I step outside of a small convenience store in the area of town full of hotels and girly bars. All I bought was a bottled water, as the water from the tap in Phnom Penh is about as clean as most of the older white men in town. Once outside I find Hannah intently easy dropping on an extremely awkward conversation while pretending to play on her smart phone.
She give me a quick hush and a head nod that she is trying to hear what is transpiring between two older ‘Gentlemen’ a few steps away. We both begin to listen as I pretend to go through pictures on my camera.
The conversation goes kind of like this, between two men clearly strangers. The one I will call dirty old man #1 randomly approaches Dirty Old Man #2 and without introductions dives right into his questions about obtaining “Boom-Boom”.
Dirty old man #1 (DOM for short) appears to be a mid-50’s man, and his origin is hard to determine based on his looks and accent. Best I could guess would be from an island nation, possibly the Caribbean, but definitely far from Asia. While dirty old man #2, was easy to pin point, early sixties with a European accent.
DOM #1: “Excuse me sir, maybe you can help me? I have been in Phnom Penh for almost 2 months and I haven’t been able to get any girls to give me boom-boom?”
Well nothing like getting straight to the point I guess.
DOM #2: “You have got to be shittin’ me!”
Hearing this I can’t help but to agree and nearly bust up laughing. There are no shortage of prostitute bars in the city, and by the looks of how many white men have a Cambodian woman on their arms for the night, I can’t imagine it would be too hard. He takes a second and then begins to give a laundry list of advise to this poor Boom-boom-less-man.
DOM #2: “Well, all ya have to do is go into a bar where there are a bunch of girls working and start buying some drinks. Make sure to buy the girls some drinks.”
Most of the tips centered on appearing to have money and interested in some services outside the bar.
Dom #2: “Make sure to negotiate your price before leaving the bar, and if you are going to be buying her drinks.”
From what we have gathered by spending some time in Southeast Asia, when you pay for services of this variety you get the company of the woman for longer than just the main event. She is with you through the next day, and in some cases she is your temporary girlfriend, in which you would take her to dinner, drinks, I have even seen some ‘couples’ shopping together. It is such a common practice in some countries that hotels will charge a “Lady Joiner Fee”. The man pays this fee for the woman to enter the hotel, but it comes with some perks, she even gets a breakfast buffet included the next morning!
DOM #2: “Good luck mate!”
The conversation breaks up, the first man now with new found knowledge seems intent on giving the new tactics a try. We start to walk away and notice the brave and awkward DOM #1 is walking the same way we are. So might as well ride this train out and see where he goes.
Apparently not satisfied with his first “Boom-Boom” coach’s advise, the brazened man approaches another man around the same age and profile. However, this man is not up for a chat, he appears to be discussed by the question and quickly blows our guy off. Not phasing him in the least, the man makes a sharp right and heads directly to the corner bar and disappears into the mix local girls and old white tourists.
Good luck Dirty Old Man!
Actually, I don’t wish him good luck and I wish he would go home! This is a comical exchange, in a sick and twisted way, but sex tourism is no laughing matter. What these ‘Gentlemen’ don’t seem to care about is what they are doing is effecting these girls. They are likely forced into this line of work out of desperation, or in some cases sold into it by their own families. This in-your-face sex tourism happens in many places, but in Phnom Penh it’s the worst I have seen. You can’t go more than a few steps in the tourist part of town without seeing a prostitute with a western tourist. Prostitution is now illegal in Cambodia, but that hasn’t seemed slow it down any. I would imagine it just makes it that much more dangerous for the girls involved.