Black Sabbath, the Beach Boys, Ricky Nelson, Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, Neil Sedaka (a god in Cambodia!), the Supremes, Eddie Van Halen, Bobby Darin, the Big Bopper, Bill Haley, Johnny Cash, and Frank Zappa. (Rumor has it that Adam Lambert will be next!)
I met Kem Sopranei, Cambodia’s leading Elvis impersonator, who comes home to Snuol between big-city gigs. He’s an e-mail pal of Miley Cyrus and Julianne Hough. He wants them to come over to Cambodia so he can fuck them. “You Westerners have a strange misconception about Asian women,” he insists. “You think they know all these secret sexual techniques. They don’t. They’re duds compared to American women. American women are the best at every sort of sex. Cambodian women are only good for cooking.” An expert speaks!
The Mayor of Snuol, Parthasarathie (“Call me Perry”) Kapoor, took me on a terrifyingly high-speed motorcycle ride into the country to show me the fields of artichokes (Snuol is the artichoke capital of Asia). We also stopped to look at Angelina Jolie’s estate, which is vacant most of the year but nevertheless well-maintained by admiring volunteers. Perry is a fearsome card player, by his own account, and he claims to have cleaned out Heng Samrin and Chea Sim, two high-ranking officials of the Cambodian People’s Party, in an all-night poker game. They threatened to have him killed, but he’s sure they didn’t mean it. (Perry also confided to me that he had made a great deal of money investing with Bernard Madoff. And where is it now? In a bank in Panama.)
Don’t go home without loading up on Cambo Cigarettes. They are excellent and very cheap. I smoke them, and so should you. Give them to your children, too. And if you’re returning to New York City, you can shove a pack up Michael Bloomberg’s ass.
For now, Snuol is the cheap and brilliant vacation — cheaper than anything advertised in the Travel section of your newspaper. But once the word gets around, it’ll cost more, so don’t wait!
Recommended vaccinations: Hanta virus, Zabunga virus-A, swine pseudorabies.
Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org