‘I’m not gay but I had to kiss you!’ – French dude, Bodhi Villa, Cambodia

Bodhi Villa is a renowned hostel, built on the Kampong Bei River’s edge in Kampot, owned by an Australian dude, Hugh. It has been described as, ‘The Hotel California of Cambodia’. Upon entering the grounds of the hostel, you walk through a trodden path surrounded by trees and fairy lights. The first thing you see as you walk up the steps,and go through the main doorway is the bar/reception area (the most important area of any self-respecting backpacker paradise).

The main reception area is built entirely from wood, with a couch seating area nearest the bar, a small stage with a sweet little pointed roof and then a large pontoon deck with tables, lights and benches, overlooking the river. We didn’t venture into the sleeping areas, but I’m reliably informed that they are decent, with a couple of rooms that have an open wall looking straight out over the water. In short, the place exudes a coolness without the lah-dee-dah upper-middle class snarf-snarf brigade that some well-known ‘traveller’ abodes have frequenting their properties.

As it was a Friday night, there would be live acoustic sets from a few of the regulars in the area and from Hugh himself. Friday nights at the Bodhi are infamous for their debauched atmosphere. A troupe of misfits, lost souls and wandering Indigo Children basking in the glow of fairy lights, moonshine and river reflections. Drinks at ridiculously low prices, free shots at any given moment and the smell of a particular type of herb clouding the air around us.

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We took our places at a table and were joined by two Irish girls, who we instantly got chatting to and sharing stories of our travels so far. The chat may have been short-lived had I revealed that something rather large, eight-legged and hairy was scuttling across the wooden railing we were leaning against and straight over my hand before disappearing into the night. I’m still not sure if I’ve ever told Stannie about that. Hugh kicked off the evening proceedings with a selection of covers and original material, to a very receptive crowd. He was followed by a group of local musicians who played some very sleek and bluesy Cambodian music, followed by some Western hits of eras gone by.

I could feel myself itching to get onstage at this point. It had been a while. I wanted to play my music to a new audience of vastly different cultures, skin colours and nationalities. We had booked our tuk-tuk for a certain time, and that time was running out. I went over to Hugh and asked if I could get on. Not a problem. I hobbled over to the stage and sat down with the guitar handed to me.

‘Hey, my name’s Ram and I’m from London.’

Cue people from various parts of our planet shouting out the inevitable , ‘aawwight geeeezer’, ‘apples n’ pears’, ‘OI OI!’ etc etc. Mugs. I went straight into my first song. Within the first couple of bars I got that addictive feeling of euphoria from knowing I was playing to an audience who were on my side. I finished the first song, people cheered, shouted, asked for more. I played a second, random couples started dancing in front of me, more cheering and whooping. I thanked the crowd. Hugh started banging on a big pan with a stick. One more, play one more! Oh go on then…

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Once I’d finished, I hobbled to my feet and received more adulation, love and appreciation in a 30-second period (very important for someone with self-esteem issues and a craving for the spotlight) from this eclectic mix of misfits and nitwits than I have in the last few years playing the UK toilet circuit. And not ONE person told me I was ‘good enough to appear on X Factor’. Screw you British music ‘scene’. Screw you. A rather handsome French dude, who had been receiving particular attention from the ladies all night, came up to me and asked if he could kiss me. I didn’t really have a chance to reply before he moved in and somehow managed to miss my face and plant a kiss on my neck. ‘I’m not gay, but I had to kiss you!’

I’d like to say we decided to leave in true God of Rock fashion and depart as soon as I finished onstage, like a young, Indian Axl Rose. The reality is, it would’ve cost us a whole extra dollar to stay behind as our tuk-tuk was waiting outside…

As we hastily made our exit before more attractive European men could molest me, one of the Irish girls rushed outside as we were getting into the tuk-tuk. ‘I can’t believe I sat next to you all night and you didn’t even mention you could do THAT!’ Another kiss, this time managing to catch my left cheek. That extra dollar for staying longer was sounding like a good investment. But like a young, Welsh/Lithuanian/Scottish/English/Irish and Scouse Yoko Ono, I was ordered into the tuk-tuk.

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However, the seeds had been sown once again. The Resurrection of AuroRaman had begun!

S+R xxx

www.bodhivilla.com