Where’s the margarita blender? I think we need a lime salty to toss this one back. Elaine Thatcher recounts the mishaps and mishandling of hooking up with another traveler. With a surprise ending. Please enjoy today’s story from Summer Chick Tales.
I’ve never been good at picking guys up as I have always been on the shy side. I have on many occasions spent an evening making flirty eye-contact with that hot guy at the bar only to go home hours later cursing myself for not having the courage to go over and progress the situation (strangely, it never occurred to me that he would have done so had he been really interested).
So, what happened in Cambodia came as a huge surprise.
My friend Kelly and I decided to spend our Easter holiday in Cambodia. We were living in Vietnam and needed a break from the congested streets of Saigon. We wanted a cheap break and so we shelled out $22 each and hopped on a bus. We were excited and looked forward to long days of sunbathing and long nights of dancing on the beach.
Our destination was Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville, a peninsula on the southern coast of Cambodia. I immediately liked the place. Run-down, rugged and shabby tin shacks littered the beach and the limp bodies of sun-drugged travelers lounged on tatty armchairs as far as the eye could see. The place was alive: women laden with heavy-baskets of fruit or offering massages plodded heavily across the sand, children played, and beautiful bikini-clad girls (probably Swedish) frolicked with golden Adonises in the frothy waves. It was a single girl’s paradise.
Maybe it was because travelers don’t hang around in Saigon, or the fact that most of the Western guys on the expat scene prefer local girls, or maybe it was just the Cambodian sun, I don’t know, but Kelly and I noticed that the beach was full of hot men. Everywhere.
We got ourselves into the classic pose – lying on our front, propped up by the elbows, sunglasses on and book handily positioned to look as if we were reading – and started to window-shop. Before I go on, I must reiterate that I am usually a shy kinda gal and this is as far as I am usually capable of going.
Before long, I noticed a small group walking in the shallows. Three guys; one tall and blonde, the other darker and tattooed and the third skinner and, well, perfect. I pointed him out to Kelly.
“Nah, too skinny,” she said, and pointed elsewhere to somebody who had caught her eye.
This continued for a little while, but later the group of three guys walked past again, and once again, the tall, slim, black-haired one caught my attention. I made a mental note to look out for him in the bars.
It took a few days, but eventually we came back from a motorbike ride out to a more deserted beach and we were looking for some lunch. We strolled past popular haunt Monkey Republic and to my delight; I saw that the three guys from the beach were inside playing pool. There was nobody else in the bar, this was my chance.
We went in, ordered salad and sat at a table nearby. For two hours. And he did not look in my direction, not even once. Bored, we left and went to sunbathe on the beach. Later that night; however, I stood at the bar in the Naphouse (a once-buzzing bar now sadly gone) when a tall blonde started talking to me. I immediately recognized him as one of the three and looked eagerly around for his friend. He was not there. We chatted for a while and then I looked up and there he was. I choked, but managed to say “hi”. We talked for a few minutes, just long enough for me to find out that he was from Sweden and then they left to find another bar. That was it! I’d had my chance and failed to make an impression.
Before long, the last night of our holiday came around. It happened to be Khmer New Year, an event synonymous with Songkran in Thailand. That is, a massive water-fight in the street, or in this case on the beach. I was soaked through to the skin, and my hair does not do sexy-tousled-wet, it does drowned-rat-wet, and I was covered in baby powder (another Khmer tradition, the origins of which I am unable to find out). I was having a great time. We had decided to stay out on the beach until our 7 a.m. bus ride back to Saigon.
At 4 a.m., I was heading into a bar for a final drink with the friends that I had made that week. As we walked through the darkness, three familiar figures approached. I grabbed Kelly’s arm.
“That’s the guy that I was talking to the other night,” I whispered.
“So, go talk to him,” she said, and pushed me into their path.
“Hey, Swedish boy!” I said, then cringed.
Is that the best I could do? I’m an English teacher, I know the words of Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennett by heart and the best I can do is “hey”. Too late, it was done and he was looking at me.
“Erm, we’re going in this bar. Want to join us?”
He looked at his friends; they shrugged and followed us in. I bought drinks, but two of them had already passed out in the chairs, happily the black-haired one remained, so we sat at the bar and talked. Before long it was 6 a.m. and I had to leave to get my bus, but we swapped email addresses and the Swede, who by now I knew as Nicklas, told me that they were planning to visit Saigon in a few weeks time. I left, happy in the knowledge that I had finally gathered the courage to speak to a guy that I thought was hot, but not convinced I would see him again.
Nicklas did come to Saigon, and I did see him again. We hung out and he extended his stay in Saigon beyond the three planned days. He extended again, and then he extended his tourist visa. His friends moved on to the north of Vietnam. We spent five lovely weeks together in Saigon, until it was time for his flight back to Sweden. I traveled to Bangkok for a weekend and said a tearful goodbye. Distraught in Saigon, I booked a ticket to Sweden for the summer when I would be home for a few weeks. I had no idea how it would work out, he was going back to SWEDEN after all (remember the bikini-clad beauties I mentioned earlier?), but at the very least, I’d have another country on my travel map.
After my summer visit to Sweden, Nicklas moved to Saigon where we spent the next two years regularly going back to Serendipity Beach in Cambodia. We then moved to Sweden together. In April of this year, Nicklas and I celebrated our three year anniversary by booking a flight to Montevideo to start traveling in August. I know that not everybody is lucky enough to keep their backpacker, but I’m pretty happy that I kept mine and can’t wait to be a backpacker in South America with him!
Author bio: Elaine Thatcher is a teacher, traveler and expat. Besides this triple threat, you can find her on Runaway Brit, and Facebook or Twitter. Currently teaching in Stockholm, she’s planning travels in South America later this year.
Summer Chick Tales was conceived from my love of the season and my obsession with slurpees. I always have one every summer. I also love women writers. Lots. If you want to submit a story or be in charge of the mojito station, see the editorial schedule. Come on, join the XX chromosome party.
Photos: from story author and Amber de Bruin