Boom Boom and Robbery
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 65 of 115 › view all entries
The deluge of tourists that has fallen onto Siem Reap creates a whole bundle of money-making opportunities for local entrepeneurs. Each night as I walk from Bar Street back to my cheapo guesthouse on the fringe of the city centre I am constantly accosted by locals lying in wait for business. I am a lone white male, therefore I am a member of a prime target group for all kinds of off the cuff advertising.
"You want motorbike?" ask men slouching in their moto saddles by the roadside, one after another after another after another. "No thank you" is the answer.
"You want marijuana?" ask more moto-riding touts cruising the main strip, slowing down to address me in confidential tones.
"You want massage? Special massage?" ask male touts hanging around outside massage parlours. "No thank you" is the answer.
"You want Boom Boom?" asks a random bloke on a street corner. "Splutter splutter you what? Aha - ahahahahaha! No thank you," is the answer.
On our final night in town, I don't even get off Bar Street before receiving an indecent proposal. A neatly dressed, 30-something working girl slips from her seat in front of a bar and hurries over to me in the centre of the road, falling in with my walking pace. "Hello," she smiles, "I will go with you." and without further ado takes my arm. I gently prise her hands off, smile politely, say "no thank you" and hurry off to run the main street commerce gauntlet one last time.
Of course there are also times when the entrepeneurial spirit goes beyond the boundaries of legality. In other words: there are robbing bastards about. Julian and Laura had joked that they probably shouldn't be meeting me as my bad luck in terms of being a victim of thievery (3 times and counting) might rub off on them. First night in Siem Reap and it's no longer just a joke.
Whilst we are out having a drink, someone opens their room in The Fresh Guesthouse. They remove Laura's backpack, slash it open, search it and dump it in the room next door, strewing clothes everywhere. Much later, after getting back and searching the premises, Laura finds the ruined pack; it no longer contains its original complement of money and jewellery. There is no sign of forced entry to either room; no sign of the dastardly Vietnamese girls that the manager claims were staying in the room next door. This is pretty clearly an inside job.
Next morning I show up, confused that Laura and Julian have checked out of the place. Looking knackered, they eventually appear having walked over from their new hotel and explain the events of the previous night. Julian demands a refund on the money they paid for the room. The fat guesthouse manager coughs up immediately. This is almost unheard of in Asia; in the context it seems like an admission of guilt.
"This isn't over!" says Julian jabbing his finger at the manager as he walks out. It is though, because the local tourist police are about as effective as a pin-pricked johnny. Watch yourself in Siem Reap; entrepeneurial spirit of all kinds is left alone to flourish. And the arm of the law? Well it isn't all that long.