Cambodia - 5

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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Cambodia - 5
Category: Travel and Places

I wake from my nap before we go out to the club of choice. I decide to to go upstairs to have a drink before I call on my friends. As I go up I remember that there was supposed to be an independent movie shown (The hotel has an art gallery as well). As I turn the corner I see several people at the bar mostly guys and one woman. They are waiting for the show. I take a seat and order a drink from a new batch of shapely barmaids. There is light conversation amongst us. Suddenly there is thunder heard in the distance. I look up and see nothing but dark skies. I keep hearing it but I ignore it. Then, out of nowhere it starts. As if I blinked my eyes and everything changed. Theres rain everywhere. It comes very loud and relentless.
The wind starts to blow and the furniture around the outdoors bar start to move. I look around in amazement. It's like a trillion hammers hitting everything everywhere. I stay at the bar for about an hour but it looks bleak for our evening. I go back to my room as we are slowly getting soaked at the bar by occaisional stray droplets. It's 11:30pm and it's coming down in buckets. I'm wide awake, what do I do now? I settle down to open my computer to maybe start my journal and it gets quiet. I look outside and it is pin drop silent. Erie! I say to myself, ooookaaaay so this is what monsoon season is like. I call my friends on our walkie talkies. Tash is still under but she wants to get out. We hook up in 20mins.

We wave and walk past the guard out to the street that is so quiet it is almost unreal. No tuk tuks waiting for fares outside. We have to walk to the main street. The ground is slick from the rain and the smell seems almost fresh from it. Almost. We get to the familiar traffic circle and see a few straggling motorbikes but no tuk tuks. We stand on the corner and know that sooner or later we will see one because we stand out like sore thumbs. Within minutes he comes. We tell him "Martinis" and a look of recognition comes to his face. He says "ahhh, Mah tee neez", with a smile. We say "yes" in unison. We negotiate a price and jump in. He turns around and heads the opposite direction. We go through the old French Quarter where the once sprawling mansionesque estates are dillapidated and worn down. We are the only ones out it seems. In the back of my mind I wonder about being set up or going down the wrong street. After many twists and turns we finally arrive at the club. If you can call it that. It doesn't resemble one from the outside. As we approach I see three armed guards in uniform out front. They have to be off duty police officers or military. There are several other drivers outside waiting for their fares. We ask ours to wait also. As we exit the tuk tuk I look at what looks like the corner house in a back alley. As we get out I think that it is unusually quiet for a night club.


They check our passports and we go through a very dark and dingy walkway and then we hear voices and music in the background. I get the smell of good food and see light up ahead. We emerge to find several picnic benches in an open space and a bar on a stagelike platform on the left. There is a diner window in the far right and the music is coming from inside another building to the extreme left. Several local girls are talking and looking at the three of us as we walk in. We are definitely different than the regulars that come through there. Tash, is 5'7", thin, Afro-Am mix with Caucasian, Mulatto. Wayne is a muscular, 6'2" Indian from Goa. I am a thicker muscular 6', dark skinned Afro-Am with sharp features and dreadlocks. Not the normal visitors here. We get lots of attention and everyone stops and looks. They all watch as we find bar stools and order drinks. I peer out and do my who's who thing. I spot several more armed security guards and it makes me wonder what has jumped off here in the past. As I look around I notice that there are many more women than men. Stranger still is the constant saloon door happenings where the music is coming from. People are constantly walking in and out. We get our familiar Angkor beer and I see a few girls looking our way. My friends say go for it. I shake my head and say they are not for me. They urge me to go inside of the "Music room" I say no and they say they will go too. Maybe I was a little hesitant but I say, "Cool, let's all go". We walk inside past one girl who looks at me as if I were lunch to find it even darker inside. I sit by the bar as two girls sit next to me. They are really close and bump me occasionally. I think that it's on purpose. Tash needs food and whispers to me that her and Wayne are going back outside to grab something to eat. I stay and sip my beer and I start talking to the girls next to me. I find out they are a couple. I look around to see several other girls on the dance floor doing some form of dance with absolutely no rythym... at all. I hold in my laughter and look around at the other westerners in the joint. I hold a conversation with two German guys who are here on business. They eye a few girls on the dance floor, look at me, smile and move in on them. There are 3 to 1 in here. Perfect odds for anyone. I'm just chillin' taking it all in. It all seems very foreign and surreal to me still. Must be the malaria pills, beer and jet lag combined. I continue talking with the two next two me with limited understanding either way. I buy them drinks and then another very attractive girl comes up to me and try to vie for my attention. The two get territorial and say something to her in Khmer and she gets pissed and leaves. I find out later that the Khmer women are very respectful to women who are obviously with their man. They purposely ignore Wayne because of Tash but they can see I am single. I also find out later in the trip that they are VERY territorial and sometimes violent when it comes to their men. A few more walk by and eye me for attention. Then it hits me like a Mac truck.

Holy shit! We're in a brothel!!!

My eyes widened and I casually excused myself to go alert my fellow cohorts. I've had great nights before but this got to be too over the top. I catch up with Wayne and Tash to tell them what I found out. They say "Yeah we figured it out while sitting here". I look at them surprised that they knew. They say, "We were just gonna see if you figured it out before we finished eating". Wayne tells Tash that he won the bet. It threw me off because it looked like a regular night club and not your typical idea of a brothel. Then a guard comes up to me and asks if I want a women. I say, "uhh, naw man I'm cool". I can only assume he understood what I meant by that. Then he asks if I like ladyboys. I say "Hell no" in a louder voice. My bravado found its way to the surface being stunned at the ease in which he said it. I later thought about the region we were in and that lifestyle is entirely normal here. He looks sorry that he offended me. I ease up and let him know it is ok. Then he asks if I want Thai bud. I'm more surprised. This guy doesn't quit. I decline but think to my self "back in my ganjha days I would have jumped on it". We ARE right here next to Thailand. I can only imagine the reaction of my friends who indulge back home and how they would have responded if they had this opportunity.

After they finish eating we decide to make an adventure of it and go back inside to check it out with an open mind. None of us has ever witnessed anything like this before but we were up for the experience. I have to admit it felt weird though. We watch as some of the guys pick out girls and leave. I see a lone Nigerian guy that comes and leaves almost immediately with the attractive one that approached me before. We sip more beer and are relieved to not see any potential slave laborers. That would have pissed us all off and as we disscussed later. I am confident that we would have called the authorities. Anyway, judging from the guards they are way too organized for that kind of activity here. Everyone seems to be happy and having a good time. We eventually leave and go back to the hotel to pack for our flight to Siem Reap in the morning. We talk about our experience on the way home and I am thinking to myself, "Man, this is just the second day of a eighteen day trip, what could possibly be next"?


-There has been a very successful movement to combat slave, child labor and prostitution in this country headed by American, British, French and local Cambodian organizations. It is a widespread problem in Southeast Asian countires but thankfully, it is rapidly declining.

-The guy who originally mentioned Martinis to us, apologized the next morning thinking that he thought we knew what was going on from our earlier conversation. We took it in stride because we learned something.

- Walkie Talkies are a good way to communicate with friends when traveling in foreign countries and cheaper than cell phones. I discovered this on my first trip to Prague. I advise the ones that can accomodate earpiece microphones because they are more private.

-When you raise your voice or point to a Cambodian it is considered a form of disrespect.
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Phnom Penh
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