Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Cambodia and a little bit of sin

There is no discussion about Cambodia or Phnom Penh that doesn't quickly shift to drugs, violence or sex. Given the recent 25 year legacy of such things, the fact that it has come so far so fast is an amazing miracle, and if one reads and believes books like "Off The Rails in Phnom Penh", seemingly impossible.

To be honest however, like everywhere else in the world, most vices can be readily obtained; you just might have to dig a bit deeper and in Cambodia today, it doesn't seem to be in "your face" like it was in years past.

In December 2003 in Cambodia, sex like everywhere else, is readily available and while exploring the many streets of the city, I noticed a rather curious place across the street from where I was walking.

It was curious in the sense that it had a 2 meter bamboo curtain standing in front of its entrance to the street and there were about half a dozen dirt bikes parked out front. (Dirt bikes are an indication that foreigners are present...)

After standing there for a minute or two studying the place and wondering....."was it what I thought it was", a large, rather heavy expat came out, got on one of the bikes and left. I than knew I was right and with my curiosity getting the better of me (as it always does), went in for a "peek".

Upon entering the establishment (it was called "Apocalypse Now"), it was obvious from the get go that this was a "short time" bar with a few foreigners setting around obviously enjoying the intimate attentions of the ladies within the dimly lit bar.

As I was honestly tired and thirsty, I plunked myself down on one of the 12 high bar stools and communicated to the bartender that I would like a beer. Speaking not a word of English to me (only French), he gave me my beer and I was also soon afforded the attention of what was a rather pretty young lass but with really terrible teeth.

She engaged me in a conversation whereupon it became obvious what services could be provided .....and doing so in really great English! As I was in this "bar" more out of curiosity than anything else, I politely declined her offers, finished my beer and continued my exploits around the city.

Along the same line but under far more "upscale conditions", you have places like the Riverside and The Jungle Bar and Grill , which just happen to be collocated next to each other down on the riverfront, or more officially known as "Sisowath Quay/Boulevard".

On the banks of the Tonle Sap River, each place maintains a "selection of hostesses" that are there to make you feel welcome. What you and her work out in this "welcoming" process is of course between you and her. There does however seem to always be some form of compensation discussed concerning her companionship for that particular evening.

Although each place is next door to the other and both seem to be catering to the expat community, they are as different as night and day.

The Riverside is rather "notorious" or probably more accurately stated, the owner is, as Andy (he is a German) seems to have quite a reputation amongst his peers in town and many stories float around as to his antics. (Note: The Riverside is located on the corner of Street 178 and Sisowath Quay.)

In one of my recent forays into the Riverside, I was very fortunate to have met a Dutchman (Robert Jan) who is working behind the bar and we managed to have some long conversations about politics and such.

The Riverside is also much larger and after you pass the pool table where you can always find an assortment of very beautiful ladies willing to play snooker with you, you will find another dimly lit bar in the back as you head back to use the restrooms. Seems this area in the evening becomes a bit more "intimate" and has some rather nice mirrors as well as a dance floor.

The Jungle Bar however is definitely an American haunt, serving an American type breakfast and reportedly the best nachos in town. Scott the owner, an American is from Philadelphia and likes to show his guests a good time! There is a snooker table upstairs, where it will once again be no problem to find some beautiful (and what I found to be a much friendlier lady than in the Riverside) companion to play a game of pool with.

Jungle Bar Phnom Penh Cambodia
Some of the friendly ladies at the Jungle Bar
on the banks of the Tonle Sap in
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the capital.

It does seem however if you wish to have one of these lovely ladies accompany you from the premises that there is a fee involved. That "fee", which we call a "bar find/fine" in Thailand, seems to be $5 USD.

(A hell of a lot cheaper than a dating service in the states......)