“How to get boom-boom in Phnom Penh” – An over heard conversation


21 Jan “How to get boom-boom in Phnom Penh” – An over heard conversation

How to Get Boom Boom in Phnom Penh

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. Never did I think I would walk into a “how to get boom boom in Phnom Penh” conversation!

Cheap Phnom Penh Hotel

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 how to get “Boom-Boom” in Phnom Penh.

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 in Phnom Penh?”

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.

Boom Boom in Phnom Penh

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.

  • Maddie
    Posted at 10:48h, 21 January Reply

    People go on about sex tourism in Thailand but Phnom Penh was the worst example I’d ever seen. 60 year old men and teenage girls… I just can’t help but be horrified. It’s a shame as I didn’t really give the city itself a chance after seeing so many dirty old men prevuing on young girls.
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    • Hannah
      Posted at 08:38h, 23 January Reply

      I agree Phnom Penh is much worse than Thailand, and it’s bad in Thailand. It just grosses me out…..I have to bite my tongue every time. Really actually didn’t mind Phnom Penh, it was much better than we were expecting!
      Hannah recently posted..6 Month RecapMy Profile

      • SmuT
        Posted at 22:44h, 21 November Reply

        Living in Phnom Penh. Did you spend holidays on riverside in this 2-3 streets with girlybars? If you leave this streets there’s not much of what you observed. That redlight-district is smaller, cleaner, less crazy what’s on the table in say Amsterdam or other europe cities.

        Please not judge all of phnom penh, or cambodia, just because of a red light district. Not go there if you not like this kind of business.

  • NZ Muse
    Posted at 12:51h, 21 January Reply

    Gosh, that is hilariously tragic.

    We spent most of Cambodia holed up indoors – couldn’t handle the heat and dust and were recovering from Angkor Wat … so we didn’t see much of this stuff either in Siem Reap or PP, but hear it gets pretty bad.
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    • Hannah
      Posted at 08:43h, 23 January Reply

      It wasn’t nearly as bad in Siem Reap, that city is great and setup more for tourist. Cambodia is such a beautiful places with amazing people, but the tourists that come for the sex industry are more than gross….Glad you didn’t have to see it as bad as we did in PP>
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  • Jamie
    Posted at 13:31h, 21 January Reply

    I would have done the SAME thing if I were you two and followed the guy a bit. Although it is pretty strange that he guy hadn’t been able to figure out how to do it on his own yet. Not that I support or oppose the whole sex tourism thing (not terribly read up on the matter), but there are few countries period where you can’t find pay-for-play easily if you’re looking for it. I couldn’t imagine being approached by a random woman asking for tips on how to find a male to keep her company for the evening.
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    • Hannah
      Posted at 08:47h, 23 January Reply

      I am not for it at all, but like you said I am sure it’s REALLY easy to find some. I was in shock the way the one man just approached a total stranger like that….WEIRD!
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  • Rhonda
    Posted at 14:28h, 21 January Reply

    I know!! So disgusted with the sex trade the world around, but SE Asia business is booming… so sad.
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  • Sam
    Posted at 09:55h, 22 January Reply

    The abbreviation of Dirty Old Man to DOM is somewhat unfortunate, but nonetheless, this is a very interesting story. Certainly, sex work being illegal doesn’t help anyone, least of all the women (because it usually is women) doing the work; in places where it’s legal, sex workers can get state benefits, join unions and have all the work protections granted to any other profession, which is surely much better for everyone involved. The unfortunate thing about sex work is when people are driven into it because they feel they have no other choice, or are indeed sold into it in a form a slavery. That’s just awful, and indeed, it seems unlikely that this man you stalked has much interest in whether or not that is the case of the women he engages. But there are people out there who do sex work because they want to, and all the power to them. I’m aware that there probably aren’t many in Cambodia, but it would be interesting to find out.
    Sam recently posted..Expat Living in Ecuador: Iker and Endika in CuencaMy Profile

  • Anna
    Posted at 11:33h, 23 January Reply

    As one of your other commenters said, “hilariously tragic” all of the way around.
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  • Izy Berry
    Posted at 15:19h, 11 March Reply

    I remember when I was first in Laos many years back and my friends and I saw what appeared to be a young boy out on a “date” with an older, western man. It was beyond sad, and we all felt a little awkward.

    The thing that’s hard about this situation is this could be the “break” for that kid, their family etc out of poverty. I’m not saying it’s OK or that I would wish that on anyone, but I don’t really feel I have a place to judge. Prostitution is legal in New Zealand and for that I am thankful. It means there is some level of protection for the women who choose to engage in that kind of “work”.

    Things are never black and white.
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    • Adam
      Posted at 23:19h, 11 March Reply

      I didn’t know prostitution was legal in NZ. I do think if it were legal in more countries, specifically Asia, it could potentially make the situation better. You are right it could be the “break” this family needs but at the child’s/women’s cost is really sad.

      You are right things are never black and white. I would love to sit down and hear the stories from these children & women.
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  • MBK
    Posted at 14:43h, 06 August Reply

    you all make me laugh, because those girls who are worlking as hookers are doing it very often because they like it and they are completely free to go when they want, they don’t have any obligation to anyone, they are just doing it for the money.
    why always blame the “dirty old man” ? If that’s not you’re thing I respect that, but the old guys aren’t forcing anyone, the girls are doing it for the money, and the vast majority of poor cambodian girl don’t do it.
    It is business beetween men and women as it always has been for centuries, and here it is better than in our occidental world where you’re zero tolerance brings the mafia into this business. Your comments are just stupid and naive.

    • Adam
      Posted at 11:11h, 24 September Reply

      I think you are sadly mistaken. Most of these girls were either sold into the industry from their parents or forced into it out of desperation. If their were other options for income I am sure these girls would choose that route, but given there are dirty old men like yourself looking for such services there will be pimps forcing them into the industry. Your comments are stupid and naive…
      Adam recently posted..7 Tips for Traveling Paris on a BudgetMy Profile

      • Franoush
        Posted at 10:24h, 07 October Reply

        Adam you unfortunately may be mistaken, I have between Cambodia and Myanmar for over 18 years now and my partner and I own 3 ‘girly’ bars amongst our business interests. Almost all of our girls come from working in garment factories, shop sales assistants, hospitality workers and are normally introduced to us by friends who already work for us. They work 4 or 5 hours a night (sometimes less) and earn from US$150 to US$500 a month, quite a ‘payrise’ for most of them. The problem is not them being sold, forced or desperate but simply due to laziness. These girls are young, attractive and on the most part very cunning, like all that they see from the world we bring them, they want flash smartphones, jewellery, nice clothes etc. etc. All they have to do is sit, talk and have drinks bought for them and if it suits and they agree, spend some time with someone who will supply them will all the ‘tangibles’ they need. For the first 5 years in this region I worked in aid organisations and was here to save the world, i was too idealistic and just imported my own beliefs and value systems as gospel. It’s awful to see people lose focus on their passions and become jaded when they fail to sit back, observe and at least accept things that we may not necessarily believe in or find unpalatable.

        • steve
          Posted at 18:50h, 21 September Reply

          Hey mate… Really liked your comment… also… would love to speak with you somehow.. maybe send you a bunch of questions perhaps.. Why? Im writing a book, about kids having to grow up too fast… and I ve been reading a bunch of articles and replies and such.. and I feel like I can really get a decent pulse from your words (as someone that is an owner/operator of a place that is functional, or.. hmm ‘civil’ (as you speak about it publicly). Would be really great if you could spare me some time and let me send you an email… ??? what you think?? cheers man.

  • Adrian Of Adrian's Travel Tales
    Posted at 06:29h, 09 September Reply

    After almost a year in Cambodia as an English teacher, I have been my fair share of these guys, we call them sexpats (expats that are only there for the sex). Thailand has just as much sex tourism, you just have to know where to look (unfortunately I’ve heard first hand where it’s at from sexpats willing to share the knowledge to anyone. Prostitution is such a sticky subject in general because within the Cambodian culture it is looked as at a viable way to obtain money for the family because sex is thought of differently there. The bad part is that foreigners are taking advantage of it and many women realize this and shift from the normal pick up places for Cambodian men (KTV places) to the locations white men frequent, which in PP is Golden Sorya, affectionately known as Slut Square by my teaching friends and I. I have met many sexpats that turned into husbands because they get their “temporary girlfriends” pregnant. I hate this aspect of the Cambodian culture because it really is such a small part. If you leave the main party areas and riverside, you’ll find the real Cambodia which is my favorite place on earth! :)
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  • ChinaMatt
    Posted at 20:19h, 23 September Reply

    My hotel in Phnom Penh was surrounded by those girl bars. It was a depressing sight. Worse was sitting down at one and talking to the girls about their lives (one was more candid because we spoke in Chinese and her boss couldn’t understand it). It’s a sad life for many in that city.
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    • Adam
      Posted at 11:13h, 24 September Reply

      Oh no don’t you hate it when you end up in such a seedy area! It is really depressing watching the girls sell themselves and the men that lurk around looking for the special lady of the evening. What an experience to actually sit down and chat with a girl and hear about her life and how she got into such an industry. Good thing you were able to communicate without the boss knowing what you were discussing.
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  • peter
    Posted at 16:55h, 22 October Reply

    I do not feel that prostitution is worse in PP than antwhere else in the world..it us generally confined to a smsll area.Have yoy been to Amsterdam or Hamburg….it is huge.The sight of smelly unkempt Westerners in Asia maybe offensive.i live in PP SIX months a year with my Khmer wife and love it and accept that poverty is often the driving factor.

    • SmuT
      Posted at 23:10h, 21 November Reply

      Living in Phnom Penh. Made same experience. Its 3 streets at riverside, 1 street at soya, thats all. The other 99% of PP are not like that. All the redlight-streets in PP together are factors smaller then anything in Bangkok.

      sexpats are not staying long in Cambodia. They move on fast usual because its not much here. The dirty old man 1 was looking for 2 months for something like in Bangkok, Amsterdam, Hamburg without success because its not here. That is one more reason to love Cambodia.

  • Andrew
    Posted at 19:26h, 04 November Reply

    WAKE UP!!

    Has it ever occurred to you guys that not every khmer girl walking down the street was a caucasian guy is a prostitute? I mean, hellooo? If you consider how many foreigner men live and work in Cambodia (and Phnom Penh in particular) on a long-term basis, with the limited access to women from their own countries in a social setting, ie. out of work, is it really that unusual for them to get into relationships with the local girls.

    From my own experience of almost a decade working and living in the country, there are many many many examples of such genuine relationships, and it’s both racist and insensitive to brand any girl you see with a foreign guy a prostitute.

    The number of times I’ve seen do-gooder toursits lay into some unsuspecting poor guy having a quite meal with a young girl, with abuse along the lines of “you low-life $%$# doing this and that with a girl young enough to be your daughter” … Funny thing is, every time I’ve seen that happen, the girl did turn out to be the guy’s daughter, or a relative of some sort.

    Back home, it would be quite normal for a teenage girl to openly enjoy a meal out with her father, grandfather, or any other older male relative, and nobody would look at them twice. So why presume differently when you visit someone else’s country??

  • Cambodian Girls
    Posted at 23:16h, 16 November Reply

    You guys just observe what you see but you don’t really talk with the girls and have no proof for your claim that they were sold by their parents. Of course Cambodian girls have different choices than working in the bar and even if they do it happens that they don’t like a guy and then they don’t go with him. Sure Cambodia is a poor country and we are all sad about it, but these girls go the hooker route because they want to earn more money than in a manufacturing company. I’d suggest next time you are in town you have a beer with one of the girls and talk with her for a bit, then you’ll see they are happy with their life and no one forces them to do anything.

  • Shane
    Posted at 11:46h, 19 March Reply

    The town we live in in Turkey has a bit of a scene for older female tourists picking up younger local men. While it is not prostitution it is obvious the women have money and the men don’t. The thing I find interesting is it is always the man – whether older, rich and white in Asia, or young, poor and Turkish – who is the exploiter and the woman the victim.

    For this reason I try not to judge too harshly when I see sex tourists, of whichever gender – as long as they are in to consensual overage sex it’s just not my business. The only time I do feel a bit uncomfortable and a bit self conscious as a lone white male is when looking for a fix of Lebanese food in Bangkok. All the Lebanese and Arab restaurants seem to be close to the red light districts..

    Having said all that, I still so would have enjoyed earwigging the conversation you overheard.
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  • Thomas Burgess
    Posted at 10:23h, 11 April Reply

    Ahh, western white chicks talking about prostitution in Asia is so hilarious. You are so uniformed it is beyond comprehension.

  • vidyarth
    Posted at 02:47h, 01 July Reply

    Adam, I can’t comprehend the fact that such men are in search of sexual favors in a foreign country and being so “mundane” about it. To be honest, the situation is bad in most of these Southeast Asian regions. Money talks and sex sells over here. I was approached by a lot of ‘friendly’ women when I visited Thailand with my wife. It’s really sad and only hope and pray that the governments bring about stringent measures to stop the flesh trade in these regions.

    Keep writing :)
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  • ted
    Posted at 18:41h, 09 October Reply

    Get a life people. You wouldn’t believe how together a lot of them relationships are. Forget restricted, western culture were people get married into duff relationships and split – up because life runs out on them afterwards. Have you got any idea how shite loads of Asian men treat their Asian girlfriends and wives and when you truly understand Asia, you’ll realise that prostitution only exists on the west.
    You show your blindness to Asia

  • Norman Bob
    Posted at 17:09h, 11 October Reply

    For the peaple that are upset or sad about the Prostitution issue I suggest they look into doing some Volunteer work with one of the many organizations that help young girls and Boys find a normal Childhood and this would apply to Adult women! Rather than calling them Dirty old Men I suggest calling them lonely old Men! I suggest being a person does things rather than judge things!

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