I’d never even known Cambodia existed until I heard a song on the radio.
At the time I was 19, exercising at 4am before leaving for my shitty hospitality job in central London, (where I’d have to cook five huge pans of rice before 7am and try not to burn myself again in the process), when I heard those first few chilling bars. As soon as the lyrics kicked in I was hooked, and I had to manically calmly step off the treadmill, grab my phone and find out just what that intriguing, compelling, so fucking real song was.
No exaggeration here, but I owe it to Dead Kennedys’ ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ for changing my life that day, because alongside developing my economic, political and social views in the future, the band also taught me that the country of Cambodia is as real as the city of Timbuktu in Mali – a fact I only found out about two years ago.
I was immediately enthralled, obsessed with Dead Kennedys and obsessed with this song, and having spent the next day off I had researching Cambodia and its history, by 7pm I was enamoured, making it the third and final country of the three countries I must absolutely do all I can to visit before I die.
So when I, at 24 years old, was crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia, I sat back, looked out of the window, saw the dust and the trees and the people and Cambodia itself (!), I was almost beside myself with happiness and joy. To be sitting on the coach as it rumbled its way past the immigration checkpoints and into this fascinating country, ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ blasting through my earplugs (a scene I had pictured in my head many, many times), I admit I teared up, because I could not believe that after just five years I was here, and all because of a song I randomly heard one early morning.