Destination Cambodia

Walter Mason

RRP: £8.99

5 December 2013

Published by Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781742376622

From the rich tropical city of Phnom Penh, the wonders of Angkor Wat, and the oddly loveable country town of Kampot, to Sihanoukville, named after the movie-directing and womanising former king, Walter Mason takes the reader on another colourful adventure in one of the world’s hottest new destinations. With his friends Simon, a taxi-driver and unlikely middle-aged gigolo, and Lan, a leggy Vietnamese transsexual, he explores Phnom Penh’s underworld. Resting in the bars and cafes that line the banks of the river, he notes the strong French influence from a colonial past.

Walter attempts to gain an introduction to the bachelor king, once a ballet dancer and Cambodia’s cultural ambassador to Europe, whose mother, Queen Monique, is a former film star and Eurasian beauty. He also befriends Mak Suong, a gifted young writer who has scandalised Cambodian society with a racy and wildly popular new novel about the lives of gay men in Phnom Penh.

After exploring the extraordinarily vibrant Khmer hip-hop scene, founded by expatriate Cambodian gangsters deported from American prisons, Walter retreats to the cool courtyard of Wat Koh, an enormous Buddhist monastery in the centre of Phnom Penh, with his friends, both monks. Sim is a big and buffoonish country bumpkin who flirts with girls who come to visit and dreams of leaving the monastery to marry. While morose and constantly brooding, Sakol unloads his troubles to Walter, revealing how he is haunted by the demons of war, cruelty and murder from Cambodia’s dark past.