he International Youth Club has a French facade that may intimidate the
low-budget exercise enthusiast. I walk in and am greeted by a beaming Khmer
smile and charm and confronted with membership rates - $70 per month. However,
if married or in a defacto relationship a hefty discount is on offer which
brings the cost down to $45 a head - I guess it's a positive incentive for Phnom
Penh's couples to not let their bodies slowly deteriorate as they happily grow
old together. I didn't ask whether the management is liberal enough to give
discount to homosexual couples.
On the second storey is the weight room
which is a few aerobocycles, ergo-rowers and dumbbells short of a gymnasium. The
equipment is a real mixed bag - some good basic free weights, mats, cycles,
benches and treadmills, and a few high-tech designer contraptions - good for
muscle isolation training and not much else, say bioaerobic scientific studies.
The room is sparsely populated by the beautiful people of the expat
community, sporting Reebok attire which I suspect may have been picked up at the
central market on the cheap. They anxiously glance for mirrors to ogle their
plumage. A few much fitter looking Cambodians are also in the room. They seem to
have a lot more carefree fun with the gadgets.
After a few minutes on a
stationary bicycle I begin to regret that occasional puff on a tax-free
cigarette, and I realize just how unpleasant exercise is. But I continue for the
same reason that a person bangs his head against a brick wall - because it feels
great when you stop.
After working up a sweat I'm ready for the pool,
jumping in it feels like warm pee soup, but I'm told the temperature is cooler
in the morning. The idiot who built laid a concrete slab on the bottom which
stretches over 20 meters of its 50 meter length, making this section too shallow
for anything but socializing and playing with toddlers. You can't really swim
laps anyway, there are no lane ropes or lines on the bottom to guide you. But
the bathers don't seem to care, swimming freestyle laps is the last thing on
The ambiance is serene, small trees covered in twinkling
yellow lights surround the pool and light pop music is faintly heard from the
place next door - a new Khmer nightspot. The Khmer staff are wonderfully smiley,
fun-loving and relaxed, they do not kick you out at closing time, and don't even
appear to care what time it is. All up an idyllic calm is created - the perfect
therapy for the many neuroses I along with most expats have carried with me to
The tennis courts are high quality plexiplave with good
lighting. They are keenly used by people who cannot play the game.
join? Well why not? It's to hot to run around the Olympic stadium, the National
stadium for Badminton lacks courts, I'm tired of attempting to catch a wealthy
lover pool-side at the Cambodiana, and gratuitous sex, I've been told, doesn't
take the muscle groups through a full-range workout. So for the yuppie fitness
fanatic, what other exercise options are there?