My Guesthouse Fell Into the Lake
“Number Nine Guesthouse is not open right now.”
I laugh. “Yeah, right.” After four months in Southeast Asia, I’ve heard that one a thousand times. Tuk-tuk drivers will tell you anything to get you to a guesthouse where they can earn a commission.
“No,” the driver tells me. “Number Nine Guesthouse is gone now.”
“No, it’s not,” I reply. “I stayed there two months ago.”
“It was torn down.”
“You expect me to believe that? Fellas, please,” I say, invoking a favorite expression of my dad’s: “I was born at night, but I wasn’t born last night.”
I take my bag and walk around the corner to the guesthouse.
And…sh*t. It really is gone. Where Number Nine Guesthouse once stood, there’s now an empty gap and a pile of rubble.
For once, they weren’t kidding. The guesthouse really did fall into the lake.
When I stayed at Number Nine Guesthouse two months earlier, I paid $4 for a room with two twin beds. Splitting the cost with a Swedish girl the first night, it was the cheapest room I’ve had on the entire trip.
The Number Nine had a great deck overlooking the water, and a nice backpacker hangout area with comfy chairs and a TV. In fact, that was where I got introduced to the hilarious British comedy Peep Show.
The only problem? The guesthouse was precariously built on top of the lake.
I had nightmares every night that the guesthouse was crashing and sinking, murky water pouring around me.
And then it actually happened!!! The f*ck?!?!
The Number Nine is Lonely Planet’s current top pick for guesthouses in the lakefront area. As you’d imagine, the street is now perpetually filled with bewildered backpackers, their battered yellow guidebooks open to the same spot.
Phnom Penh’s lakefront is one of the great backpacker neighborhoods of Southeast Asia. It’s cheap, it’s filled with cool restaurants, and it has a bit of a hippie vibe.
But it’s not going to be around for long. The Number Nine wasn’t the only place that had been torn down. So had several restaurants, including my favorite, the aptly named Oh My Buddha.
Want to experience this neighborhood? Don’t wait. Go now. It’s not going to be around for long.