The Cambodian Culture Shock
The first thing I'll say about Cambodia is that on first impressions the place makes you feel like you are in one huge brothel. Is that a good thing? Well I guess that depends on your point of view? If you're reading Stick's website then for you, it most probably is a good thing.
I was travelling with a mate around South East Asia towards the end of the year 2000 and we landed at Phnom Penh airport after flying in from Saigon. $20 later and a shiny new visa in the passport, we scored a cab into the city and checked into the Narin Guest House. You'll have to forgive me but I can't remember many specific road names of the places I'm going to mention.
Has anyone ever read the book “Off The Rails In Phnom Penh”? I’d just read it while we were in Nam, and Cambodia sounded pretty damn hot. Lots of weed, pussy, and excitement to name but a few of the attractions that jumped out of those photocopied pages.
Orientation in P.P. is pretty straightforward when you compare it to a city like Bangkok. It's a small city with a population of around 1,500,000, and getting around is simple. There's 1000s of motos (motorbike taxis) that you can hire mega cheaply and these chaps don’t try and kill you like the rascals do in BKK. Anyway… back to the point. My friend and I decided to just go for a beer and some food, whoring was the last thing on our minds. We walked for a while through PP, just getting a feel for the place, and ended up in a side street than runs parallel to one of the main boulevards. I think the boulevard may have been called Monievong Avenue?
We’re walking down this street, and saw a nice looking quiet bar with a pool table outside, and some tables that were obviously for the attached restaurant, so we walk over towards the bar, and as if by magic… two fairly large smoked glass doors suddenly open up and we are beckoned inside. Naive as we were being new to PP, we strode in expecting to see the inside of the bar restaurant. There must have been 30 – 40 very attractive girls, all identically dressed in matching tiny silky little red dresses, perched on tall bar stools, all smiling and trying to look coy and attractive, all with little numbers on there dresses the same as in a Thai go go bar. We were speechless for a few seconds, but we didn’t succumb to temptation. We managed to regain some composure and had it on our toes and scampered. It was pretty intimidating. It was just the shock. Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of action and am the first person to admit that I've nobbed more than my fair share of Asian babes, but that was not the time or the place… we only went out for a beer and a bite to eat, not a soapy massage with yum yum.
There were a good few more (about 30) establishments similar to this one dotted on both sides of this road, but none we were invited to enter. Next we came upon a bar named “Travellers Bar” just the kind of place we were looking for. Good food, cold beer Lao, and even some other travellers. This bar seemed in no way connected to girls in anyway at all. The food was good, and so was the beer. We got talking to an expat who was teaching something, probably English, who after my gentle questioning, was starting to give us the S.P. on poonani in Phnom Penh.
He told us about the girls: Most of them are in fact Vietnamese girls, very very pretty things, I’d say on balance, prettier than the average Thai bar, or go go girl. The age range goes from dangerously young (about 15) up to about mid twenties. Like I said before in an earlier submission, peeps who play with underage girls need locking up. The cost for short time is a ridiculously low $5, up to about $20 for long time. Anyway, we were sitting in this “Travellers Bar” just having a beer a and watching some satellite telly, when in strolls a bevy of girls, again attired in matching sexy dresses. It turns out that next door is yet another massage parlour, and when the girls have no customers in there, they just walk next door and see if they can pick up any custom. Number 32 looked astoundingly beautiful. The English teacher quickly downed his beer and disappeared with one of the girls, to the short time room next door, my friend and me? Well, I was trying to be a good boy, and whoring isn’t really my friend’s cup of tea. The teacher came back about an hour later looking revitalised, and confirmed that he paid just $5, that’s just B200!! Shit man that’s cheap huh?
Bikes are cheap to hire in Cambodia, about $4 per day for a newish 250 cc trials bike. Cruising around PP we “accidentally” came upon the infamous area known as “Toul Kok” (I'd actually heard about this place, and without telling my friend, kind of led us there.)
Toul Kok is really a shabby dirt road about 1 mile long, lined with ramshackle wooden buildings, that on one side are built on stilts over a festering canal. Man, this place looks like hell. Most of the shacks are in fact, mini whorehouses, with groups of girls with talc on their faces, standing in the doorways beckoning you to stop and come in for a quickie. This place is more geared up to the average Khmer male. We went home, but when I had a chance and my mate was busy, I quickly jumped on the bike and motored back there and had a closer look at the girls on offer. These girls were in several divisions lower than the girls from the massage parlours in the centre, however, I was nursing a case of D.S.B. (Dangerous sperm build up) and on my second pass spotted a beauty at one of the doorways. I pulled up alongside and had a closer look, and upon satisfying myself that she wasn’t in fact a minger, asked her the million dollar question… “How much?” Man you're not going to believe this… she said $3! The shed was not the nicest environment you’ve ever seen to get laid in by a long way, if it was in the west it would have been used to keep chickens in or something. A whole ten minutes later (I'm not proud, and that included a cigarette) I emerged having purged my sack, feeling rather refreshed. The D.S.B. had gone! To be honest the place was such a shit hole, I had one of those “What the fuck am I doing moments” and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Toul Kok…. Only for the hardcore, definitely not a first timer.
There are unlimited other places in PP where you can find a nice Vietnamese girl to scratch your itch. (There are not many Khmer working girls as they are generally horrified at the thought of selling there bodies for readies, although I can't back this up, it's just information I was told by the teacher we met.) There are quite a few bars and discos where freelancers operate. I think the disco we went to was called “Martinis.” A kicking disco, well the music’s not to happening, but there are lots of girls milling around generally looking to sell you their snatch in exchange for some quick cash.
There is another area not far from PP called “Svay Pak” also nicknamed “K11” as it's 11 km outside the city. I have heard tales about this place but haven’t personally been there. It's a small town that is almost exclusively made up of brothels, about 20 of them, and I've been told that the prices are again $5 S/T or $20 L/T. I've also been told that it's not a good place to go after dark, and is best visited early afternoon.
Siem Reap… Ahhhhh the famous temples of Angkor. This must be one of the most awe-inspiring places I've ever been, it even beats Bagan in Myanmar for sheer grandeur. But as ever, there is a steady supply of poontang. There are the usual massage parlours, karaoke, and the freelancers that frequent the small bars in the town. They first try and hustle you at pool, then try and get in your CKs and tussle with your muscle. I spent a few hours (S/T) with a girl from here. Mmnnnn marvellous!
We went down to the south as well to Sihanoukville, and you guessed it… availability on a grand scale.
Cambodia… like Laos is a beautiful country just crying out for the tourist $s to roll in. It's corrupt in a way that makes Thailand look squeaky-clean. The government led by Hun Sen, is just about to win another term in office. Hun Sen proclaims to be a fair democratic kind of guy, but reports in the press continue to cast huge shadows over his leadership. When the opposition holds rallies, it has been known for them to be broken up with grenades, killing dozens, and the finger usually points to guess whom? (Aren’t I good at not writing libellously?) And I haven’t mentioned ballot rigging have I? No? that’s okay then. Petty thieves are beaten to death in the streets of PP, whilst the police look on. In what other country, do you have the choices between; A $15 eight hour journey by boat and bus from PP to Siem Reap, or bunging a certain guest house proprietor $25, who will then organise for you to hitch a ride on a military chopper, complete with M60 machine gun?
I loved Cambodia, from dirt biking up to Bokor Hill station in the South, to the fantastic Angkor temples in the North. To me the girls are a very small part of what Cambodia has to offer. A small part, but still an enjoyable part. Cambodia has only been open and safe, well, kind of safe for tourism since the late 90s, it's probably best to go there soon, as in another five years Westerners might just possibly become another commodity to exploit, and we’ve all seen that happen right?
I too enjoyed visiting Cambodia and if a certain Mr Sharpless has anything to do with it, I'll probably go back over and visit again. I too found it a fascinating place, but the situation with the girls there was somewhat troubling. Those Vietnamese girls were not there of their own volition and some of the girls seemed horribly young. More than a few girls admitted to myself and my travelling companion that they were younger than the 15 mark you mentioned. There is a lot of poverty and some of the general cleanliness and hygiene was poor, yet seeing people fiddling with these young girls in a bar was far more disgusting.