Cambodia - "You have drugs in ass?"

THE snap of the elasticised surgical glove suggests the creepy man with the hairy mole is not joking about the strip search.

I’m in deep.

In some alternative universe, his breathy whisper in my ear, “What are you hiding in your bottom?” might have raised a titter.

But not in the arrivals lounge of a Cambodian airport.

It’s getting late and my heart is buzzing faster than the solitary fluoro tube, high above me in the stark, sphincter-clenching interview room.

Away from other travellers, the question is posed again — rhetorical and less eloquent this time.

“You have drugs in ass?”

But my reply to the group of customs officials is the same.

“Umm, no.”


Feature 1

The elevated harmonies of business class have come down to earth with a bang — or rather a crack — because this is what they’re convinced I have concealed in mine.

Hairy mole man says this is the ONLY reason why I would be drenched in cologne, to confuse the sniffer dogs.

But it is not the only reason.

There is a far more innocent explanation why I’m doused in fragrance.

An upgrade at check-in quickly soured when the adjacent traveller threw up on my skybed.

“Aeroplane food is the only cuisine improved by partial digestion,” the passenger in 3B joked before resuming his snoring.

It was not the auspicious start to my Cambodian getaway I had imagined.

And it was about to get much worse.

Exactly 54 moist towelettes later I had restored a modicum of cleanliness to me and my airspace, and erected a great wall of flight pillows to guard against further in-flight reflux.

But the smell of honey-glazed carrots, potato rosti and slowroast wagyu lingered as we descended into Siem Reap.

Later, in duty free, I hovered at the perfume counter spritzing liberally.

I cleared immigration easily enough but in customs, the fragrant cloud of bergamot and amber drew the attention of the officious ground staff and their sniffer dogs.

The man with the hairy mole eyed me with immediate disapproval and pounced.

Now, in the room with the solitary fluoro light, surrounded by Cambodian customs officers, I am being questioned about what exactly I am trying to hide.

Apparently CCTV captured me spraying 23 different types of perfume.

But purchasing, “not one”, says Hairy Mole with a flourish of his bony wrist and a pretend perfume spray.


He snarls.

Several officers have already gone through my luggage and found nothing more incriminating than a pair of Hello Kitty boxer shorts.

And three stolen hotel hangers.

A theft on which I can no doubt blame this current karmic retribution.

But aside from the hangers, which I vow to return, I am clean, so I plead with Hairy Mole, employing staccato for effect.


Each syllable bold, crisp and purposeful.

Hairy Mole appears unmoved.

My mind is a chaos of despair

I am barely able to point at my crotch where the stain of red wine jus is still clearly visible.

“Call the airline,” I say in a desperate finale to my theatrical explanation of windmill arms and heaving bosom.

I point to the stain on my pants again.

And again.


Hairy Mole tires of my entreaties, and looking at my crotch.

He picks up a phone and makes a call.

He says something in Khmer before nodding and grunting for several seconds.

He hangs up the phone.

“We hope you enjoy your stay in Cambodia,” he says damply as he hands me my Hello Kitty boxer shorts.

“Soum swa-kumm (welcome).”

Just like that.

I’m about to say something clever and just a little bit cheeky but Hairy Mole is giving me his best Clint Eastwood, “go ahead, make my day look”.

So instead, I hastily repack my case, grab my knickers and dash out the door to the taxi rank.

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