Readers' Submissions

In response to “Cambodia: My Vacation Story”

  • Written by Kampot83
  • July 15th, 2009
  • 20 min read


I wanted to provide some insight after reading this submission. Phnom Penh — and Cambodia as a whole for that matter, is changing fast…so fast that almost every week there is a new hostess bar going up on either St. 51 (home of Walkabout, Shanghai, Howie's, and Heart of Darkness) St. 136 (69 Bar, Onethreesix, Candy Bar) or St. 104 (Rose Bar, Onezerofour, Zanzibar, etc). Also, St. 130 (Sharky's) is quickly developing too. But what do we need to know here? What is the correct price to pay for food, transportation, hotel, drinks, lady drinks, barfines, etc?

Well, to start, the writer really overpaid for everything…from hotels, cars, tuktuks, girls, guides, and guns… Unfortunately, using lines like "What the hell, why not?" and "I might have paid too much but it was still cheap to me" don't justify being taken advantage of again and again. I understand from reading many submissions that a lot of people just want to enjoy their holiday and not be so concerned about every nickel and dime. They don't care to read or research beforehand (which this writer said he actually did) and a lot of things can go wrong on a first trip…however, this writer claims to have been to SEA many, many times over the years, and he is knowingly being scammed and taken advantage of in the story and does not do anything about it. Also, no one likes guys paying double the ST/LT rate — especially if they are not Japanese or Korean. Again, you are on holiday. Spending a little more (in many cases a lot more) then the going rate in Cambodia probably won't break the bank and you won't lose sleep over it. But the writer got screwed over again and again both knowingly and unknowingly, and that is not alright. I hope my response to his story both serves as a guide for future travelers to Cambodia, as well as a reminder of how easy it is to get taken advantage of.

OK…Where do I start?


I'll follow this story from sentence to sentence and provide a little insight and advice along the way:

TAXI FORM AIRPORT TO TOWN

Yes, it does cost $9 for a tuktuk or a taxi from the official stand at the airport to go anywhere into town. If you walk 50 meters from the stand, there are drivers that will take you for $5 to $7. Overall, it's pricey, considering that it only costs $4 to go 3 hours south to Sihanoukville by bus or $6 to go 5 hours north to Siem Reap/Angkor Wat.

ACCOMMODATION

How much to spend for a night? There are several decent options available that are affordable, centrally located, and have air conditioning. They range in price from $10 to $25 a night. I think the writer, who was on the outskirts of the city, paid a little too much. Personally, I have stayed at Walkabout ($16) Indochine 2 ($25) Bright Lotus 2 ($10) and International Guesthouse ($15 for top of the line room). Despite the generic name and use of the word "guesthouse" I think that The International Guesthouse (IGH) was the best — located on St. 136, it's right where you want to be. All of the accommodation mentioned above was guest-friendly and did not have a joiners fee.

TRANSPORTATION

Tuktuk rides are never ever more than $2 regardless of distances within PP or time of day/nite. They will ask for $3-5 which is really easy to negotiate down within seconds. Usually motos are $1 anywhere anytime. Locals pay 1500-2000 riel (1/2 that).

BARFINES AND ST/LT

Girls are always 15-20 ST, 20-30 LT. No exceptions. They will usually want to go short time and will ask for $20. It is extremely easy to knock that down to $15. Certainly dropping $40 for an overnight stay is completely out-of-line. Also, prices have actually been coming down in the last few months, due to the slowdown in bars, and more girls getting into the business as a result of entire neighborhoods being torn down and relocated in Phnom Penh literally every few months. In many ways it is a desperate situation, and there is a huge disparity between supply and demand. Barfines are almost always $5 at any hostess bar. I noticed some places asking for $7 or $8 (Candy Bar).

WALKABOUT

Walkabout is not a "typical expat girlie bar". It's one-of-a-kind. There is only one or two other 24-hour bars in the city (Candy on St. 136 being one of them) and both of those have actual hostesses and staff. Walkabout is a total freelancer bar — Yes, there are several regular girls and several regular expats, but there is nothing typical about it. There are no barfines and you don't buy drinks for the girls. If you fancy a girl here, they offer one hour rooms (#1 and #2) upstairs for $4 for fan and $6 a/c. Condoms are $1. You decide if its worth it. The girls all want $20 s/t, but having been with 6 girls from Walkabout in 9 days just recently, I paid $10 or $15 every time except once. Supposedly the police are cracking down on WB. The upstairs was closed for several weeks, the long-running Australian manager has moved on, and girls are screened more by security at the entrance (where they hold their purses, IDs etc). Take caution here… I was speaking to two expats — one has been living in Phnom Penh for 8 years, and both said the girls are always checked by the guard in the front to make sure they are 18+. However, for being an "expert" he was dead wrong. One girl I got to know well was 20 years old and she always there with her friends. I asked about her young-looking friends, and she told me their ages… 15 and 16. I wasn't sure if I believed it at first, but then she knew their exact birthdays too! Overall, be careful, and ask to see ID every time. Both said they were 20 years old, which is common in these bars (saying you are 18 leaves some doubt). The bar is mostly busy from 11pm to 6am.

SHANGHAI

I frequently visited this bar, which is a two minute walk from Walkabout, and I'll add a few thoughts since the writer seemed to spend a lot of time here. Facts: Barfines here are $5, not $15. I spoke with someone yesterday that went there and confirmed it. Actually, I have never barfined a girl here, but the people I was with did. I also spoke with the 2 owners (older farangs who sit on the couch in the corner in Hawaiian shirts and watch the action every night). Sometimes they will want you to spend a minimum prior to barfining (which I think was $15 but never quite sure) <A quite ridiculous policyStick> Lady drinks here are $1 over the stated price — and the girls keep the $1 which is good. These girls are making $2 a day/$50 a month which is the standard for every hostess bar. Every $1 they get from tips or LDs is good for them. Prices at Shanghai are in-line with most places, but have been increased 3x in 2 years form what I have heard. Yes, there are some cute girls here. It caters towards Japanese and Korean tourists — the girls have names that correspond to this. It is more of an institution. I think Shanghai has been open for more than 10 years. It is a nice stop for a drink or two and fun to sit outside in the relaxing garden/patio with a girl or two.

A few of my favorite hostess bars were mentioned above. Overall, I had a lot of fun at Onezerofour Bar on you guessed it — St. 104. Beer is around $1.50 – $2.50 and lady drinks are usually $3 at any hostess bar. Again though with ages…take caution and check IDs if you barfine. I asked 4 girls their ages one night at the same bar. 18,18,18,19. Hmmm… I never did confirm if they were telling the truth or not. Hostess bars are open from 3 or 4pm to 4am. Happy hour is 4-8pm at practically every one. Overall, they are all kind of similar. Rose Bar is the first I believe on St. 104, but I had a bad experience here — Paid with a $20 and they wanted to charge me a money changing fee. Also the bill was wrong.


FOOD

All of the tourists flock to Sisowath/riverside for the restaurants lined up the entire stretch. I have tried several and was not impressed. Also, there are a lot of touts here and it is just not a fun experience. Prices are extremely high too — usually starting at $4-6+ for a dish. One spot on Sisowath worth looking into is Kiwi Bakery <With a name like that it's got to be the best spot in town!Stick>. It's a lot more than a bakery though — several freshly-made options for very affordable prices.

I also like: USA Donuts on St. 136. Fortune Pho ($2.50 for the best Vietnamese soup I ever had) on St. 178. There are a lot of food options if you walk around. There is an outside corner restaurant with an English menu and Thai/Khmer favorites from $1 to $3 on the corner of St. 51 and 136 during the day. It's good stuff. If you wanted to walk form St. 51 near Walkabout/Heart/Shanghai to St. 136, its a straight shot north for about 8-10 mins.


CHINESE NOODLE RESTAURANT (ADDRESS: 553 MONIVONG BLVD) Again, look at the map. These are the BEST noodles in all of Cambo. This place is a big secret and not in the books. You can type it in online and there are a few pics, etc. It's $1.50 for a bowl of noodles. They still make them the old fashioned way. If you are going south from Walkabout it's on the RIGHT side. You can see the large sign.

Go to Zeppelin Bar right next door to Walkabout and eat any of the food. It's amazing. You can go anytime and they are open until 3-4am. You might be the only customer at times. The dumplings (fried or steamed with amazing dipping sauce) are only like $1.80 and sooooo good. All of the cocktails/mixed drinks are $1.00-$2.25 incl. mixer. Try something new…I did and its good. They have a huge drinks menu. It's a good chill spot and the owners are always there…Taiwanese couple and the husband is the guy spinning the vinyl. He has over 1000+ vintage disc. I love this place.


Lone Star Saloon: ADDRESS: #16 St. 172. Look at the map. It's a 2 minute walk from Walkabout. Good food, tex-mex, etc. Owners are from Texas. I had a good time here. Awesome food and quickly becoming a must stop in PP.

My Lien: Small restaurant/bar ADDRESS #14 St. 278. Again, look at map. 2 mins from Walkabout. Amazing food/noodle soup. Ran by woman named My Lien, but the younger Vietnamese girls working are super attractive. At least do a walk by. It's usually quiet.

Fat Boy Subs: Brand new — The owner/mgr of Sharkey's opened it and its right next door– supposed to be Subway on steroids — has subs too with 1 KILO of meat. ADDRESS: #124 ST 130

Howies (right next to Heart) is open until 430-500am and it's a really awesome bar. Not so much of a hostess bar like the others, and no pressure, etc. Lots of good pool players, good music, etc. It's really good. I went every night. Howie is Khmer I think — met him at Walkabout at 6am once…awesome guy.

Ok, here is my initial response/reaction to several of the part of the writer's submission:

The trip from my hotel to walk about cost me a few bucks. Which I come to find out is the typical fair from my hotel to this area. I get to the walk about and if you know this place, it is a typical expat girlie bar. A pool table and I think all Vietnamese women in their typical bar girl uniforms. I order a beer ($3 I think) and relaxed at the bar.

As previously mentioned, a few bucks is NOT the typical fare — Tuktuk or moto, to anywhere within the city. WB is NOT all Vietnamese women. I think I only remember 1 or 2 there. None of the girls are wearing "typical bargirl uniforms" because it is a freelancer bar! Also, there is no beer at Walkabout priced at $3. The cheapest is Anchor draft for $1.25 and form there I think the most was around $2.25

———————————–

I found a nice spot by the bar, finished my beer and ordered another one. Low and behold a few minutes later the girl I was chatting with at the bar slumbered in next to me. I winked at here and she came in close. This girl was about a 6 or a 7 on the Cambodian hot girl chart. Not bad looking, definitely sexy and "acted" all into me. I knew the routine from having travelled to Asia many times and it was still the same.

Well, if you have been to Asia so many times and know this routine, why didn't you say no or have more control of the situation?

———————————

First girl: I invited the girl back to my hotel. Which she absolutely accepted.

Second girl: Feeling good and ready to call it a night, I invited the girl back to the hotel. She absolutely accepted but asked that we grab some food from across the street first.

Third girl (in Siem Reap): I invited the girl back to my hotel. This time I had to pay a madam fee which was no big deal and we were off.

Three times you write like this and it is really annoying. You "invited her" and she "accepted" Is there a different way you can word that? If this a formal affair? If so, where do I send in my RSVP??

Also, all 3 times you passed out or fell asleep fast, which is interesting…

You also say "I figured what the hell?" 4 or 5 times in this story, which is just not good to read.

——————-

We head to the hotel, this time the tuktuk tried to charge me 5 bucks but I just gave him $3 and said that is the fair fare, then walked into my hotel.

WRONG!!! $2 is the correct fare here every time — Also, I can't believe you rated both of these girls a "6 or 7 on the Cambodian Hot Scale" yet gave both of them $40 in the morning (and it did not even sounded like you qualified for the definition of long time…a few hours later)

——————————–

You paid $40 for a car for 8 hrs? Is that 1/2 a day? It is around $6-7 to have a moto stay with you and take you everywhere for an entire day. I think you paid way too much here. PP is a small city and I don't think petrol costs added up to a lot for going such short distances.

$30 for a 2-hr Thai massage is too much as well. I know that Islands Massage on Sisowath is $20 for 2 hours.

After going to the internet cafe and getting a massage, you went back and slept for 6 hours — so it cost you $40 to rent a car for what would have been $2 via moto.

The next day, you got the same driver for $40 again and went to Wat Phnom…(which is not that touristy and not a "joke" as you described — there are a lot of local people here everyday). a museum, and the shooting range…which he charged you for on top of the $40 to rent the car and driver. $10 additional to drive to the shooting range?? Jesus…do some research! IT'S FREE. The drivers get a HUGE commission ($5-10) for taking anyone there. He probably could have asked for $20 additional and you wouldn't have even second-guessed it. Yes, bullets are expensive, but I am glad you at least got your YouTube video clip…and I though you did not like the touristy stuff? Overall, $2-3 would have gotten you to Wat Phnom and the museum, and FREE for the shooting range.

$10 for a beggar when the average working Cambodian makes $2-3 a day…and the Wat Phnom beggars are all mafia-controlled and he/she won't even get to keep the $10.

Overall, you dropped $90 in two days for car transportation when you could have only paid $4-5.

———————-

In Siem Reap Mr. Robert got a commission from the Freedom Hotel for taking u there — its a common, well-known scam hotel. Its so easy to research 5 mins a decent hotel/guesthouse and print out a map or directions for a driver. There are almost 200 GHz in Siem Reap alone. And you don't need to spend $35. $15-20 will give you more than enough. At least you took the $5 A/C bus this time and not private transportation.

A personal guide for a full day at Angkor is $15, not $30!! and don't ever pay anyone upfront. That's common sense 101.

You even said in the submission that you were aware at check-in that you have been scammed, and yet you go back and continue to deal with Mr. Robert when you return to Phnom Penh…Why??

After that we hit the Emperor's mother's temple which I think tomb Raider was filmed at.

Wow, which temple is this? I didn't know that "Ankor" had emperors!! I thought you did research prior to this trip.

I paid for the drivers and guides lunch as well, I think the total bill was less the $15 and it was amazing.

Paying for other people's food who are already ripping you off is "amazing?" and only $15 when it probably should have been $6-8

As I look back at things I wish I would have listened to my brain and not junk.

(Brief applause that doesn't last long) This is the smartest thing you say in the entire story — even though you end up not listening to yourself.

So just to back track a bit I had chatted with Mr. Robert earlier about going to Bamboo Island and Sihanoukville. He again got his paper out and started away on the deal of the century. I halted him and said I could figure it out on my own. Anyways at the Shanghai bar we tell these two girls that I'm going to the beach. I can't quite remember the conversation but I end up agreeing to pay $40 for a car and driver for the 4 of use that morning. We were to leave like at 4AM. Which we do.

This doesn't even make sense… OK, you did NOT halt him because he still planned out every detail, and why would you leave at 4am? It is only a 3-hour drive. Where are you going to check-in at 7am in Sihanoukville?

I know have a real uneasy feeling about Mr. Robert and this whole trip but move on as I am on vacation after all.

Wow, is this in hindsight? Or were you too shy to say no to a total stranger that you know has already ripped you off more than once?

I wanted my stint and the beach to be longer then 1 night so I had planned to just stay a few extra days which I again all paid in advance to Mr. Robert. Come to find out the guesthouse was owned by his aunt…go figure. As well I had paid for my buss fair to him.

OK…if you did not like the guesthouse after the first few hours, why stay there a few more nights, and why the hell are you paying in advance?? What is going on here? And did you know the girls had to be back in PP the next day? Was anything discussed in advance?

In the AM, the girls were to get up early to catch their bus supposedly already planned by Mr. Robert. Well that didn't happen and to top it off Mr. Robert had taken the car back that morning with out telling anyone. So the girls have woo'd me over by this time. I'm feeling as though Mr. Robert has done them wrong and played me. So I offer to cut my beach trip short and go back with them on a bus to Phnom Penh. Which now I feel was the wrong thing to do. Which it was.

Again, I am confused… You already paid in advance for the rooms and bus fares back to PP, right? So this guy essentially robbed you… Mr. Robert did not do you wrong, the girls did too. They knew everything that was going on, trust me. Girl A knows Mr. Robert well I am sure and they have pulled this short trip stunt dozens of times. I actually know "Girl A" and she has been at Shanghai for over 2 years now.

So night after night for the rest of my stay I went to shanghai. Bought a ton of drink for girls, then went off to the rose bar or where ever and bought a ton of drinks for the girls. I was withdrawing around $300 a night for those last 5 days I was in town. Do I regret it? Am I bitter about it? Not really.


Well..you should. If you are having a great time, and found your comfort zone, that is fine — but spending $300 a night going to the same two hostess bars is outrageous and actually kind of sad. Again, you pay a $15 barfine (its $5, I emailed the bar) Someone (likely the girls) pocketed the difference…and go off to Rose Bar, which is a hostess bar, which does not even make sense. You spent $100 at Shanghai, followed by $100 at Rose Bar hours later — That is not easy to do. No lady drink is over $3 or so.. I can only imagine how bad it got. Wow, you spent $30 for couch space at a dancing place? I don't know where you went, but the local price was likely $5 or so. There are so many things to do in Phnom Penh as an alternative — 1 or 2 days in your "routine" is maybe alright, but 5+ nights is off the scale. She was in it for the financial gain. Her friends probably gave her a little $ afterwards since she brought you to them. That's how it works…and when they are speaking Khmer to each other, what do you think they are saying? ANSWER: "How can we get more money from the buffalo?"

I plan to go there again, I want to just do my own thing as it is a lot more fun and cheaper.


What exactly would that be? You obviously found your comfort zone. What are you going to do different next time? Maybe try going to Kampot, Kep, or Battambang.

OK, I've said more than enough. Overall, all of this info about pricing is online everywhere. 1 solid hour of research could have answered all of this. Don't get so close with people like Mr. Robert — obviously he is in it for himself and taking you for a ride.

Glad you had a good time and sorry for being so critical — It was just hard to read at times. NEVER listen to anyone's local advice where to eat/sleep. 9 times out of 10 its for their financial gain and u will be overcharged big time.

There is so much more to Cambodia than just Phnom Penh, and there is so much more to Phnom Penh then spending $300 a night at two hostess bars.

Thai Dating, Singles and Personals

Stickman's thoughts:

You've put me in the mood to visit Cambodia again. Big fan of that country, I am.