Phnom Penh Notes
I have to preface this by saying that this is the only trip I have made to Phnom Penh, so I am not an expert. I am quite experienced with the Bangkok bar scene however, so the Phnom Penh (from now on PP) learning curve was shortened significantly.
I arrived on an Air Asia flight out of Bangkok. Anyone that's flown Air Asia knows that they have some seriously hot flight attendants. They also have some pretty cheap tickets. I paid $61 round trip, including all taxes and fees. Air Asia has only one flight a day from BKK, and this flight, which only lasts about an hour, was not full. Most of the travelers were European, Russian, and American tourists, most of which I assumed would be making a cursory visit to PP before heading north to Siem Reap. I'd love to see Angkor Wat but after a recent trip to Phi Phi, I vowed never again to go to another one of these ridiculously crowded tourist destinations.
A visa is required for most foreign travelers. When you arrive in the immigration area, 95% of tourists queue up to get a visa-on-arrival. Don't make this mistake unless you enjoy long lines and obnoxious tourists. My suggestion to anyone going to
PP is that you apply for the E-Visa. You fill out a simple online application, upload a passport-style photo, pay $25 with a credit card, and within 72 hours,
they email the visa to you. Simply print 2 copies (black and white is acceptable if you don't have a color printer), and stick them in your passport. I applied for my visa on a Monday morning, and it was in my inbox Monday night!
So while everyone is waiting in line, you just stroll over to immigration, hand the officer your passport and visa, and you're in. I was one of maybe 10 arriving passengers who already had a visa. No long queues like you experience at Suvarnabhumi. I was off the plane, through immigration and customs and in the back of a taxi in about 10 minutes.
When you exit the airport, the taxi stand is right in front of you. A taxi to anywhere in PP is a non-negotiable $9. They hand you a ticket (similar to BKK) with $9 already printed on it. It is about half an hour into the city.
I stayed at the City Centre hotel. It is conveniently located a couple blocks from the nice riverfront area, and within pissing distance of Sharky's, the most popular expat bar in PP. The furnishings are a bit old, but the bed was comfortable, the room, sheets, and bathroom were all very clean, and most importantly, the hotel is guest-friendly. I paid $45/night for a small room with a queen bed, AC, and small flat screen TV that had more channels than any 4 or 5 star hotel I've ever stayed in BKK (not that I planned on watching any TV). Also, many rooms have a computer with free wi-fi! I was able to check the networking settings on the computer and get their wi-fi key so I could get access with my wi-fi-enabled Smartphone. And if that isn't enough, there is a smoking hot and friendly Khmer girl working the front desk.
I was only staying three days and my plan was to hit Sharky's first for dinner and a few beers, then to try to locate a companion/tour guide that was willing to spend the entire duration with me, show me around, teach me about Cambodia and Khmer culture, and perform other functions as needed Before my trip, I researched PP extensively, and I knew exactly where I needed to go to find what I was looking for. I've heard that there are some BKK-style bars in PP, but I decided that this was not what I wanted. Most of the girls are freelancers, and hang out at certain bars, with no barfines. So I planned on hitting these places in a specific order until I found a suitable companion. I thought I might have some difficulty, since I was hitting the bars on a Monday night.
I got to the hotel, hung out for a little bit, showered, etc. Then I walked to Sharky's which is less than a block away. Sharky's is one of the most well-known freelancer bars in PP. As soon as my ass hit the bar stool, the Vietnamese hookers assaulted me. For those who don't know, many of the working girls in PP are Vietnamese, mostly Ho Chi Minh (funny that) girls from what I could gather. It took me about 3 seconds to discern the Viets from the Khmers. The Viets dress like cheap sluts, have no class, bad teeth, and swarm you as soon as you walk through the door (no offense intended against Viet girls). The Khmers are low key and much prettier, IMHO, and have darker skin. The Cambos also dress nicer, wearing pretty dresses, short skirts, and sexy high heels. Also popular with the Khmer girls (working and non-working girls) are crimped hair and the old diamond tooth. They also have a tendency to utter the same words heard from the mouth of every bar girl in Bangkok, "I'm shy." I was approached by every Viet in the place, but not one Cambo came near me. On a recent trip to Hanoi, a buddy and I noticed that there were very few unattractive women in Vietnam. That's because they are all here in PP, working the bars. All the Viets were pigs, in my personal opinion. On the bright side, they have no jealousy issues like the BKK bar girls, and if you are looking for a threesome or more, it shouldn't be a problem. I saw several guys over the course of my trip that had a couple of girls in tow.
I saw several nice Khmers at Sharky's, but nothing that really floated my boat. I'm one of those guys that knows what I want the instant I see it.
One thing I noticed about Sharky's was that every expat that walked in was old, creepy, and knew every one of the Viet girls by name. This was scary. It was obvious that many or all of these guys employed the services of these women on a regular basis. With this type of limited gene pool, I wasn't so sure that I wanted to let one of these girls shake my hand, let alone do the horizontal mambo with me. (This led me to a theory that I would like someone to test. If you want to cure yourself of being in love with a bar girl, hide in a dark corner of her bar and check out some of the pigs she leaves with. See if you are still in love with her after a week or two of this).
So I had my sandwich and four beers, and paid the bill for $12, then did what the US and British state dept websites both say not to do. I jumped on a moto taxi! We drove the wrong way down one street, drove on the wrong side of the road, ran a bunch of red lights, and ended up, alive, at Martinis. I gave the moto driver $2 and he said he would sit there and wait for me. I told him I might be there for a couple of hours, and he said that was ok, he would wait. Probably because I paid him double what any Cambo would have given him. So I walked in. It's about 100 feet from the front door to the bar. In that 100 feet I saw NO guys, and about 100 girls. I instantly knew that this was the place to be. Many hot ones, and many young looking ones. Girls easily outnumbered guys 4 or 5 to one. So I went to the bar and got a beer. This chubby chick starts to give me a massage, and her friend, who is pretty cute starts talking to me. This chick speaks really good English. As I'm getting rubbed and chatted, I start looking around and this place is packed to the gills with hot young Khmers dressed to kill. There were also some Vietnamese here, and these looked a little better than the last bunch I encountered. This one hot tiny young thing in a leopard dress kept strolling by and smiling at me. I also noticed that there were many chicks that I saw at Sharky's. There was one pretty one that I had planned on talking to at Sharky's, but she left and didn't come back. I guess I found out where she went. Anyway, this place was insane. So after a couple of beers I decide that the Cambo chick with the good English is the one. She was really dark-skinned, had gorgeous Asian eyes (turns out she's half Chinese), nice teeth with diamond (all the Viets had shitty teeth), and long black crimped hair. She had a really tiny, tight, and sexy body. Overall, she was not the hottest chick in the place, but she was really pretty. Very pretty as a matter of fact. And the fact that she spoke better English than most Thai girls was a big plus. So here's the deal we worked out. She was going to stay with me for three days straight, 24 hours a day, and take me around to all the places in PP that I wanted to see, on her own personal motorbike, for $175. I think I got a pretty good deal, based upon what I have read on the net about the going rates in PP. This is less than $60/day for everything I could need in PP. What can you get in BKK for $60 these days? Not even a beer, a barfine, and a short time. So we went outside and my moto chauffer was waiting for me. The three of us hopped on the moto and he took us back to my hotel. There was no problem at the front desk, but the man did ask to see her ID card to make sure she was of legal age.
It was at this point that I found out that Cambo girls are just as obsessed with cleanliness as their Thai counterparts. Or at least this one was.
Everything with my girl was going great, we had a fun night, and she was really warming up to me. The next morning, I asked a member of the hotel staff to bring me an iron. I plugged it in, turned it on, and looked at my girl. She stared at me stupidly, like I had three heads. I was somewhat miffed that I had to iron my own damn clothes!
My girl took me to Martinis again the next night, mostly just to dance and hang out with her friends. This gave me another opportunity to check out the action. I noticed that there were a number of very young-looking girls there. My girl tells me that they are all at least 18, otherwise the police would come. I'm not so sure I believe her. A few girls tried to approach me, but my girl was keeping a close eye on me. I noticed that there is much more of a variety of "looks" to choose from in PP. In Bangkok, after a while, all the girls start to looks the same: Long black or reddish/blondish hair, tiny and petite, etc. In PP, there is plenty of that, but you also find girls with short hair, or with various western-style hairdos, there are a few chunky ones (if you're into that kind of thing), there are very dark girls, and very white ones. If you like a variety, this is a good place to be. In Martinis, I noticed that the men, like the ones in Sharky's, also had that weird creepiness factor. And that even though I am in my mid-forties, I was probably the youngest guy in the place.
Since I found a girl pretty quickly, I didn't attend any other local drinking establishments, but Heart of Darkness is another good place to go for girls. I found this out when I mentioned the place to my girl and she got really jealous and pissed off. HOD is located on Street 51 close to a bunch of other places where freelancers hang out.
The whole three day experience was great. I managed to pick out a great girl who genuinely enjoyed my company while driving me around PP and showing me the sights, although a barang man on the back of a Khmer female-driven moto earned me quite a few stares from the locals.
One thing that I have to say is that the PP girls do not seem to be money hungry scammers in the way that many Bangkok girls are.
A very nice report indeed. I am sure there is ever more if you were to scratch beneath the surface but for a first time in the Cambodian capital it sounds like you enjoyed yourself!
Isn't it amazing how much cheaper things are over there too.