A Broken Key and Delhi Belly in Phnom Penh

This is an extract of my adventures in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as part of a school expedition, back in the summer of 2014.

It was our final in Vietnam! Back in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, we visited the War Remnants and Independence Palace. We stopped by a BBQ restaurant afterwards that displayed a poster with colourful and exotic drinks so we decided to go in and order some non-alcoholic drinks. As we were there and the menu looked promising, we decided to book a reservation at their restaurant in the evening.

As we were wandering around the streets, we managed to get lost and couldn’t find our way back to the hotel; team member insisted that we are going the right way but this led to heading to the outskirts of the city, next to the highway. When we made our way back, we had a bit of free time to explore the markets and buy some souvenirs. We were then to meet at the rendezvous point near a McDonalds before we headed to the fancy BBQ restaurant we had our drinks in. Surprisingly, the McDonalds we passed looked fancier than the BBQ restaurant we were going to.

The BBQ restaurant had an outside venue where we sat and we had a huge selection of meats and vegetables to choose from. After choosing the meat, we found out that the meat and vegetables were given to us raw and we had to cook them on a BBQ grill in the middle of the table. We had no idea how fresh the meat was but that was not something we thought of at the time. Once cooked, the meat was delicious and a few people ordered more to splurge and celebrate our final night in Vietnam.

After celebrating our two weeks in Vietnam, we had to move on to our next adventure in Cambodia! In the next morning, we made our way from HCMC to Phnom Penh by coach. It was a rather relaxed journey after a hectic morning carrying all kit to the bus stop from the hotel. On board the coach, we found out that a couple of team members are having a case of Delhi belly and had more stops than planned to use the stopover facilities. As the day progressed, more people started to form these symptoms which included my roommate, Sam.

When we arrived at the Okay Guesthouse in Phnom Penh, I was handed the key to our room and I headed up several flights of stairs to the room whilst my roommates, Josh and Sam were waiting downstairs to collect the rucksacks in the bottom of the stacked pile. When I got to the room and tried to unlock the thick, wooden door using the key, I found it very stiff and difficult to twist the key and door handle to get it open. At first, I thought it was the wrong key but after coming down the stairs to ask a hostel worker for assistance, he showed and explained to me that I had to put more pressure and twist the key forcefully to get it open. After many tries, I just managed to get the hang of unlocking the door to the room. Sam and Josh managed to unlock the door on their first try almost instantly.

Sam spent the whole afternoon sat on the toilet. As my other Josh and I were just chilling out by the lobby area, I wanted to explore more of the city before heading to our next destination. I decided to join a group of girls for a walk around the city. We went to a park on Sihanouk Boulevard nearby the guest house and saw a monument honouring the late King Norodom Sinhanouk. We took a few pictures and people-watched in the park but the girls started to receive some hassle from touts in the area. I helped them get away as we headed back to the guesthouse but as soon as we got back, I started to feel abdominal cramps and an urgent need to go to the toilet.

I went upstairs to the room and straight to the en-suite toilet and from that point, I knew that it’ll only get worse. And it did.

After feeling a bit better, I rested on the bed and chatted to Josh for a while. We then headed to dinner and we agreed to leave Sam with the key as he was feeling worse than he was earlier and that he may need to rush back to the room without notice.

We sat in the restaurant area by the entrance of the Okay Guesthouse and took up most of the tables and chairs due to our large group size. After ordering dinner, I started to feel that I needed to go to the toilet. Rather than climbing flights of stairs to the room, there was, fortunately, a downstairs toilet. I went along a small corridor to there and when I opened the door to the toilet, I was glad to have checked if there was any toilet roll because there wasn’t. I urgently asked around the tables if they had any and they just handed me napkins for me to use, so I rushed to the downstairs toilet to do what I had to do.

It was getting worse, and after a short while, I needed to go again. However, when I went back, the door was locked and it was occupied by another sufferer of Delhi belly.

I needed to go now and the only option was to climb several flights. I promptly asked Sam for the key and rushed to the room. Remember the trouble I had with unlocking the door to the room earlier in the day? It only made matters worse. I got to the door, inserted the key, and tried to turn it. It didn’t work. I tried again. Still no difference, and I tried again harder this time but with still no effect. I had to go any minute now so I tried my very hardest to turn that key and get that door unlocked.

It was at the very moment when I heard a crack when turning the key, I knew that I screwed up.

I was in full panic mode. What was I going to do? I raced back downstairs and my first priority was to head to the loo and thankfully it was available. Once I finished, I explained to my expedition leader on what happened and he told me to talk to the guesthouse receptionist about it. I explained to her what happened and asked how much she needed to get it repaired.

The receptionist whispered to one of her colleague’s ear and then replied to me with a price of $60 US Dollars. Sixty freaking dollars, I thought to myself. That was roughly the amount of spending money I had for the remainder of the trip. I couldn’t argue though as I was at fault and it was my price to pay.

As I explained that my money belt is in the room and that I’ll pay for it later, the receptionist looked at me with a stern face and then with a sheepish grin. She was only joking and laughed with her colleague at me for acting serious about it. She later explained that it was not a problem, I didn’t need to pay, and she’ll call a friend that is a locksmith to help get the key out of the keyhole.

I passed over the bow half of the key and she immediately threw it in the bin beside her and handed me a spare key to the room.

During dinner, I explained to Josh and Sam about what happened and they were not very pleased, especially Josh that wanted access to his belongings in the room. After finishing dinner, we had to wait in the lobby until the locksmith arrived, and when he did we went up the flights of stairs to the door with the blocked keyhole.

The locksmith did his magic and removed the key that was stuck in the door. He handed me the remainder of the key it which I still have in my possession today. This is a bit embarrassing to write about since I’m still relatively new to blogging, however, it does make for a good story.


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