Friday, December 9th, 2016

Well, I’ve Been Taken By A Hooker.

25

In Southeast Asia, the line between prostitution and dating is often murky. Especially between young local women and much-older Western men.

In Chiang Mai, east of Tha Pae Gate, you’ll find dozens of bars where local women wait for Western men to arrive, hoping to become their girlfriends and have access to their money.

In Sihanoukville, Western guys who go home with Khmer girls they meet in bars are often shocked to hear them demand money afterward.

In Saigon, hair and nail salons are often fronts for prostitution rings.

But what happened in Phnom Penh was something else entirely.

My friends and I headed out to a bar.  Upon arriving, there were about ten customers, including the six of us…and seven girls behind the bar, a few more on the floor, all of them dressed in identical jackets.

Now…those of you who have waited tables or tended bar (something I think everyone should do at some point in their lives), you can tell me right away what’s wrong with that picture.  In a typical establishment, there would NEVER be that many people working.

These girls were very likely prostitutes.

All right, then.

The boys played pool.  I hung out at the bar, talking to the girls in the jackets.  Soon, they convinced me to play this game with them:

I had never seen it before in my life. (Though I believe I’m in the minority.  My friend Dave saw this picture and said, “SHUT THE BOX!! Classic Game – also known as Tric-Trac, Canoga, Klackers, Zoltan Box, Batten Down the Hatches, or High Rollers….”  Perhaps it’s more popular in the UK?)

One person rolls a pair of dice. If you get a two and a six, for example, you can choose to turn over the two, the six, or the eight, as it’s the sum.  Once you turn over one number, you can’t turn it over again.  The goal is to turn over all nine numbers with no repeats.

Well, obviously, as a first-timer, I lost.  Frequently. Despite calculating probability in my head with every roll.

And I had to buy the bar girls plenty of tequila shots.

(This is normally where I’d include a picture of the girls with their shots, but I think their privacy should be respected considering their likely alternate profession.)

Next, we headed to Heart of Darkness, one of the most popular dance clubs in Cambodia.

Now, while I’ve been to my share of bars in Southeast Asia, this was the first time I had been to a proper, decent dance club in months. And it was amazing, from the music to the Angkor-themed decor to the beautiful crowd.

Well, mostly beautiful.  Amidst the gorgeous Khmer girls, I spotted an old man with long white hair and mutton chops, sweat dripping down his brow, his arms flailing like chicken wings.

A stunning Khmer girl, probably a few years older than me, saw me staring and leaned into my ear, pointing to the man.  “My husband — he loves to dance!” she said with pride.

It never fails to shock me, how happy some of these girls are to be married to Western men, no matter how old or fat or unattractive.

Either these girls are damn good actresses or they actually mean it.

What a night.

Kate, you lost a LOT of money to those prostitutes!” Ste told me the next day.

I know!  I got taken by a hooker,” I said glumly.

Wait a second.

I got taken by a hooker,” I repeated, a smile slowly spreading across my face.  “I actually got taken by a hooker.”  Ste and Darren looked at me like I was crazy.

I’m Adventurous Kate, and I’ve been taken by a hooker!” I crowed, laughing at the absurdity of it all.  “Cross that off the bucket list!”

Those of you who have traveled in Southeast Asia — or Las Vegas, even — I know you’ve got stories to tell.  Have you been taken by a hooker?

Update (2013): It was my impression that these women were prostitutes, considering what I heard and what I saw with the customers. Since then, some people have insisted that they are not prostitutes; others have claimed that they are. This post is a summary of my impressions on one particular night in 2011.

Comments

25 Responses to “Well, I’ve Been Taken By A Hooker.”
  1. Margaret says:

    Congrats on shortening the adventure-filled bucket list! Taken by hookers. Good one. I’ve been had by gypsies, but fortunately, no run-ins with hookers!

  2. Maria says:

    Fun story Kate. Yeah you got taken but you knew that going in. It is a lot like Vegas and the house rarely loses. I like your attitude though, you saw it as an adventure and enjoyed yourself.

  3. Brooke says:

    Great story! I look forward to your posts! Can’t wait till I make the big move and travel!

  4. Kristian says:

    I played that same game in Koh Samui but the one playing had to win to earn a drink. Great story and title!

  5. Lissie says:

    Its not about the age or the look of the guy – but if he actually pays the girl’s expenses and doesn’t hit her and supports her family – of course she would be pretty darn happy – Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world – that guy is literally saving that girl and probably her family from the streets.

    And yes every time a local girl goes home with a white guy – its prostitution – whether or not the cost has been agreed up front – how could be anything else – the girl has certainly lost all chance of a “respectable” marriage to a local boy – that’s the risk they take for the chance of actually getting long-term benefit out of it – its pure economics – its just you don’t see it anymore in the West because women can get their own jobs

    • nik says:

      you have no idea what you are talking about.

      why are white women so jelouse of asian women.

      • Theodora says:

        Not seeing the jealousy, or should that be jelousey (I’m a woman, so spelling is not my forte), in Lissie’s comment there, Nik.

    • Cody says:

      Wow. “And yes every time a local girl goes home with a white guy – its prostitution”. That is some ignorant shit right there.

  6. Theodora says:

    Kate, I’ve known a few working girls in the UK, where the salvation a rich husband provides is much less dramatic than it is in, say, Cambodia. All over Asia, these guys are a catch. In Cambodia, they can buy a big house for a month’s salary. I’d say they are, generally, grateful, good-natured and good actresses.

  7. hank says:

    The problem with your story is that I know that bar from the pictures, and they aren’t prostitutes working there, I’m very surprised that anyone would think that.

  8. Camboforever says:

    Sorry to disappoint you Kate, but the girls at Howie’s are not hookers. I have lived in PP for 12 years and now Howie and his girls well. Most of his staff have expat boyfriends or husbands……or are looking to meet and marry a foreigner.

    The girls single Khmer girls dancing at the Heart however…………..are often on the game.

  9. Violet says:

    Hookers? You are in need of another trip to PP … to a few bars which really do have prostitutes behind the bar. The bar in the photo (and which you describe), is definitely not a bar with prostitutes working in it. They may have desires to marry a white guy.. no matter how fat or ugly…. but that doesn’t make them prostitutes. That makes them women in a developing country trying to survive. Perhaps if you spoke with them and got to know them, you’d find out why it seems necessary to marry a fat ugly old white guy to better their lives.

  10. jude says:

    Heart of Darkness – A proper Decent Dance Club??? Really???

  11. Yvette says:

    Ha- goodness help you if you get to the beaches of East Africa. Very conservative and predominantly Muslim so instead of women prostitutes you have the “beach boys” who go after the solo Western women- kind of interesting when they sit down next to you to say they’ve been in love with you since you arrived 3 days ago, and you point out you arrived one day prior. 😉

    And regarding your query yes, people have been able to act strangely in all sorts of ways for money…

    Greetings from Beijing!

  12. Cam says:

    I got taken by a hooker just off Khao San Road. No further details at this time 😉

  13. Great story and at least you have a sense of humor about it. Hopefully you didnt lose to much and you played the game. I guess buying shots wasn’t too bad.

  14. Dan says:

    Spot on Kev, and @Lissie, that is just plain racist.

  15. Just a friendly reminder than any abuse — which includes insults and name-calling, among other things — will be removed. Happy commenting!

  16. Kev says:

    I see you are happy to make assumptions on people’s lives in Cambodia, but when your privilege life is thrown back at you the posting is removed.

    I think you own the HoD girls and the girls in general in Cambodia an apology at the very least. Show some integrity in your journal and admit when you are wrong, don’t just remove postings that hit a nerve, remember the ‘World Wide Web’ is far reaching and other sites can, and do show postings that are honest and truthful…. Watch the hyperspace it does ‘byte’. Blocking one email address does not cut the mustard ;-0

  17. seven says:

    Hey Kate,

    A friend mentioned your ship wreck ‘adventure’ and forwarded me the link to your site. So glad to hear you and the rest of the guests and crew made it out alive and that you’re not letting it deter you from your travels. I have been enjoying reading your stories. Keep adventuring, writing… and keep safe.

    regards,
    ~seven.

  18. Prahok says:

    You need to be a little more adventurous there, Kate. There are plenty of hookers in Phnom Penh however I don’t think any of them wear identical uniforms. Welcome to the world of overstaffed, underperforming Cambodian bars. Remember, not working hard in numbers doesn’t automatically equate to prostitution.

  19. hank says:

    There’s no need to be mean now.

  20. SoloDolo says:

    @Lissie – your comments are about as hateful and racist as any I have heard in a long time from someone posing as a respectful human and traveler with an open mind. Sure there is a lot of prostitution going on in SEA, in fact it goes on the world over including whatever hole you may be from. If you were some bar rag dripping of a person I would expect such out of your mouth.

    So are you saying that races should not mix or inter-marry? And anyone who does is supporting prostitution? Look deeper into your own family tree and surely you will find prostitution by using your limited view of the world.

    I feel sorry for you and am quite happy in my marriage with lovely, happy mixed children. Thank you for calling their mother a prostitute an exposing your ignorance.

    @ Kate…Really???

  21. Mike says:

    Wow what an odd story!