It’s the 15th of February, the sun is beating down upon our skin and sweat is gathering in uncomfortable places. Spencer is sprawled out on the green bean bag and me on the yellow one, George is lying between us craving attention via head strokes. We look and feel as if the life has been taken out of us with no way of ever recovering from the pure monster of a hangover. Just 10 hours before I had taken up the role of Cupid’s Assistant for Mad Monkey’s Valentines speed dating event. My lanyard ID said “if you can beat me in rock paper scissors i’ll give you a surprise” – by the end of the night I’d kissed way over 20 people, whether I won or not, which probably wasn’t the best idea as COVID was a growing issue in the world but I didn’t care. The laughs and attention I received from being Cupid’s Assistant was all I needed to forget what was going on outside my temporary world of Siem Reap. Hand made love hearts hung from the roof of both the downstairs and upstairs bar, love themed cocktails were going down a treat, free flow beers were being churned out quickly and coldly for budding guests and everyone was gearing themselves up for Friday’s Pub Crawl. I had neon paint and glitter ready to cover the faces of guests because no pub crawl is complete without it. This was Juici’s job before she left to head back to Aus.
The Valentine’s pub crawl was definitely the biggest and best one I’d seen during my time at the hostel. EVERYONE was keen to get involved and get absolutely fucking wrecked. The usual route of Silk Garden, Yolo, another bar i’m unsure of and X Bar was the agenda. Usually people drop off after Yolo Bar (even Emma and I ducked behind cars and ran home to the comfort of our beds when the guests started getting really boring and flannely) but that night everyone stuck it out until the end. I had no shoes for the first 2 weeks of working so it wasn’t unusual to get home and have a thick layer of filth on the soles of my feet. I also wan’t keen on wearing flip flops out, granted I had tried, because they don’t give my legs the freedom they deserve when stepping to Cotton Eyed Joe or throwing shapes to every time we touch.
My energy this night was through the roof and well all I can say is that energy came from over the counter goods so who cares. Everyone’s bodies were in constant excited motion and were grooving until the early hour of 4am when troopers started dropping like flies. That was when Rosie (area manager), Emma (fellow rep), Charlie (previous rep in Koh Rong), Finn (a DJ in Siem Reap) and I made our way back to the hostel. The idea of heading to the rooftop to watch the sunrise was spoken into existence and, considering the fact that we were all still pinging, we complied. Music played above our heads and a baby Guinness for each of us sat invitingly on the table. These were the moments I’d dreamt of in the November before I started my travelling journey. The sun, tame and warm, gradually crept up from the horizon and Blah Blah Blah by Armin Van Burmen (??) came on. Charlie and I felt obligated to get up and stamp our way through the chorus without a care for the guests sleeping soundly below. Whoops. I crept into the 12 bed dorm to see George and laid there for a while without any idea of when my body would slow down. George has dropped back to the hotel way before us but with his incredibly lightweight demeanour hence his pathetic zombie like behaviour the next day. I had only managed 30 minutes of shut eye which is why I, along with George and Spencer resembled the worst of all zombies on those bean bags.
That was my fourth day wearing the Mad Monkey vest as a reputable figure as opposed to a wasted pub crawler and by this day my voice was raspy from the shouting, the drinking and the constant smoking of Malboro’s berry cigs. My first week at the hostel was spent getting to know the same 7/8 faces who, in hindsight, were the most fun during my whole time working. You had George and Luke who were best pals travelling South East Asia together. George, as aforementioned, struggles to handle his alcohol and on numerous occasions was looked after by me having fallen asleep in a bar or a bit too baggy around the pool. I didn’t mind though because we had an agreement of ending our nights watching Derry Girls and speaking only in Irish accents, it was lovely… that was until one night. Luke, a sarcastic human that enjoys making the strangest and inhumane noises, comes crashing into the staff room shortly behind Emma. I don’t think I’ve described Emma yet, well, firstly she’s fucking loud and was able to save me when my voice was wavering. Secondly, she’s fucking hilarious and we got on like a house on fire with our banter and filthy talk and thirdly, she has been galavanting around the world for 7 years — 2/3 (i think) of them working for Mad Monkey, so she’s a pro. ANYWAYS, Emma and Luke come crashing through the door (for company purposes only I swear) and began watching whatever season Emma was rinsing through. However, Luke would not shut the fuck up. He kept complaining about something or other and Emma couldn’t resist bickering back… literally like 2 children. George piped in to tell them to shut the fuck up because we were watching Derry Girls which then lead to George and Luke just chatting absolute bollocks, in ridiculous accents, to each other and then throwing things across the room. Squarks, squeals and screams came out of Luke’s mouth and my lord I could not stop fucking howling at this whole weird scenario. Luke got stroppy about how hot our room was and abruptly got up and stormed out. George and Luke are good lads and I must’ve developed abs that week because they constantly had me in fits of laughter. Absolute scroungers though — any left over food was lured over by them until they had come to the conclusion it was done with and began opening up their gullets and throwing it in. I’m still in contact with George which is lovely, despite his snapchat calls mostly him giving me one worded answers. I’ll see him soon, I hope. Bruce and Jamie were another two of the fab group I met in my first week. Whilst they weren’t travelling together you would have assumed they were because they gelled so well as a pair… maybe it was because they were both in their 30s, solo travellers surrounded by proper youngens and classically football mad British lads??? At first I had judged their characters a little to stereotypically, I assumed all of those things about them and expected them to be proper English brutes but I couldn’t have been so wrong. They are two of the warmest souls I’ve met who never failed to make you laugh and then listen to all your travelling woes about finding romances. They, just like George and Luke, kept extending their stay to be with the first haul of guests and weren’t shy (actually Bruce was such a grandad and was in bed dead early) for a night out. Jamie would always point straight at me in Yolo bar whenever anything with even a little bit of bass came blaring through the speakers. Libby and Hanna are two Aussie sisters with a soft spot for drinking, Hannah especially, and were notorious for ordering a beer as soon as the bar was open at 10/11am. Their ability to handle their alcohol was admirable just as admirable as my energy and dancing was to them. Hanna would hold me and tell me how sweet, wonderful and funny I was which made me feel like a glowing ball of sunshine. Joss shots and free shit mix shots never fell short from their hands and occasionally the added abuse towards other guests was given out.
Juici, the german love of my life who Spencer and I met when we were guests, was only repping for another 3 days when we returned the second time. She and I would dance like crazies upstairs on the “beach on the roof” by the bar and scout out any cute potential lingering around. I miss her and all of those from the first week.
The goings on of each week were much the same – waking up, doing the morning walking tour around the city (where only 1 or 2 of the sensible guests who never got smashed attended), encouraging people to drink from 12pm and continuing right through till 2/3 the next morning. People came and left, some for a short period of time and others waking up and extending their stay day by day.
The tailgate tours were a great way to singlehandedly get to know the guests and each one I lead was a memorable one. One afternoon Emma and I both decided to lead one with the 8 boys, half from Somerset and half from somewhere in the midlands, who caused absolute havoc the entire time they were with us. They met in Vietnam (i think??) and were absolutely made for each other… all love the sesh, childish as fuck and constantly on the hunt to bang. The first day they arrived I’d swapped them from 2 split up dorms into an 8 bed one which, in hindsight, was doing our other guests a favour rather than them. Free flow had just about ended and a few of them came upstairs to the bar together with prying eyes. They sat down together but within the 20 minutes that I assumed was their lads talk they ad split up and had gone chirpsing alongside some of the attractive women at the hostel. Maybe even less than 20 minutes??? It certainly didn’t take them long to slowly disappear back downstairs into what was evidently a successful pull. A few of the couple reappeared within the hour with plenty of the night to go.
The following day all 8 of them, and a few of the girls they’d pulled (who are the loveliest and sweetest of women) decided to join said tailgate tour with Emma and I. We both knew it would be memorable one hence the reason we both wanted to go, we just felt sorry for the solo travellers who decided THAT day would be the day they came with us too. We all clambered into the tailgate, the boys already half way to being absolutely trollied, cracked open a tinny and made our way through the dusty streets of Siem Reap. It took no less than 15 minutes for one of the boys to have his head hanging off the side of the tailgate leaving a chunder track behind us. Savage. That was the least of our worries though. That day was a historical one for me… it was the day I’d unwillingly seen the most penises in the space of 5 hours. There’s no better way to describe them other than: 8 boisterous and ridiculous British lads who got lost on their way to Magaluf and ended up in Cambodia.
Although seeing just how gross these guys could get was fun the highlight for me was getting to know Sam. Sam is a deaf French guy who I started the journey on the tailgate with. We communicated through big gestures, slow speaking and writing letters on one another hands. He swiftly moved to the front of the trailer with Emma so that he could feel the vibrations of the music from the speaker. We exchanged a lot of eye-rolls between each other when the 8 lads were fumbling around being dickheads and ended up forming quite a banter filled friendship (a first and a hole was gestured behind a guy’s back when he saw I was trying to pull). Since being home i’ve attempted learning sign language after feeling struggling to communicate some things with Sam, I really need to keep it up.
It was week 2 or 3 when Gina, a rep from the island, came and took the role of customer experience manager. She is an absolute ray of sunshine, and although was a bit of a Grandma because of post-island blues, she eventually got some alcohol down her and found her dancing feet with Emma and I. Not a week went by where it felt like no one from the OG lot was around. Spencer stayed for a few weeks, then Gina arrived and then Charlie and Soph came back and THEN eventually Spencer dragged her ass back to Siem Reap. I was eternally grateful for this because week by week you were able to see the affects COVID was beginning to have on the numbers in the hotel. We’d gone from signing 50 people up for a pub crawl to a mere 15, COVID was a contributor but my god did some people end up drifting into a party hostel and ending up being absolute wet wipes. Whispers of COVID grew louder each day a countries surrounding us were getting more and more cases, some even closing, until the unavoidable happened.
Just before that though Harry, Dan and Monty rolled into the hostel. Another 3 lads stoked that Emma and I were always playing DnB but yet another 3 lads who couldn’t handle alcohol and made bad decisions (well, Dan and Monty) when it came to creeper women in Yolo bar. I spent the majority of my week with Harry when I wasn’t working which was wonderful, too much wonderful to write here, and we agreed that when we were back at home I’d go to Boomtown with him, Dan and Monty. Again, fuck Covid. I won’t go into more detail about them, as much as there is just because things happen. You meet on a whim and have the most amazing and intense weeks with someone and then boom it’s over. It’s okay though. I’m okay. I wasn’t for a while after you probably read about it before this post but it was 7 months ago (7 MONTHS AGO?!) now and shit feels okay, I think?
March pressed on and Paddy’s day grew closer. Paddy’s day is a big deal, obviously, but it’s especially a big deal when your manager (a wee Irish girl) is planning it. At this point numbers were low and the staff were worrying about how Paddy’s Day would pan out. However, we’d had a wonderful Irish guy named Keith come stay with us and he promised us he’d return because he wanted to spend his holiday with Emma, Kat (the wee Irish manager), Gina and I which was so sweet. He is honestly one of the kindest guys I’ve ever met and never fell short of ensuring our day was going as well as his. He’d brought the Irish flag with him, took it everywhere and protected it with his life. There’s a cute picture I took of him where he’s holing it proudly above his head. Throughout his second batch of days at the hostel he’d insisted anyone and everyone around the hostel sign it for him which added to the sentimental value and exaggerated the measures of protection.
It was the day before Paddy’s Day, Emma, Gina, Kat and I are in the staff room some in tears. With Vietnam’s sudden border closure restrictions across South East Asia were getting stricter and we’d just been told that Mad Monkey was going to close. This shattered my next move of going to see Harry and the boys in Thailand and cemented the fact that England will be my home for a while. Emma, who had been away from the UK for 7 years, was devastated. With this gloomy cloud lurking over us we were all determined to get fucked up the grand ol’ Irish way and shout “SLAINTE” as much a we can. The plans were to have a pool party in the day and then head out for a green themed bar crawl with all the stray Irish guests we’d roped into staying with us, we were buzzing. We were buzzing until we got the call that pub street would be closing and we weren’t to go out because of COVID. Moods were dampened but drowned our sorrows in even more alcohol. Some of us did go out just to nosey a whether pub street was REALLY closed. It wasn’t. It would close the following day.
Heading out after the “lock in” became a bit dramatic for our wee Keith. He approached me with a look of pure disappointment on his face and told me he’d lost his flag and that he didn’t know what to do. I’m pretty sure he was crying, bless him. So that was it, that was my internal mission. Find, with Charlie, Keith’s sentimental signed Irish flag. Charlie and I headed straight for X bar, usually the final destination of the night, grabbed some joss shots and looked awkwardly around at empty dance floor (otherwise full to the brim). Several minutes passed when I saw a random girl walking across the floor with an Irish flag around her neck… COVERED IN SHARPIE. I stormed over and quite sternly told her it was my friend’s flag. I felt a bit bad about my tone because she was so apologetic and was actually trying to find Keith to give it back. She politely handed it over and I immediately rang Keith to tell him the good news. Apparently he sprinted over to X Bar to get it and when he arrived showered Charlie and I with the most appreciation and gratitude i’ve ever been given. He still refers it as one of the best moments of his life.
2 days after that it was my date of departure back to England. I was skulking around all day. Spencer ha made it back to Siem Reap to see me off. Charlie, Sophie, Gina, Sam (a different Sam from deaf Sam, this Sam was also an island rep), Spencer and Emma were crowded around the bench with me as I waited for my tuk tuk to the airport. Charlie, being the tyrant she is, played Don’t Go by Wretch 32 through the speakers immediately sending me into floods of tears. I hugged everyone and then stood before Spencer. That hug was Spencer was the first hugs we’d ever had where we didn’t know when we’d see each other again.
And that was that, I was in the tuk tuk drowning in my own salty tears running down my face.
Travels abruptly over. Now 7 months on I’m in England lusting for all of this to be over so I can find my happiness again.