At the end of June 2016 I had a week’s holiday and decided to visit Sihanoukville. At that point I had been in Cambodia for over a year, but still a novice and not yet having explored or seen the hidden side of the country. I continued communicating with Jed via emails and wasn’t particularly in a hurry to see the place he settled in for the time being. But another holiday came, I said ‘why not’, booked a place at Otres 2 beach and had my motorbike checked to make sure it was roadworthy for the five hour ride.
People here, both expats and locals, always express surprise at how a woman can go on long rides into the country on her own. Frankly, it was also a surprise for me, considering I had never ridden a motorbike before, other than a tiny borrowed scooter in Sri Lanka. I find it extremely enjoyable: the sun, the wind, an open road, me and nothing in between. A complete immersion in senses.
June is a month of monsoons here. If you have never been to Asia – it is tricky to ride when it pours down as if from a bucket, with roads flooding so rapidly one can find self in a sea in a matter of minutes. It was that kind of day, stormy, windy, very wet. I stopped a few times on the way, forced to look for shelter, because the wall of water made it dangerous to continue. I have to say that any rainwear is pretty useless here, you WILL get soaked down to your underwear no matter what.
I arrived at Otres 2 when it was getting dark, dripping wet and hungry, but happy from the ride and the fact that I finally made it to Sihanoukville. Prior to leaving Phnom Penh I had sent an email to Jed telling him about the trip. At that point there was no conscious thought about a meeting, but once I spent a couple of days by the beach, in town and up on the hill at Wat Leu (places familiar to Jed, the photo of Wat he once posted on the forum) I thought to myself ‘Fuck it, I made it here to Cambodia across the Indian ocean, we have been corresponding for a number of years, I am here in Snooky now… I will ask’, and an email was on its way.
As you will see from the emails that follow I was quite eager to meet Jed, and the reason was that same reason many people write to him both privately and on the forum: the Jed Hook. I felt a strong pull despite having left the forum and knowing quite clearly that he couldn’t teach me anything. But we were not equal at that time. We were not equal because I saw nothing of his Reality – yet. He was still a mystery, although not as much of a mystery as he was to others.
As I learnt some time later from a third party… he felt that I was a mystery to him too. ‘Enigma’, I was told.
He declined a meeting in his reply. It was something I expected. There was nothing I could offer Jed in any way, he knew that and I knew that and told him so in an email. Still, I felt the pinch and so replied that I would be in Dao of Life at one o’clock lunch time if he changes his mind.
He didn’t. It was raining heavily, I sat in Dao for about an hour, had lunch and on the wave of feeling bloody disappointed and disheartened spent the afternoon checking out some well known in Snooky places.
In one of them, Led Zephyr, which used to be a popular bar and music venue (now sold) I asked someone to take a photo of me with the guitar right on stage. They obliged, it was early afternoon, and the place was deserted. This was the photo I emailed to Jed that evening and what eventually lead to me meeting him. We exchanged eighteen emails in those five days, not all quite as silly. In one of them I told Jed that I would be in Kamasutra (an Indian restaurant on Serendipity Road) the following afternoon, and if he wants to remain unknown – he’d be better off staying away from the place on that day.
Kamasutra is where I saw Jed McKenna for the first time.
Note: All the photos were taken on that trip to Sihanoukville. The place has changed a lot since then.