Stickman Readers' Submissions February 29th, 2024

Around The Traps In Southeast Asia: Part 27



YouTube: Megaworld Asia

He Clinic Bangkok


CAMBODIA 2023 – 2024


Phnom Penh – December 2023


Phnom Penh: I arrived in Phnom Penh on Xmas Eve. It might seem an odd time to be traveling but the crowds and traffic congestion in Phuket had reached a point where I just needed to get out of the place, even if it was one day before Xmas. Phnom Penh, although noticeably busier than my visit in 2022, seemed relaxed in comparison. After two flights with Bangkok Airways, from Phuket, I was happily ensconced in my room at the LUX RIVERSIDE HOTEL by around 7 PM. The LUX is an older style hotel (it has a lift) located near the corner of Street 136 and the River Front Road. It’s a very convenient location with the excellent bar/restaurant the OLALA right next door and the LA CROISETTE CAFÉ, just around the corner.

The OLALA has a nice outdoor seating area along the patio where you can enjoy a cold draught beer (US 75 cents) and look out over the riverfront in the early evening. For those needing a good caffeine hit, the LA CROISETTE is an excellent choice for a strong coffee and, having indoor seating, allows you enjoy your cup without being annoyed by street hawkers/beggars. Yes, beggars in Phnom Penh are still a pesky nuisance although not in numbers they were a few years previously.

With temperatures being unusually cool for Xmas Day, just 25 degrees C, the riverfront concourse was a great option for a brisk morning walk. It’s also great for a stroll around sunset and early evening. I’d been in Phnom Penh several times before and already ticked off the main sightseeing attractions – THE KILLING FIELDS. Suffice it to say, one visit to this somber place of infamy is enough. A place of interest, not too far from the Lux Hotel, is the WAT PHNOM DAUN PENH Buddhist temple (entry fee = USD 1). There’s a nice hilltop pagoda to check out and a surrounding park (with a GIANT CLOCK) with plenty of shade from the surrounding trees.

CBD bangkok


The Giant Clock at the Wat Phnom Daun Pagoda


Kampot: This is a location I’d heard a lot about but had never visited. After a couple of days relaxing in Phnom Penh, I boarded a GIANT IBIS bus bound for Kampot. Giant Ibis is one of the best bus companies in Cambodia and they provide comfortable transportation to most locations around the country. They also provide a pickup service from your hotel. The trip took 3.5 hours and at just on midday (on the 26th  December ) I was checking into the SUNNY HOTEL in Kampot.

Kampot Riverfront: This is the main tourist/foreigner area in Kampot. There’s a 1 km strip along the eastern edge of the river which has been developed for walking/sightseeing, and eating, and drinking. The river’s edge has a wide, paved walkway which allows plenty of views over the river and this is a popular location at sunset and in the early evening. There’s plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafes lining the edge of the riverfront road (south of ETANOU BRIDGE). There are also two parallel streets which run back from the riverfront road (opposite STARBUCKS FISH MARKET) which have developed into an adult entertainment strip (girly bars). These are probably hangout locations for the resident expats who fled Sihanoukville when the Chinese developers moved in there. Whatever the case, the riverfront strip is a good spot for some decent food (western & French) and a cold beer.


Along the Kampot riverfront road


Kampot sightseeing: There are several interesting sightseeing attractions in and around Kampot. The most popular destination is the old French Colonial Hill Station in a mountainous area, 15 km west of Kampot, called BOKOR NATIONAL PARK. I took a private day trip with a guide (USD 55) and it was definitely an interesting tour.

Bokor Hill Station: It takes approximately one hour to reach the hill station area (1034 meters above sea level). On the way there’s a couple of interesting stops which have historical significance for the nation of Cambodia. There are some older buildings which date back to the 1930’s, which were built by the French. However, after the Khmer Rouge reign of terror ended (1979) some of these buildings were occupied by the fleeing Khmer forces due to the remoteness of the area. What is generally not known, regarding the Khmer Rouge, is they continued fighting nationalist forces (a civil war) up until 1999. For twenty years after they were overthrown by the Vietnamese army, remnants of their forces survived in isolated areas of Cambodia (such as Bokor national Park) and continued their resistance.

wonderland clinic

Le Bokor palace: This FRENCH HOTEL is the primary attraction of a hill station tour.  There are several other structures in the surrounding area, but this is the main attraction. It looks a bit dilapidated on the outside but, apparently, the rooms within are still luxurious. Unfortunately, the room rates for a night’s stay are ridiculous – USD 2000 per night. Most of the other structures in the surrounding area are near the edge of a cliff line, which offers fantastic views of the plains and ocean below.


Le Bokor Palace at Bokor Hill Station


Phnom Penh: After four enjoyable days in Kampot I was back on the Giant Ibis Bus and heading for Phnom Penh. It was the day before New Year’s Eve, and I’d decided to rest up in the nation’s capital for three nights before continuing to Battambang. Having spent several short trips in PP (Phnom Penh) before, I considered it to be a place which is better avoided than visited. Being just another chaotic, congested, and, for the most part, dirty Southeast Asian capital, I had no real affection for the place. I’d booked into the LUX Hotel once again, just for the convenience of the area – riverfront, restaurants, and cafes.

Street 136: The Lux Hotel is situated right in the heart of the red light area of town. Anyone familiar with  Street 136 knows both sides of the street, running back from the riverfront road, is lined with girlie/go-go bars. The scene here resembles Soi 6 in Pattaya. It is, to put it bluntly, a bit of a third-world shit-hole of neon lights and desperate, unattractive provincial girls trying to do whatever they can to make money for themselves, and their families, back on the rice farms. Most of the clientele are older western males (retirees) who gravitate to these areas, for the cheap beer, the cheap sex, and the companionship of other like-minded fellows. Many of them are financial refugees from an earlier time of residence in Thailand. They’ve come to Cambodia simply because the beer and prostitutes are cheaper, and (on the upside) long term visas are much easier to obtain.


Along Street 136 in Phnom Penh


Nothing to do: In the three days I was in Phnom Penh I talked with several of these older guys while having a meal, or enjoying a beer, at the OLALA Restaurant. Except for one, who’s living his best life in Hoi An, Vietnam, all of them have been in Cambodia (Phnom Penh) for the entirety of their stay and have seen little of the rest of the country. Some hadn’t even been to Siem Reap. I’ve met plenty of these types all over Southeast Asia and, to be honest, most of them are alcoholics. And being alcoholics, their only concern is being near a bar they like which serves cheap beer.

New Year’s Eve 2024: To see out the old, and welcome the new, I had a few drinks on the patio of the Olala restaurant. This is a great spot to watch the world go by, but the constant stream of street hawkers and beggars are a nuisance. According to the wait staff, there’s even a fake monk trying to sell bracelets. By 9:00 PM the corner was becoming manic with traffic (tuk-tuks) and crowds spilling out onto the riverfront for the anticipated fireworks show. To get a bit of peace and quiet, I wandered up the road to the OSKARS WINE BAR.

Oskars Phnom Penh: For those in the know, this is owned and operated by the same organization as the one in Bangkok (on Sukhumvit Soi 11). The food is French-based fusion and, although a bit expensive, is excellent. There’s also, as one might expect, a good selection of wines available. I’d booked a seat along the bar, simply because I knew the place would be packed and a table for one would be at a premium. The clientele is a mix of well to do locals, the richer expat, and, as with the branch in Bangkok, a hangout for local hookers who think they’re upscale. Unfortunately, as with the ones in Bangkok, they’re not. They’re still just uneducated farm girls who, through fair or foul means, have got a steady income stream (overseas sponsors) and can afford to dress well and waste their easy money at an expensive wine bar.


Oskars Phnom Penh, New Year’s Eve 2023


A few drinks: I’d reserved a seat at the corner of the bar to avoid getting jammed between other diners. It turned out to be a good choice as I met a couple of resident expats over the evening. One, Paul from the USA, had been in Phnom Penh for twenty years. He was one of the few I’d met who’d traveled through the country extensively. While we were shooting the breeze a couple of the usual suspects (working girls) sat down beside us and started trying to make eye contact. They were quite attractive, and, in an earlier time, I might have shown some interest. The bottom line is they want some mug to pay for their cocktails while they’re at the bar and, if they consider you worthy, they’ll mention a nonsense price to take them back to your hotel. I get it that these poorly educated women need to earn a living, but the reality is they’re hookers, simply because they’re lazy and greedy. I welcomed in the new year back on the patio of the Olala, sharing a few beers with John, an old rocker from the UK.

The new year: Unfortunately, the new year didn’t get off to a great start for me. Besides being hungover, I was covered in bed bug bites. It seems the LUX Hotel has an infestation. If anyone’s ever been attacked by these little blighters, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s like having areas of your body burning and itching like hell for a few days after an attack. The management were most apologetic and after, locating the nest of pests, I was moved to another room. Thankfully, I only had one more night before traveling to Battambang.

Heading to Battambang: To get to Battambang, from Phnom Penh, most people will generally take a Giant Ibis Bus to Siem Reap, and then another around the top of the Tonle Sap. To do it all in one day  means at least ten hours of road travel. The bed bug attack had me feeling a bit irritable and I wasn’t in the mood for ten hours of bus travel. I booked a one-way flight to Siem Reap with Cambodia Air. As it turned out, it was a good choice in terms of gathering information. The flight landed at the new airport which had recently opened.


The new Siem Reap Airport


The China connection: The new airport is shiny and clean but unfortunately, it’s located fifty-five kilometers from the center of Siem Reap. This isn’t a typo. According to the taxi driver who picked me up from the airport, it was located there under direction from UNESCO. They wanted the airport, and any other future developments in the area, well away from the World Heritage listed temple sites. The airport was paid for by the Chinese government. Additionally, according to my driver, the Chinese have also taken ownership of seven hundred hectares of land, close to the new airport. At some point and time, there will be more development in the area. Considering what’s happened in Sihanoukville, more high-rise hotels and casinos may not be too far away from being built. A final kick in the guts to the locals is that the Chinese imposed a road toll (US 5) on anyone using the road to the airport. Apparently, this wasn’t mentioned during the planning and building stages.

Battambang: This is an off the beaten track location which a lot of people tend to miss. Most likely because getting there involves a lengthy road trip from either Siem Reap, or Phnom Penh. Having been in Siem Reap several times previously, I opted to travel directly from the airport to Battambang. The private taxi hire was expensive, but I was able to get there, from Phnom Penh, comfortably in one day. For anyone who’s interested, the distance from the new Siem Reap Airport to downtown Battambang is 209 km. I booked into a reasonable standard Villa style hotel called the DELUX VILLA, for two nights. It’s got large, comfortable A/C rooms, a nice swimming pool, but the internet connection is crap. Thankfully I’d bought a local SIM card, so I was able to use the cheap data.


Early evening along the Battambang riverfront


The river front: This is probably the main attraction of Battambang City. Quite a few vloggers and other sources of on-line info mentioned the colonial architecture but, to be honest, if you’ve been in Savannakhet, looking at old buildings in Battambang isn’t worth wasting one’s time on. Additionally, being an off the beaten track location with fewer tourists, many of the streets are still unpaved and as such, there’s dust blowing everywhere. My hotel was just a ten-minute walk from the river front and the route took me down the main restaurant and cafe strip in the town. The best restaurant was the FLAVORS OF INDIA. The river front has a developed walkway, very similar to Kampot, and a couple of bridges which connect one side of the city to the other. The walkway is a popular spot for locals exercising in the early evening.

Battambang sightseeing: The primary sightseeing attraction in the Battambang area is a limestone peak, called PHNOM SAMPOV, located approximately 16 km from the city. There are several caves within this limestone peak but the two which draw most visitors are the KILLING CAVE, and the BAT CAVE. To get to Phnom Sampov, most sightseers will hire a tuk-tuk for the round trip. The cost is relatively cheap, usually not more than 12 USD. I wanted an English-speaking guide, so I paid a bit extra (20 USD) for the tour.


Phnom Sampov, the temple at the top


Phnom Sampov: A visit to this site is normally just a half day tour, or even less. Most sightseers will normally give themselves enough time to visit the Killing Cave, and then be in position for the highlight attraction, watching thousands of bats exit a cave at dusk. I wanted to see all the caves on the peak before the bat show, so I gave myself plenty of time and left the hotel at 1 PM. When you arrive at the base of the mountain, you then get hit with a choice of either hiking to the top or paying an additional 6 USD for a ride up. Note: Unfortunately, the Cambodians are a bit sneaky in this regard. They always fail to mention the additional, or hidden, costs one might encounter when arranging an outing. The steepness of the road makes it impossible for one of the Cambodian styled tuk-tuks (a 100 cc scooter with a single axle wagon hitched to the rear) to get to the top of the peak.

The temple at the top: This platform around the temple structures provides a great vantage point for views across the surrounding plains. After getting confirmation from my guide that it was okay, I launched the drone to get some great elevated shots of the temple and the peak. Once I’d packed away the drone, we descended into the caverns directly below the temple. There’s a long stairway which takes you to the bottom of the caverns. On the way you pass under a large natural stone archway before arriving at the floor area. It’s quite a picturesque spot with high karst walls surrounding a floor area, with tree growth, which is open to the heavens. The trail continues up the far side of the cavern and eventually leads back out to the temple. 

Pkar Slar Cave:  This cave is situated approximately one hundred meters down the hill from the temple at the top. It’s the least visited of all the cave sites, simply because most sightseers only have time for the Buddhist Temple at the top and the Killing Cave before getting in position for the Bat Cave. The caves at Pkar Slar are smaller than the other sites. However, the Buddhist Temple grounds within the hollow is worth looking at. A stairway takes you down into another hollow which has a large upright Buddha and rows of smaller statues off to the side. The caves are a bit of a squeeze in a couple of places. If you’re tight on time, you don’t miss anything by not going through them.


At the Pkar Slar Cave and religious site


The Killing Cave: This site is approximately 400 meters down the hill from Pkar Slar Cave. Aside from the Bat watching station, this is the most popular cave site on the peak. It has a gruesome history attributed to the Khmer Rouge. If you’re on a guided tour, your first stop will be the hole. This is an opening in the cave roof where 8000 poor souls were pushed to their deaths. If you stand at the edge of the hole, you can clearly see the bottom of the cave some twenty meters below. After visiting the hole, the guide will take you past the Buddhist representation of hell. I’ve seen a similar display in Phang-Nha, Thailand albeit on a much bigger scale. Briefly, it’s a display of figurines showing what awaits people in hell for their sinful activities. There’s a long stairway that takes you to the bottom of the main cave. This internal area has a mausoleum of piled up bones and skulls, which serves as a memorial to those who perished. If you’re a keen spelunker, there’s a smaller cave on the left of the stairway, which leads down to a large room full of bats. Take your own light for this experience.


The mausoleum at the Killing cave


The Bat cave: This is the final stop on a tour of Phnom Sampov and the highlight. It’s at the base of the limestone cliff so it’s pretty much a natural progression if you’ve started at the top and work your way downhill. There’s a large opening along the cliff face where, once the sun is well down, millions of bats will exit from. There’s also some large stone artwork (Buddhist themed) which has been carved, or cemented, into the cliff face. The locals have everything set up nicely so you can enjoy the show in comfort. Get there early (5 pm) for a front row seat, and you can enjoy a bit of barbecued chicken and a cold beer while you wait for the bats to do their thing. The bats normally start appearing at around 6.15 pm. For anyone who’s interested, checkout this video of the caves in Kampot and Battambang: LINK


The Bat Cave and viewing area.


Siem Reap: After an interesting couple of days in Battambang, I was back in Siem Reap for a couple of days before heading back to Thailand. I’ve done Siem Reap four times in the ten years and there’s very few of the temple sites I haven’t seen. For this reason, and the fact it was the peak of the tourist season, I decided to give the temples a miss. The town center (Pub Street) is now back in full swing and packed with tourists once more. The quiet times of the COVID era are a distant memory. There’s plenty of restaurants and places to enjoy a cold beer here, after a hot day touring the temple sites. I had two quiet days in Siem Reap, and then boarded a Thai Airways flight for the Big Mango.


Siem Reap – January 2024



Bangkok: My love and hate affair continues with the City of Angels. The hate part starts from Suwarnabhumi Airport, when the taxi driver covers up the meter and tells you “500 Baht, including highway.” Note: This has now become 600 THB. The extra one hundred is to cover the toll way costs, so they pocket a clear five hundred. I don’t even bother arguing the matter anymore. To be honest, 500 – 600 THB isn’t a huge amount of money. I was just thankful I’d arrived on a morning flight and the toll way into lower Sukhumvit wasn’t one long traffic jam. The worst nightmare scenario, when arriving in Bangkok, is to land at 5.00 PM, on a Friday, and it starts raining as your taxi pulls out of the arrivals area. After experiencing this situation, a couple of times, I always make sure I book flights into Bangkok which land around midday.

Sukhumvit: I had plenty of IHG points available, so I checked into the Holiday Inn, on the corner of Soi 22 and Sukhumvit Road. The location isn’t as hectic as the strip from Asoke to Soi 4 but it’s still within walking distance from that area. There’s quite a few beer bars along the corner of Soi 22, directly opposite the hotel, which seem to do a good trade from early evening onward. Maybe the guys who frequent these watering holes are looking for a quieter location than Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy. Whatever the case, the bar frontages are just a bit too close to the road for my liking. Anyone sitting there having a beer is only two meters from a constant stream of vehicles and exhaust fumes.

The lady drink debate: A recent visit to the Shark Bar gave me a first hand experience of the two drinks pricing scam, which this website has been commenting on. I sat down in the bleachers with a lady I’ve known there for years. I ordered a soda water and she asked for a Sang Som Soda. Nothing was mentioned about the two drinks hustle. When I got the bill I wasn’t overly shocked as I’d been expecting it. The price for my single soda water and her single lady drink was 660 THB. However you want to look at it, it’s nothing more than a stealth scam. It’s not transparent. If the management was upfront about it, there’d be a sign at the entrance warning customers that all lady drinks are billed as two drinks. But they don’t because they know full well that most potential clientele, when seeing this, will do a u-turn and go somewhere else.

The girls: My view of it is the girls, particularly the career (long term) hustlers, are simply alcoholics. If they’ve been doing that shit for years, they’ve got to be. I’m not much of an imbiber. Normally it’s three to four beers maximum on a night out. Most of those girls, if they’ve been in the bar for three to four hours before being bar fined, are slammed every night. Especially if they’ve been knocking back Tequilas. I lost count of the number of times I’d bar fined a go-go gal, in years past, and had them pass out once I got them back to the hotel room. Most of them are a waste of space. If you don’t bar fine them early in the evening, before 9:00 PM, most are legless by midnight. Considering my recent visit to the Shark, and I was sober, I wasn’t overly impressed by the ladies I saw there. There were two that I would consider attractive, or worth bar fining. They had good figures and nice sized boobs (probably bolt-ons). The rest were either small-breasted, or saggy-breasted, and most had stretch marks. All of them were inked up. Most looked skanky. It made me realise how the beer goggles and dim lighting can alter one’s perspective. If you want to see attractive Thai women, go to the cosmetics department at the Paragon Shopping Mall.

The bar fine debate: As far as I’m concerned this is just a scam. The argument from the bars is its reimbursement for the income they lose from the girl not being in the bar. Total horseshit. If a guy has been in the bar buying lady drinks and having a few himself, he’s probably already spent upwards of two thousand baht or more. Telling him he’s got to pay 700 – 1000 Baht just for the girl to walk out the door with him is adding insult to injury. Particularly when some nasty mamasan shoves a plastic card in your face telling you it’s 3,000 – 6,000 baht for some horizontal folk dancing action, with the girl you’re planning to bar fine. Go-go bars, as I noted a very long time ago, are a total scam. And then there’s the old “bar fines are more over Xmas and new year” scam. A lady I know at Shark, who’s now one of those PR tarts at the entrance, told me her bar fine was 1500 THB, and “for merry Christmas and happy new year it’s 4,000.” That’s not a typo. Seriously, what planet are these people on. 4,000 THB for some 40-year-old harlot, covered in tats, that doesn’t even dance anymore. Needless to say, my days of hitting go-go bars are history.


OSKARS Wine Bar & Bistro – December 2023


The freelancer market: For the money that I could potentially waste on lady drinks, and a bar fine at a go-go bar, I can buy a steak dinner and a couple of red wines at the Oskars Bistro on Soi 11. As far as I’m concerned, that’s far better value. Granted, there’s plenty of scheming freelancers there trying to cadge free drinks, but at least there’s no nasty mamasan lurking in the background. The scene, for me at least, is just a lot more convivial. The freelancers who hang out there, although being a bit older, have less hustle about them. Many have day-time jobs and moonlight, mainly on weekends, to cover their liking for a better standard of living.

Nightclubs: It’s rare that any guy actually takes a girl home from Oskars, as the place is generally seen as a warm up location before heading off to Levels or Mix. Levels has a show (dancers) which is quite entertaining, but the noise factor (music) is off the charts. For this reason, I prefer the Mix Discotheque in the basement of the Intercontinental Hotel (across the road from the Grand Hyatt Erawan). If you’re heading there, keep in mind it doesn’t really get going till around midnight. To get there, from Cowboy or Nana, just flag down a taxi and say “Mix.” The taxi price is always 100 THB, and they’ll drop you at the driveway above the entrance.

Mix: The entry price is 300 THB, which gets you one drink (a beer or a cheaper short). Most of the freelancers are of the older genre (over 30) and there’s a mix of nationalities. Aside from the bevy of Thai ladies, there’s also a few Vietnamese, Russians, and Africans. The music is a mixture of hip-hop and techno, and the volume is normally a few decibels down on Levels. Drinks prices are a bit expensive. A beer is 240 THB and shorts can go for 240 – 300 THB. The only thing to really be on your guard for is the katoeys who ply their trade there. Short time prices are 3,000 – 4,000 THB, depending on the time of night and your negotiating skills.

ST v LT: I never ask about long time prices because I don’t do over-nighters anymore. Being over 60, I’m normally only good for one shot after a few beers, and don’t try to kid myself that I’m a stud. Something else I worked out a long time ago is that I never get a good night’s sleep with a long-time because most hookers stay awake till 4 or 5 AM, tapping away on their damned phones. The extra being paid for a long-time is diminished value. Additionally, I’m not interested in taking one to breakfast in the hotel simply because it resembles something like the walk of shame. If you’re staying at a place like the Holiday Inn, or some other 5-star hotel, the guests in the breakfast area will often give your overnight date the “look what the cat dragged in” stare as you move around the buffet.

On a final note, for anyone who’s interested, I’ve got my travel website back up and running again. Instead of trying to do it myself, I had a professional company in Phuket – FUSION GRAPHICS – do the build. I am offering FREE interactive travel guides for Southeast Asia. To access my website, Click this LINK

In the next trip report: Phuket, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Laos.

Safe travels,


The author of this article can be contacted at :


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