The Phnom Penh Nightlife Scene

There are some commentators that compare the Phnom Penh nightlife scene to the Bangkok scene of 30 years ago, and it is certainly true that Cambodia is a few decades behind Thailand in terms of its economic development.

There are also some striking similarities between the sweet natured local ladies and those of Thai girls from years past.

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However, nothing really compares to the Bangkok nightlife scene in the 1990s.

For one thing, Bangkok has always been a huge sprawling urban mass of epic proportions. Its population tops six million, which is about four times that of Phnom Penh. There are none of the characteristic gogo bars for which Thailand is famous, and the Cambodian capital has a much more sleepy feel to it after dark.

There are, however, plenty of Phnom Penh nightlife attractions to keep most visitors happy for a couple of weeks at least and there is even an ever growing bunch of disenfranchised Thailand expats that are moving over to Phnom Penh on long-term visas.

Economic development and globalisation does not suit all tastes, and there are quite a few westerners that are no longer satisfied with life in the modern Thai metropolis.

Like I said before, the Phnom Penh nightlife scene does have some similarities with the Bangkok of old, and most important in the minds of the westerners that formerly lived there is the impression that whilst they are not quite so welcome in Thailand as they once were, in Cambodia they are made to feel much more appreciated.

The friendly attitude of the Cambodian girls is one reason for this…

Phnom Penh Girls; a short tale

By Archibald (from Indonesia)

I had heard that Phnom Penh girls were amongst the most attractive in Cambodia and so I took the PSD Express bus down from Siem Reap to check the place out. The ‘City of Four Faces’ is full of possibilities for adventure, as my short visit was soon to confirm…

Although new high-rise developments are rapidly changing its skyline and character, Phnom Penh is currently spread out widely with a few large boulevards and classic structures due to the French influence beginning in the 19th century - one street even has the name of Charles De Gaulle.

For tourists there are sightseeing opportunities, such as the Royal Palace, Independence Monument, and Wat Phnom which has a great view of the city and the Mekong River. Not far away are reminders of the terrible days during the 1970’s when Pol Pot, the evil dictator of the Khmer Rouge depopulated the city and sent many of the Khmer people and especially the doctors and professionals to their deaths.

Phnom Penh nightlifeBars in Phnom Penh tend to be of the indoor variety

I wasn’t here for a wartime history lesson though, the lure of Cambodian girls was on my mind…

Phnom Penh girls; my first night

From the central bus depot I flagged a tuk tuk (Asian taxi) to take me to my hotel; along the route we passed a few hostess bars with pretty girls standing outside or seated by the entrance calling out to pedestrians to come inside. I took note of the location of a few of them for a later visit…

My driver let me and my well-traveled backpack off at my destination and I checked into the guesthouse. I took a private room for 15 dollars, dormitory rooms are available for those on a tight budget, but I wanted some privacy since I wanted the company of a lady.

In the early evening I set out to eat at a nice restaurant, with the intention of seeking out some female companionship later on, and got talking to an American over dinner. Delicately I raised the topic of where to meet ladies.

“Do I just pop into a bar to find a companion for the night?” I ventured.

“It’s not quite that straightforward,” said my new friend, as he went on to explain some of the differences amongst bars, hostess bars, night clubs, KTVs (karaoke bars) and gay bars. “There are massage parlors and brothels, but be careful in brothels as some girls could be underage and you don’t want to get charged back in your country as a pedophile. Probably stay away from karaoke clubs, as they are mostly local or Japanese and prices can be higher, and you might not find a suitable girl there. I recommend hostess bars.”

Off I went in the direction of the hostess bars I’d taken note of earlier. Along the way I saw many attractive local girls outside of bars trying to lure guys to come in for a drink and a chat. I ventured into one and noted that it had a pool table, some loud music playing, and a well-stocked bar. Tables for two or three were spread around. I sat at one near the wall where I could view the social intercourse and compare the girls.

Soon after, an attractive lady came over to take my drink order, a draft of Angkor was my request. My waitress was tall, with a curvy body, enhanced by a low cut blouse and tight fitting jeans. She nudged close to my leg and asked if she could sit down for a while. Being pleased with her appearance and pleasant smile I agreed.

“My name is Dana, I work her three months now. Where are you from?”
“I live in America... on the west coast” I replied.
“I love Hollywood movies, you look like an actor.”
“Really, I am not that good at acting” I replied, being a bit flattered. “Do you want a house-drink?”
“Yes, dear, “she said, “then I can stay with you longer.” She motioned for a drink.

We sat together for perhaps half an hour with small talk and questions. Sometimes our hands touched. I noticed that she liked to touch my leg.
“Do you want to go with me” asked Dana. “I have a room close by?”
“Maybe,” I said. “What is your best rate?”
“Only 50 bucks and 10 for the bar-fine,” whispered Dana as she nuzzled against my ear.
“Sorry,” I said. “I am retired, that is a bit much, can we work out a deal?’
“Okay then,” she replied, “Let’s hurry dear.”

I paid for the drinks and the bar-fine and off we went into the cooler night air holding hands. As we walked down the busy street my level of excitement rose. I knew that Dana was the perfect girl to end my day with, and she did not disappoint…

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Phnom Penh girls; my second night

Having spent the day touring some sights in Phnom Penh, and since I had booked a ticket on a river boat down the Mekong River to Vietnam, I thought a quiet evening was in order. So why not just explore the area near my guesthouse. Some street snacks seemed to fit the need for nourishment. A draft or two of Angkor beer at a nearby bar was fine. I was not intending to entertain any Phnom Penh girls. Well maybe idle chat with a cute one if she approached me. I would buy her a house-drink and see what would transpire.

On the edge of a square I noticed a large building that appeared to be a dance hall. Young people kept arriving. Outside were a few well-dressed girls. I saw no expats around so I just observed.

While sitting nearby I noticed a couple of pretty young girls of about 20 years walking about the area. What were they looking for? Were they freelancers?  Maybe it was only food as they went about snacking on some street food.

A tall slim one with long black hair came near and said, “Hello, sir.” I nodded and said, “Hello, miss, how are you tonight?” She came and squeezed herself in next to me. We did introductions, she called herself Kanya and she came from the countryside about 10 miles away. “Where do you stay?” she asked. I pointed across the square. Her eyes opened wide. “Nice, so close for us.” she muttered. I did not reply.

I noticed an older women operating a food stall watching us with interest, as if wondering what a 60 year old man would see in Phnom Penh girls 40 years his junior. I thought I would test her interest. I placed my hand firmly on her thigh but she did not move away. I put an arm about her waist and looked into her face. She smiled sweetly. “Let’s go to my place”, I said.

I took her hand and we crossed the street. I took the side entrance to escape the staff at the front desk and led Kanya into my room. It had a basic double bed with an adjoining bath. There was a small fan, a side table, and a locker. My backpack was outside being too big to fit.

After a quick shower I hopped into bed with this lovely lady. There was a light sheet available but Kanya was happy to partly cover herself with a towel. All night we snuggled and we slept little even after sexual interludes.

Too soon I heard the desk staff knock at my door. “Boat to Vietnam,” he said. “What the hell! Get me a later boat!” I called out motioning to Kanya to be quiet. We stayed in bed for another hour before showering and going out to have breakfast.

Around the corner was a fast food joint with western food akin to McDonald’s.” I would like to try the western food.” she said. I had my eggs and some bacon. She bit into a big burger with French fries. A few older couples at neighboring tables looked askance at the old guy and the young woman. I suppose they disapproved.

After paying the bill we went outside. It was time to part. I gave Kanya some American money and a quick kiss. She hailed a motorbike and set off to her village, I assume. I returned to my guest house with amazing memories of two nights with Phnom Penh girls.

Phnom Penh nightlife; on the streets

You may hear a number of reports from various quarters about the wild, anything goes, lawless streets of Phnom Penh at night, but this is all over-exaggerated and out of date nonsense.

It is true that back in the 90s there was a real crime problem; it was a sort of aftermath of the Khmer Rouge cruelty that preceded it, but this is no longer relevant and the risk factor involved in stepping out into the Phnom Penh nightlife is not that different than in Bangkok.

If you behave yourself and don’t do anything too foolish, you will be unlucky to end up in trouble, and daytime safety is very high.

Phnom Penh hookerA Phnom Penh girl on her way for a brief acquaintance...

You’ll notice plenty of street beggars in Phnom Penh, more than you find elsewhere due to the extra poverty, and many of them have got missing limbs and other deformities.

The war-torn countryside of previous years is still littered with unexploded minefields and I suspect that some of the beggars may have fallen foul of them.

It’s not just the older generation begging on the street either, there will be children lining up to beg from you and collect your discarded rubbish for whatever pittance it’s worth when recycled. The begging is less visible at night, but during daylight it can be a bit overwhelming.

Hostess bars and other venues

The standard form of venue in which you will meet most bar-girls are called ‘hostess bars’, there are many of these scattered around the city center, with streets 51, 102, 104 and 136 the main hot-spots along with the city’s riverfront area.

Each bar will usually have anywhere from six to twelve hostesses that will be happy to keep you company. I should point out here that there are some significant differences between these bars and the sort of beer bars that you find in Thailand.

Fistly, the bars themselves are much more run down than in Thailand, shit-holes is the word that springs to mind! It’s not just the fixtures and fittings that are past their best, the general cleanliness level is beyond filthy with lots of discarded rubbish and cockroach infested toilets etc.

It takes a bit of getting used to if you are a gentlemen with refined tastes! The bars are mostly indoor venues rather than the open-air beer bars of Thailand, so it can be difficult to assess any given bar’s line up of ladies until you venture inside it.

Second, whereas Thai girls working in Bangkok beer bars will almost always be available for take-out, the hostesses that work in the Phnom Penh nightlife industry are frequently unavailable. Keep this in mind and, if a certain lady catches your eye, make sure that you enquire at an early stage as to her availability.

Unfortunately, it tends to be the best looking girls that are not available.

Third, if you are tired of being accosted to buy lady-drinks when you walk into a Thai beer bar, then relax. In Cambodia the girls are a lot less bothersome and will hardly ever ask you for a drink.

You shouldn’t take advantage of this though; be respectful of the fact that the girls are there to earn a living. The best thing to do is leave a reasonable tip instead of buying them a drink – I’ve no doubt that they get plenty of alcohol rations so a tip is better for them. $1 is enough depending on how much of her time you take up.

As regards other Phnom Penh nightlife venues, there are some classier places to visit and a range of disco type offerings that are full of freelance girls. These are all fairly standard type set ups that are much the same as in Thailand.

The only thing of note to mention about the girls in these venues is that if you ask them how much payment they require for their services, they will quote you a price that is usually a lot more negotiable than you find in other countries. Think half the original quote or less and you won’t be far off the mark.

For gambling fans, the other main difference with Thailand is that there are some Casinos included in the Phnom Penh nightlife make up. I’m not sure what sort of gambling options are on offer inside these venues, but I imagine that card games are popular.

A few word of warning; if you win any significant amount of money you’ll probably be noticed and it might make you a target for a possible mugging, so make sure that you have your getaway planned. Hiring a ‘tuk-tuk’ driver for the night is a good and inexpensive idea as he can whisk you away when you leave without need to go walking unaccompanied anywhere.

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