Back when we played pick-up ultimate in Chiang Mai, we met Rachel who put us in contact with her friend Greg in Phnom Penh. He was one of the people organizing the Mekong Cup (ultimate frisbee tournament) in Phnom Penh, and luckily he needed some players on his team. The stars aligned perfectly in our travels… we were headed that direction just in time for the tournament! Stars kept aligning and Greg, the legend that he is, said he had extra bed spots at his place… perfect.
We took a tuk-tuk to Greg’s house and settled in. That night, Thursday, Greg invited us and Nathan to his street hockey league night. We had nothing to do, so hockey it is. We didn’t know this at the time, but Nathan is actually the brother of an ex-teammate of mine in St. Louis… small world. Hockey was a bunch of sweaty fun, and while we got schooled a few times by some crafty players, we picked it up pretty well. Maria did great for her first time ever picking up a stick. We went out with the players afterward for dinner then to the Blue Dog to close the night out.
Friday Maria and I took to the streets for sightseeing and TCB (taking care of business). Waking up late, we BARELY managed to get our passports into the Vietnamese embassy for processing… we had to get a visa before we left after the tourney. It was a good thing we got the visa sorted that day, because there would have been no time that weekend. After the embassy, Nathan took us on Greg’s motorbike to lunch and to the infamous Tuol Sleng S-21 prison.
Now… this is supposed to be a happy post, but I have to mention what we did for two hours on Friday. For older readers, you might remember the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in the 70s. For younger readers, you might have no clue what the Khmer Rouge is. You can read about it here. Basically, the leader of the Khmer Rouge regime was Pol Pot, who along with his henchmen, rounded up and killed approximately 2 million people from 1975 to 1979. They arrested, tortured, and executed anyone who had connections with the former Cambodian government (or any government), professionals, intellectuals, writers, filmmakers, and anyone who was ethnically different (Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Christian, Muslim, etc.)
The whole thing is absolutely nuts and on scale with the other major genocides of the world. The thing that resonated with us so much was that it was so recent. The S-21 prison served as a secret interrogation and torture facility in the heart of Phnom Penh. We toured the prison walking from room to room, as it is now a museum. I have walked in a gas chamber used in German concentration camps in Dachau, but this was as real as it gets. There is still blood on the floor. They didn’t move a thing.
Now let’s have a moment of reflection.
After depression sunk in… we picked up our passports from the embassy and got ready to shift gears: it was high time to catch the boat party. Most ultimate tournaments have sponsored parties… at least the cool ones do. This tournament, the Mekong Cup, had three. That might be the norm with Asian tournaments, I have no clue, but we were pumped. The Friday night before the tournament, players gathered for a boat ride on the Mekong River complete with everything that ultimate players usually do (mainly boat races). General fun was had, and the party moved to the Blue Dog again where the official Friday night party was.
Saturday morning we prepared for war… pretty much. War against our hangovers and war against the heat and humidity of the midday Cambodian sun. Armed with cases of Royal-D (the local version of gatorade powder), we won both of those battles. On the field, our team was full of veterans and was an overall eclectic group of ultimate players. For some, this was their first real tournament; for others, they had been playing for decades. With a fun team and talented players, we went 4-0 on the first day, beating the eventual tournament winners from Singapore.
A friend of Greg’s apparently had kegs of beer he needed to get rid of, so he brought them to the fields for Saturday during/after the games. At the end of the day, we ended up loading the kegs into the back of Greg’s land cruiser, picking up some ice, and serving beers from the trunk as we race through the streets of Phnom Penh. Pretty much anything goes. Saturday night was the real tourney party, suffice to say that more drinking happened. We piled into Greg’s car to get from place to place and at one point we were driving around with 5 people on the roof… 5 roofies. The Khmer people in the streets and on motorbikes were staring, pointing, and laughing. Crazy white people. We managed to head to a few places after that, with medium to great success, and ended the night with street pizza.
Sunday morning came, and thank our lucky stars we earn ourselves a bye in the first round of bracket play. We ended up losing in the semis, narrowly getting beaten by Singapore who we beat the day before. The difference is that the Singapore team generally doesn’t drink. We narrowly missed winning the tournament, and also narrowly missed winning the party (the other Phnom Penh team stayed out later).
After the games, the after party began on the fields with kegs supplied by Cambodian Beer, apple pie shots supplied by Rachel, and buckets by Soso. Then the slip n’ slide was brought out. One of our teammates little kid one the men’s division layout contest! Pretty cool for a 8 year old (not sure how old he actually is).
Huge thanks to Greg and Rachel for setting us up for the weekend. We owe you one. By the end of the weekend, we fell in love with the growing Cambodian ultimate scene and got to witness first hand the progress that the Cambodian players are making. This was the first time that the country fielded an all-Cambodian team at a tournament! They were pretty good too.
Off to Vietnam for us, with the goal of getting to the beach to relax. After 4 straight nights out on the town in Phnom Penh, a dose of the beach is what the doctor ordered.
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