Fear of Reality and Its Effects on Travelers

Fear of Reality is a phenomenon that was completely unknown to me until I’ve started this blog. As someone who stands with his feet firmly on the ground and doesn’t float in the world of fantasy, starting a blog that doesn’t showcase the world of travel through the rose colored sunglasses was an eye opening experience. Eye opening because the amount of hatemail I get from people who fear reality so much they jump down the throat of anyone who dares to speak openly about it was so overwhelming, it really made me think and try to come to the core of what causes the travelers be so ignorant and arrogant. The study has lead me to the discovery of fear of reality and how it affects the travelers – the very specimen of human race I’d think would get affected by it the least. The exact opposite proved to be the truth, but let’s look at it nicely from the start:

Photo: Fear of Reality Came Alive on Walking Street in Pattaya

Photo: Fear of Reality Came Alive on Walking Street in Pattaya

Fear of Reality and Its Effects on Travelers

Most people associate the names of exotic countries with pictures of a tropical paradise. Most people who visit those countries return back home telling everyone of wonderful, smiling people who were killing themselves over who will be the first to help a lost foreigner with any advice they may need. And most of those people will stick by their notion that locals from that country are the nicest people in the universe to a point that if someone dares to speak otherwise, they’ll be right there responding without hesitation with the most colorful verbal assaults their brains can produce.

Fact be told, the “most people” I speak of in the above paragraph are the most clueless members of the society who wouldn’t know a rip off artist if it came at them with a signboard above their head and hit them square in the face. As a result, even though they’d become victims of mind games played on them by greedy locals who specialize in taking advantage of naive tourists, not only will they not realize that that was the case, they will be so taken aback by the faux-friendship they had just forged and the fake smile they had witnessed, they won’t even admit for a second that they were ripped off and will assault anyone who dares to clarify for them that ripped off they truly had been.

I knew this was happening right off the bat, I just couldn’t come to the core of why. How could a fake smile hypnotize an otherwise intelligent person to a point that they abandon all common sense and set on a path of complete idiocy? How could someone be so gullible that they would thank a thief for robbing them and stay friends with them so that next time they’re around, they’d offer themselves up for him again?

Fear of Reality Does Exist

At this stage I still didn’t know a darn thing about fear of reality, I was just actively pursuing the truth behind the utter naivety of vast majority of travelers. It all started to come together after I took a trip to Pattaya, Thailand – the largest brothel in the world where an excess of 20,000 hookers operate on any given day of the year, with the number growing by 25% – 50% during the high season months.

Walking around with my eyes open and wits unscathed by the unceasing calls of generally unattractive Thai girls desperate for my money, I spoke with many people on both sides of the spectrum to get a clear picture of what really goes on behind the facades played on by either party. And bit by bit I saw the fear of reality slowly take shape before my eyes.

How Harsh is Reality?

Just as I had witnessed in Cambodia where rip off artists thrive because they found out that putting a fake smile on is all it takes to rip a tourist off who would in turn thank them and recommend them to all of their friends, Thai girls also thrive on naivety of foreigners who fall for them acting as though they were their girlfriends and would continue sending them money even after their return back home not realizing that the girl wiped his taste off her mouth with disgust as soon as she was out the door and thought nothing less of him than a stupid walking ATM machine.

Whether it’s the rip off artist from Cambodia or the money hungry hooker from Thailand, at the end of the day, to them you were just a stupid foreigner who was so naive, you made an easy target and will only be a good source of laughs when they brag about your gullible self to their friends.

Thai Hookers

Despite being openly xenophobic, Thailand attracts massive number of tourists, many of whom are repeat visitors with many relocating to live in Thailand as expats. I got a chance to speak with many expats living in Thailand and even though they are aware of out of control murder rate of foreigners in Thailand (many of whom are killed out of sheer hatred of foreigners with the police hating all foreigners just as much hence supporting these murders or seeing them as justified), they still refuse to accept the notion that Thailand is a dangerous country and continue to adamantly protect Thailand’s reputation by attacking anyone who dares to speak badly about their country of choice? It took a very close look at the way Thai hookers operate to properly understand why they fear reality so much.

Like Thai men, Thai women are inherently xenophobic. They hate foreigners so genuinely it gives them shivers, but they love the money foreigners have so they put on skimpy clothes and go whoring themselves out for some of that dough. Forget all about Buddhism – when they take a whiff of the green stuff, all of the Buddhist principles they pretend to uphold get temporarily suspended (as they do when the craving to satisfy their xenophobic ways takes hold).

As a result, even though you’ll see those Thai hookers join their palms together and bow their heads in a prayer each time they see a temple or a shadow house, they forget all about it when a foreigner comes to sight. Selling their bodies for money is as normal as hatred towards foreigners. And – strangely or not – it is that fact alone that keeps drawing such a massive and steady flow of foreigners to the country.

Thailand is no longer cheap, people are not friendly and never ever smile (just look at the king of Thailand who is a reflection of his people – good luck finding one picture of him smiling). Scam is a daily happenstance and murders of foreigners more than common, though frequently ruled a suicide, a natural cause or an accident (the police is perhaps the most corrupt institution in an already corrupt country, so you can imagine how honest they are). Yet people keep coming back, bringing more and more money to fuel this xenophobic society. That’s how powerful the hooker attraction is.

Interestingly enough – Thai girls are not attractive and they are definitely not cheap. I don’t know how much hookers cost in the western countries, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were less expensive than any of those Thai prostitutes. Yet people keep coming to Thailand for hookers, including people who have never been with a prostitute before. I tried to come to the root of this phenomenon as well and based on my research, it is because of sheer number of available hookers that can be encountered in any part of Thailand.

You see, many men fantasize about various women. While prostitutes can be had in almost any country of the world, the difference between Thailand and other countries is in the fact that virtually all Thai women are whores. As a result, if you happen to fantasize a Thai girl you casually spot, you can have her if you’re willing to pay. This is not true in the rest of the world. And this is also why many men who slept with a prostitute in Thailand had never paid for sex before and never will after.

Because when you leave Thailand, most of the women you meet will have some level of dignity in their lives so you won’t be able to just have them for money. Majority of women around the world will not sell themselves out just like that so if you happen to fantasize one who doesn’t particularly reciprocate your feelings, the fantasy will remain the fantasy and you will have to move on. But when you are in Thailand, you can turn that fantasy into reality by just shelling out an agreed upon sum of money. Because when money talks, Thai girls bother not about Buddhism or dignity. They like the green stuff and will gladly spread their thighs wide open for some.

And whether men who repeatedly come to Thailand admit it or not, this is really what attracts them back. Thai girls may not look like much, but they are always ready to go with you if you pay for it. And with so many of them offering themselves up before you could ask, you don’t even have to bother approaching them. If back home it is you who gets rejected approaching women, in Thailand it is you who does rejecting because there are so many of them approaching you, and that my friends is what drives mass tourism in Thailand.

How Thai Hookers Cast Light Into Fear of Reality

It was when I was in Pattaya – the biggest brothel in the world when I realized why people fear reality so much. Men love being constantly approached by women and asked to go out with them. But it changes nothing about these women having no dignity in their lives and craving money more than anything else. As a result, as soon as they’d collected the cash from you, they forget all about you and it’s back to hunting another victim. They would be sweet-mouthing you and act like your girlfriends – they’d do anything and say anything only to make you spend more.

Sob stories of them having hungry kids, mother in a hospital, live stock dying from a rare disease or whatever else is appropriate at the moment are commonly used to make the men feel sorry for them and spend more. The ultimate goal is to enchant the man so much, he would commit to helping this poor girl out any way he can and because many men who come to Thailand are hard working business people, when their time is up, they return home but continue supporting their new found girlfriend with funds wired to Thailand from their home country.

This is where it gets interesting. Before the man leaves Thailand, the sob stories get exaggerated to a larger than life extent and the girl presents the man with a way to stay in touch with her. It is oftentimes a mobile phone number, an email address, a facebook account or whether else has been working out for the girl the best. While the man is abroad, she keeps replying to him in a way which makes it sound as if she was his girlfriend.

Meanwhile, though – she continues whoring herself out. She’ll remain relentless until she finds another naive, gullible foreigner who eats her sob-stories with a chocolate topping and when he leaves, she will have another man to reply to as if she was his girlfriend, until he starts sending money from abroad as well, creating a new stream of workless income for the hooker.

Ultimately, she will engage several men like that, so even though each of them only sends her money every now and again, it adds up to being a solid pile of cash each month. Obviously, the men went to their home countries to work hard to make a lot of money so when their chance at another vacation time comes, they will head back to Thailand to be with their girlfriend who “loves them so much” (based on what she says when she responds to him by email).

With so many boyfriends to take care of, the girl will try to “help them” choose the best time to come to Thailand to ensure she’s available. The last thing she wants is for any of her sponsors to find out that they are not the only ones in her life so if a threat of two or more of them coming to Thailand to be with her at the same time looms up, she’d only respond affirmatively to one of them, while presenting the others with all sorts of valid reasons to postpone their trip till a later date.

As a result, when a man does come, he finds his girlfriend all dedicated to him, waiting for him as if he was her only love. This will encourage him even more and he’ll decide that he doesn’t want the girl to work as a prostitute anymore because she’s his dedicated girlfriend so next time he goes back home, he’ll commit to sending her so much money each month, she won’t have to sell herself out anymore because he’ll send her enough to look after her family (remember the sob stories?) without working as a hooker.

He leaves and she continues with her relentless pursuit to engage more and more men in the same way until eventually she gets a monthly wage from about a dozen of them. This is already enough for her to buy herself a nice car and live it up like a king. She would just respond like a girlfriend to messages from all of her boyfriend/sponsors and continue adding new sob-stories about new hardship that had befallen upon her so they could send bonuses on top of her monthly wage. And when they come over for a week or two, she spends time with them, gets them to buy her more jewellery, fragrances, clothes and whatever else her heart desires before seeing them off to wait for another one of them to come for a week or two.

In brief – these girls will pretend to love you like there’s no other man in the world, but as soon as you’re out the door, you’ll be naught more but a “walking ATM” reference when she goes to hang out with her friends to spend your money and brag about how many men living abroad who are sending her funds regularly every month she already has.

It’s a performance start to finish – just like those fake smiles from rip off artists of Cambodia many travelers won’t allow anyone to say a bad thing about. A mind game tailored to take advantage of these men, yet those men love it and keep coming back. And guess what they would do if someone suggested that their bellowed Thai girlfriend was a whore who is just taking advantage of them? They would jump that person and curse them to world’s end – just the way the self righteous protectors of the rip off artists from Cambodia do when I point out the truth about them. How awesome is that?

Fear of Reality Conclusion

To sum it up, my quest to find out why so many otherwise seemingly intelligent and/or well traveled people fail to see the truth and will not hesitate to verbally assault anyone who calls a spade a spade lead me to the discovery of Fear of Reality. While I may not be the first person to have found out about this phenomenon, it is something that I did not know existed so discovering it on my own affirmed me that I have a solid grip on reality and belong to a tiny group of people who are able to see the forest for the trees.

Fear of Reality is a type of phobia that makes people give up sound reasoning for faux feel-good experience. In other words, if you make them feel good, even if you’re only doing it to rip them off, in the end, they will still put maximum weight on the feel-good experience and will completely ignore the potentially negative part of the experience. Because they fear reality, instead of admitting it into their lives, the weak minded individuals will resort to living in a fantasy. It takes a person of exceptionally strong spirit to handle and face reality hence you’ll only find a handful of people who don’t suffer from Fear of Reality.

I’ve summed up the reasons why so many people suffer from Fear of Reality in three steps:

  1. Lacking Observation Talent
    I’m simply shocked by how lacking most people are when it comes to basic observation talent. Let me give you an example. If you ever get a chance to visit Pattaya – the largest brothel in the world, you will likely go for a stroll down the infamous Walking Street at night. This part of Pattaya is full of a-go-go bars and seems pretty dead during the day, but booms into a massive happening when the sun goes down. Thousands of foreigners of all races slalom among touts lurking to catch unsavvy newbs with ping-pong shows offers and underprivileged locals trying to sell stuff nobody with half a brain would buy. Many of those underprivileged locals are very old, crippled women with jasmine pendants hung on their arms approaching you with a smile and a big hope in their teary eyes that you would buy one.

    Virtually everybody I spoke with was aware of them and felt sorry for these old women who ended up having to sell flowery things in a place like the Walking Street, Pattaya only to make a living. Yet not one tourist in Pattaya could read the real truth from their teary eyes. They are not there to make a living or to survive or for any other similar reason. They are there because they are forced to. They are captured by local mafia, beat up and forced to earn a living for the young punks who control (understand – abuse) them. Each of these women have seen way too many winters and most of them have some visible disability. None can speak a word of English or any other language past their own. They skilfully hide their swollen, bloody lips which are the result of treatment the mafia boys manage them with. They are too old and too weak to stand up for themselves and/or to escape the abuse. And no foreigners can see that. All they see is an old woman struggling to survive so she came to Pattaya. So they buy her flowers because they feel sorry for her and want to help her out not realizing that by doing that, they’re helping out the mafia. For as long as abusing old, defenceless women remains a profitable venture, the mafia punks will continue kidnapping more of them, beating them up and forcing them out on the street to utilize their poor looks to entice foreigners into spending money out of sheer compassion.
  2. Inability to Read Between the Lines
    I think the reason I can read people so well is because I’m a photographer. I established myself as one of the world’s most celebrated nude photographers and a successful photo journalist because I was able to see what people are thinking and capture their real selves without pretence. Most people don’t seem to have this talent or don’t have it properly developed. Skilled photographers as well as traditional paint artists would also possess the same ability, but these account for less than half a percent of the population.
  3. Ignorance and Arrogance
    Most people prefer to live in a fantasy world. Reality confuses and scares them. You show them what the real life looks like and they will unleash the savage beast that dwells within them. The best way to prove it is by sending anyone to a reality news website, such as BestGore.com (WARNING!!! – extremely graphic content on that link. Do NOT click unless you’re ready to face the reality. This website does not mess around and tells it like it is – kind of like mine – which is why 99% of those visiting it WILL be offended. Don’t come back at me if you happen to be one because I have warned you. The front page which I have linked is safe, but read the warning on it carefully and click the puppy unless you’re really ready to see what the real life is about).

    Fear of reality is obvious from people’s reactions to being ripped off by smiling rip off artists. For as long as the rip off artist smiles and sweet talks to them, the victims will not only not perceive it as a rip off, they will actually think that they were treated like royalty and will verbally assault anyone who tries to open up their eyes and tell them the truth. The truth is the reality and they fear it. They prefer to live in a fantasy – the world without their rose colored glasses is too harsh and they refuse to accept it. If you take their rose colored glasses off, they will jump down your throat and won’t get out lightly. Good 98% of total population fear the reality and will fight to protect their fantasy world from those who stand firmly on the ground. They will always deny the possibility that they’re living in a fantasy and will continue lying to themselves no matter what.

BTW, this post was full of hard to swallow reality. Did it give you shivers reading the facts as they are? Did it perhaps enrage you or make you want to get back at me with verbal diarrhea to show me what a racist a$$hole I am? Yep, fear of reality can make people do that and if you found yourself feeling that way, know that this post is about you, whether you admit it or not.

It is not the purpose of this article to enlighten or change anyone. The sole fact that some people prefer the fantasy world to reality is a proof enough that they are lost causes and cannot be amended. People who fear reality also fear the real picture of themselves and as such are unable to look deep into their own selves to realize which side of the spectrum they fall into. Let me repeat myself one last time – reality is often too harsh to accept. If exposure to it through this article pissed you off, take it as a sign that there might be a whole wide world spread right before your feet, but you’re so focused staring at the tip of your nose, you can’t really see it.

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Cost of Food in Laos

As a traveller, dining in Laos is also not as cheap as in other SE Asian countries. When it comes to food, Laos adopted that crappy discriminating practise widely popularized throughout Cambodia. Just as it is in Cambodia, Laos eateries believe that it is perfectly justifiable to overcharge (rip off) foreigners so getting food for the price a local would pay is rare.

Restaurants in popular tourist areas have menus in both Lao and English, but don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s bilingual. This is just an illusion created to make you believe that you are getting a local deal, but the prices on the menu only apply to foreigners. A local would come, look at the menu, smile at it, put it aside and ask in a language you cannot understand how much it was going to be for him which will never end up being the same as what you as a foreigner would have to pay.

Out of this part of South East Asia, Thailand is the best country when it comes to the availability of locally priced food available to foreigners. Prices in Thailand are often clearly marked and visibly posted, even if you go to the most non touristy market in an area where you will have been the only foreigner in ages. Yet the price posted will apply globally – this is how much this particular item costs and everyone, regardless of their color of skin will pay this amount. There is no such thing as different price for different people. Sadly, that’s not how it works in Laos. As a tourist, aside from finding transportation and accommodation vastly overpriced compared to other countries in SE Asia, I also found lack of inexpensive foods available to foreigners financially exhausting.

Bowl of fried rice with squid and shrimp can be had for $1 in Cambodia. That same amount will buy you steamed rice with nice dose of (really spicy, mind you) chicken stew in Thailand and in Vietnam, you could also almost throw a beer in it with food but forget about getting a decent portion for an equivalent of $1 in Laos.

Pakse in southern Laos was the only place where white bread sandwich with friend egg and veggies could be had for 8,000 Kip (roughly $1) but be prepared to shell out more everywhere else.

Overall, even for a skilled budget traveller capable of finding the means to travel, sleep and eat on the cheap, Laos happens to be an expensive trip. As a foreigner, the cost of food will be out of proportion to what locals pay but that’s a sad reality of many places in the region.

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Laos

The Land of a Million Elephants, better known by its contemporary name of Laos Peoples Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a landlocked country in South East Asia that remained vastly off limits to the travelers until the early 1990′s. Taking into account that the United States dumped 1.9 metric tons of bombs on Laos towards the end of Vietnam War, making it the most bombed country in the history of the world, there is little wonder why the communist government didn’t want any foreigners in their lands. But as their economy took some heavy blows following the fall of Soviet Russia sheltered Eastern Bloc, the idea of opening up and allowing hard currency bearing tourists in seemed like the only way out.

Photo: Barefoot Monks at Luang Prabang, Laos

Photo: Barefoot Monks at Luang Prabang, Laos

Seeing how tourism money kept the economy of neighboring Thailand bustling, Lao officials figured that: “if we open up, they will come here too.” Afterall, it only takes an hour on a plane to get from Bangkok to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. Yet despite its proximity to Thailand and a promise of brand new, unmatched experiences, few travelers decided to cross the Mekong river which flows along the border separating the countries. As Thailand continued to see the growth in the numbers of travelers visiting the country, Lao government was forced to conclude that foreigners are not yet ready for Laos.

So the officials came with an idea of declaring 1998 the “Visit Laos Year”. Encouraged by the 1997 admission into ASEAN, this seemed like a good idea but despite undying efforts to attract mass tourism, the initiative failed to yield results. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 21st century when Laos was discovered by the crowds of adventurous backpackers and the scales were tipped. All of a sudden, some of the towns went from receiving maybe a dozen foreigners a week, to having hundreds come in a day. It was independent travelers and nature lovers who put Laos on the map and a new era of tourism, which also signaled the end of an era of being a sleepy, unexplored country has begun.

Photo: Plain of Jars, Laos

Photo: Plain of Jars, Laos

Laos is no longer what it was when it was re-discovered. Western style cafes, foreigner friendly restaurants and over priced pre-packaged tour operators now fill the cores of major cities. Once laid back country has stepped up its pace to keep up with the demands of ever growing westernization that has crept into the lives of many. An adventurous traveler can still get a glimpse of unspoiled, unwesternized Laos when stepping off the beaten tourist track, but the time when you would be the only foreigner enquiring about a tube ride down the river in Vang Vieng is long gone. Hoards of travelers can now be encountered no matter how remote a place you go to, yet Laos still remains the country with some of the most pristine nature and some of the friendliest people in the area.

I loved every bit of my stay in Laos, however since the country is much more expensive for travelers than any of it neighbors, I cut my trip shorter than originally intended. Every backpacker whom I met in Laos was surprised by high costs involved with traveling there compared to traveling in other South East Asian countries. One would expect the opposite, given that Laos is considered to be one of the least developed countries in the region but fact of a matter is, backpacking through Laos will drain your wallet much faster than say Cambodia, Indonesia or Vietnam.

Limited availability (with only a few exceptions, this means “complete unavailability”) of inexpensive accommodation (inexpensive accommodation would be a half decent room in a guesthouse for no more than $7 a night), unusually high cost of transportation (by SE Asian standards) and common overcharging of foreigners on food make traveling across Laos more expensive than in other countries in the region. Yet despite the costs, Laos is a beutiful place to visit and definitely worth a pop.

Is Siem Reap Safe?

Siem Reap is the main tourist hub of Cambodia. Vast majority of foreigners who visit the country go there to see the ancient temples of Angkor and Siem Reap is where they stay and spend most of their time while they’re at it. Since violent crime in Cambodia can be a serious issue, it is perfectly legitimate to be concerned about personal safety while staying in town. Is Siem Reap safe for visitors or not? Let’s take a look at it:

It is understandable that Siem Reap is a major cash cow for the government of Cambodia. It starts with the purchase of the visa most foreigners who just wish to visit the Angkor Archaeological Park need to buy, takes a whole new level with payment of Angkor entrance fees and continues through fees (and bribes) paid by tuk tuk drivers, guides, tour operators and other “service” providers for the privilege to conduct business in this lucrative area.

With Angkor being such a massive money maker, Cambodian government certainly has the foremost interest to ensure nothing too newsworthy (like hostage taking and murder of a 3 year old Canadian boy in 2005) happens to a foreigner during their stay in Siem Reap. Increased police presence is the result. Luckily for visitors, the police stationed to patrol Siem Reap, including the tourist police the primary purpose of which is to assist foreigners in need of law enforcement, occasionally do what they are paid for. There have even been some cases of businesses being shut down and their owners/operators fined after foreigners complained because they were scammed (scamming happens more often than gets reported, but some foreigners do go through the hassle of reporting it and in some cases in delivered results).

This increased police presence throughout Siem Reap and Angkor area makes the whole Siem Reap province less dangerous than other Cambodian provinces. Rape is a serious problem all over Cambodia and I got to talk to many girls about it (victims who will never see justice being served) and found out that rape truly is less of a problem in the Siem Reap province than it is elsewhere in Cambodia. This allows the girls from Siem Reap to attend evening school classes and go home after dark without male escort.

Things are not as rosy in other Cambodian provinces where dusk brings the end to activities outside of the safety of people’s homes. However sometimes even your own four walls won’t protect you from sexual predators so groups of women who live together always have a male member of the family stay in a nearby house and available on the phone for those many days when someone is trying to break into their house for the score.

Heavy police presence throughout Siem Reap results in less dangerous environment not only for foreigners, but also for locals. Things do get sketchy after dark, though. When the sun goes down, the streets of Siem Reap get emptied out, except from the areas around Pub Street where most foreigners spend their evenings. The police patrol both ends of Pub Street with their bikes blocking entrances off to prevent vehicle access to the street that comes much alive at night.

Because this is where vast majority of foreigners visiting Cambodia spend most of their time, they come and go unharmed, believing that Cambodia is a safe country. Make no mistake, though – Cambodia still has a long way to go before it can be considered a safe country, but Siem Reap, despite not being entirely safe presents few dangers to an average visitor.

One good way to look at how dangerous Siem Reap really is would be by comparing it to Luang Prabang in neighbouring Laos. Luang Prabang is also a heavily touristed place, overrun with foreigners on any given day, with virtually every house on each of the downtown streets being either a guesthouse, a restaurant or some form of an office providing overpriced, pre-packaged tours. Yet even though it’s so heavily touristed, you won’t see any increased police presence there. Tourists wander the streets of Luang Prabang safely in the middle of the night, single woman walking down empty streets long after sunset, yet you won’t get any locals staring you down or throwing verbal remarks your way like it is in Siem Reap. Yet while you’re in Luang Prabang, there would be absolutely no police anywhere in vicinity.

I spent one week in Luang Prabang, exploring it back and forth, starting on some days at 5.30am and staying up on others until well after midnight. While thoroughly enjoying the street life of Luang Prabang on my own, I have not seen one police officer there. If you think about it, the government would only consider stationing more police officers in an area if locals pose a significant threat to the safety of foreigners who flock there with their hard currency. Since Lao people appreciate and value foreigners for who they are and what they mean to their economy, there is little need to police their actions. Draw your own conclusion about why Cambodian government spends extra money to have extra police in Siem Reap.

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Chid Sex Tourism in Cambodia

The premise of child sex tourism is something that has never once in my life crossed my mind. Not once, at least not until I came to Cambodia. From the moment I entered the country to the moment I left it, the billboards plastered all over Cambodia kept reminding me that child sex tourism in Cambodia is a thriving industry enjoyed by many.

Photo: Child Sex Tourism is Advertised All Over Cambodia

Photo: Child Sex Tourism is Advertised All Over Cambodia

I began to seriously question the true purpose behind the posters which albeit written to sound as a warning to child sex tourists, did instead subconsciously remind everyone that even if it would never ever occur to them to engage in sex with a child, many people travel to Cambodia for that very purpose so perhaps they should consider it to.

I honestly wonder how many of those who came to Cambodia with sole intention to see ancient Angkor ruins, planned their follow up visit after they were reminded by the so called anti-sex-tourism posters that Cambodia is a suitable country for the deviants to exploit children. I wonder how many of those who did end up exploiting Cambodian children would never have done it had the posters not suggested to them that in this country it’s possible. Cause if I were to guess, I’d say that most men who exploited Cambodian children did not seek out Cambodia in particular, but found out about the possibility to engage in something like that while they were there.

Drop In The Ocean

Cambodian government is so loud mouthed about targeting child sex tourists it made me question what exactly it was they were trying to achieve? Is targeting foreigners all they care about or do they also give a crap about those poor children? I had to ask this simply because compared to rapes of Cambodian children perpetrated by local men, sexual exploitation of Cambodian children by sex tourists is a drop in the ocean.

But there is no government initiative aimed at eliminating child exploitation by locals. These cases don’t even get filed and perpetrators don’t get prosecuted. They are free to exploit these children as often as they please and by golly, do they ever… So if the government doesn’t give a damn about the wellbeing of children, then what is this war on child sex tourism masquerade all about?

The necessity to target child sex tourists in as urgent and stringent manner as humanly possible has never been more important. The world is far better connected now than it ever was and with travel more affordable than it was in the past, the threat of sick-minded individuals talking advantage of children from impoverished countries is on the rise. It’s an issue that can’t be put off but could it be that it’s also a good excuse to grease a corrupt third world pocket with some western dough?

The sole thought that this could be the case is made even more sickening by the fact that while pockets are being greased, the rate at which children are exploited is not dropping. Their well being simply doesn’t appear to be of concern, but it’s a good opportunity to make the government known for being the most corrupt in the world look concerned and determined to make a difference in the eyes of the international community.

The Power of Good Press

Cambodian government is dedicated to fighting child sex tourism” – it has a very good ring to it, doesn’t it? To make themselves look like they care about the most vulnerable part of their society could easily make the international community overlook the fact that corruption and human rights abuses are unrivalled in Cambodia. And while the bigger picture and the true problem get lost in the blaze of the child sex tourism fighting glory, the large scale exploitation of Cambodian children by their own kin continues unhindered, but who cares? The government appears to be concerned with children through their self professed war on child sex tourism, so let’s praise them for it!

In a perfect scheme of things, by seemingly targeting foreigners who travel to Cambodia to exploit children, Cambodian government makes itself look like they really care. And that gets them funding. They just need to do three things:

  • Instruct the police so no rape reports perpetrated by locals are filed
  • Exaggerate the impact of child sex tourism
  • Present themselves as an impoverished country with no budget to fight it

If there are no statistics to prove high occurrence of rape perpetrated by locals, no one will have a reason to suspect it could be the case. And if anyone got too eager to investigate on it, they would find nothing they could work with. Furthermore, with war against child sex tourism in everyone’s face, the focus of independent investigative journalists would be drawn that way cause that’s what the international community talks about and that’s what causes all the outrage. And so the government has both its own initiative, as well as the international press creating a picture which portrays them as dedicated fighters for the rights of children.

With focus successfully taken off the real issue and put on a miniscule, but upsetting one, the Cambodian government is now seen in good light so if they bring up the fact that they don’t have the budget to fight child sex tourism, the international community is likely to come together and provide funding.

Problem From Abroad

Child sex tourism is something that Cambodia is hit with from abroad and that makes it something that countries outside of Cambodian borders are responsible for. That’s a pretty good argument to make the international community feel obliged to contribute to the war on child sex tourism. The problem comes from abroad, so let the money to fight it come from abroad too.

Imagine that instead of blaming foreigners for exploitation of children, the Cambodian government would provide truthful rape statistics which would reveal that vast majority of cases involving exploitation of children were perpetrated by Cambodians. Imagine the numbers would clearly indicate that Cambodian government has done nothing over the decades to protect these children in any way.

Would the international community still see the Cambodian government as an entity entirely devoted to protecting the wellbeing of children? Would the international community still feel as obliged to finance the initiative?

Child sex tourists may account for one in a thousand cases of sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia, but targeting them greases the corrupt government pockets, whereas targeting local rapists doesn’t. Where does that leave the children? Well, tough luck for them. They continue being exploited on a large scale because it’s not really them the government cares about. If they did, perpetrators from friendly neighborhoods would be targeted thousands times as often as child sex tourists are but right now it’s the other way around.

All for One, One For All

The child sex tourism issue in Cambodia is a perfect example which explains what I wrote about in the “How Far You Can See Is Determined By How High You Can Fly” article. It is such a serious issue, it deserves utmost attention and immediate action, however unless people who talk about it rise up to see the bigger picture, the sad reality for many Cambodian children will remain unchanged. And unfortunately, I have yet to meet one person who wouldn’t be completely dim-witted to see the real problem, so I took upon myself to call it for what it is here.

I care about the real problem. I care about the well being of innocent children. And because it’s not heaps of positive press and approval of the sheep that drives me, I don’t lower myself to limiting my reporting to merely what delivers said positive press and approval of the sheep. If all I wanted was positive press, then I would do what everybody else does and would write up an extensive post on how awful child sex tourism is and how big a problem it’s become in Cambodia. That would get the sheep bleeping in accord with me, but would keep the real problem in the dark and with it, the real children as exploited as ever with no outlook of positive change in their already miserable lives.

Unless someone talks about the real problem and addresses it for what it really is, instead of hiding behind a popular topic of condemning child sex tourism to boost their popularity rankings as an investigative journalist, the horrifying reality for scores of Cambodian children will remain as bleak as ever. They are out there and they are suffering in huge numbers because all the public’s outrage targets and draws attention to are child sex tourists, while local rapists whose heinous crimes are done with such severity and frequency they literally make exploitation by foreigners negligent, continue abusing these children unhindered.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in absolute and irrefutable support of bringing child sex tourists to justice but even if we’re successful and child sex tourism is put to a complete halt in Cambodia, it will improve little to nothing about the miserable lives of exploited children in Cambodia. Sick foreigners are certainly a problem, but they are not the main problem. They must be targetted, but the initiative should not end with them. Sexual exploitation of Cambodian children by tourists faints in comparison with how much and how often these children get exploited by locals.

All Children deserve a chance at a better life. They all deserve our protection. Let’s stop ignoring where the bigger problem is and start calling it for what it is. Take those rose tinted glasses off your nose for once and step outside the bubble. It’s our turn to be responsible. Let’s support war on child sex tourism, but let’s at the same time insist that rapists who exploit children on much higher scale are dealt with at an adequate pace.

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Cambodia Travel Advisory

When speaking about whether Cambodia is a dangerous country or not, one should not miss out on valuable pointers provided by the travel advisory of each of the western governments. If you read through the Cambodia Travel Advisories, you will find repeated statements warning you about Cambodia, off the hook muggings and violent crime, including rape and murder against foreigners, but somehow this message gets lost in the translation. The following are extracts from the travel advisories posted on government websites of a few (English speaking) western countries:

Cambodia Travel Advisory by the Government of Canada

Violence in Phnom Penh and other cities occurs occasionally.

Street crime, targeting foreigners, has been occurring with increasing frequency in urban areas, including Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, even during daylight hours. There are reports of armed assaults along the riverfront in Phnom Penh and on isolated beaches in Sihanoukville. Canadians have been injured in the course of assaults and armed robberies. Thieves, sometimes on motorcycles, grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, motorcycle drivers and their passengers. Banditry continues, largely at night, in rural areas and on routes between Snoul, Kratie and Stung Treng in the northeastern provinces. Sexual assaults have been reported. There have been reports that foreigners have encountered difficulties with ill-disciplined police or military personnel. Canadians are advised to exercise a high degree of caution at all times, avoid travelling alone, especially at night, and ensure personal belongings, passports, and other travel documents are secure at all times.

Website: voyage.gc.ca

Cambodia Travel Advisory by the Government of the USA

Cambodia has a high crime rate, including street crime. Military weapons and explosives are readily available to criminals despite authorities’ efforts to collect and destroy such weapons. Armed robberies occur frequently in Phnom Penh. Foreign residents and visitors are among the victims. Victims of armed robberies are reminded not to resist their attackers and to surrender their valuables, since any perceived resistance may be met with physical violence, including lethal force.

Local police rarely investigate reports of crime against tourists, and travelers should not expect to recover stolen items.

The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel who travel to the provinces to exercise extreme caution outside the provincial towns at all times. Many rural parts of the country remain without effective policing. Individuals should avoid walking alone after dusk anywhere in Sihanoukville, especially along the waterfront. Some of the beaches are secluded, and the Embassy has received reports that women have been attacked along the Sihanoukville waterfront during the evening hours. Take security precautions when visiting the Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) area. Travelers should be particularly vigilant during annual festivals and at tourist sites in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville, where there have been marked increases in motorcycle “snatch and grab” thefts of bags and purses. In August 2008, the Embassy received reports of unaccompanied U.S. citizen females being robbed at knifepoint during daylight hours in Sihanoukville. Another U.S. citizen female was sexually assaulted in October 2009 while walking alone at night in Kompong Thom province.

Website: travel.state.gov

Cambodia Travel Advisory by the Government of UK

Particular areas where crime levels have been relatively high in recent months have been the riverfront and BKK areas of Phnom Penh, and the beaches and tourist areas of Sihanoukville, although incidents are not confined to these areas. You should be particularly vigilant at night, and in deserted areas, although incidents have occurred at all times of day.

There have also been a small number of rapes and sexual assaults in various locations.

Website: fco.gov.uk

Cambodia Travel Advisory by the Government of Australia

Opportunistic crime is common in Cambodia and the frequency of incidents is increasing. Thieves frequently snatch foreigners’ bags and pick-pocketing is a problem in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. Several foreigners have been injured in the course of these incidents, in particular when bags are pulled from passengers on moving motorbike taxis. Bag-snatching, other robberies and assaults often occur during daylight hours.

There have been reports of assaults and armed robberies against foreigners, especially in areas frequented by tourists and expatriate residents, including the Riverfront in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville (particularly at isolated beaches). You should exercise vigilance when travelling through these areas at all times, but especially after dark.

You should limit night time travel around Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap to well-lit public areas and travel in groups. At night, travel by car is safer than motorcycle, moto-scooter or cyclo (cycle-rickshaw).

Foreigners have been the target of sexual assault in Cambodia. Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Levels of firearm ownership in Cambodia are high and guns are sometimes used to resolve disputes. There have been reports of traffic disputes resulting in violence involving weapons. Bystanders can get caught up in these disputes. Foreigners have been threatened with handguns for perceived rudeness to local patrons in popular Phnom Penh nightclubs and elsewhere.

Banditry and extortion, including by military and police personnel, continue in some rural areas, particularly at night in areas between Snoul, Kratie and Stung Treng in the north-eastern provinces.

Website: smartraveller.gov.au

Cambodia Travel Advisory by the Government of New Zealand

There has been an increase in violent crime against foreign travellers, particularly in areas frequented by tourists and expatriates including the river front area of Phnom Penh, and at isolated beaches in Sihanoukville. New Zealanders are advised to be vigilant and maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times.

Website: safetravel.govt.nz

So there you have it. It’s all between the lines of each travel advisory. Some of the most repeated statements include warnings that there have been an increasing number of violent attacks in Cambodia, including sexual attacks (rapes) against foreign nationals and they are urged to exercise an increased degree of caution. Don’t take these warnings lightly unless you intend to stick with visiting the tourist Cambodia, not the real one!

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Violent Crime Against Tourists in Cambodia

Cambodia is a country with corrupt government so naturally crime prevention is not a priority. Crime prevention is typically not even on an agenda. The result is a lawless country with incapable and underpaid police force. Add to it the fact that Cambodian culture is a culture of violence and you get the picture of a country with super high levels of crime, including violent crime against tourists.

Getting scammed and ripped off on a daily basis is something I won’t even list as a crime against foreigners in Cambodia as petty crime is so frequent, every tourist visiting the country will be subjected to it on every step of their stay. Instead, let’s focus on more serious crimes that happen more often than anyone cares to admit – violent crimes in which foreigners are brutally murdered:

Australian Man John Edward Thompson Clubbed to Death in Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville is a coastal resort town in Cambodia and is well known for being one of the most dangerous places in the world. While majority of Tuk Tuk drivers throughout the entire country are shady, you occasionally get a chance to deal with an honest driver who tries to make his living by offering decent services. You can even find such in Phnom Penh but they don’t exist in Sihanoukville. Virtually every Tuk Tuk driver in Sihanoukville is a crook with the rest of the local populace consisting of some of the most dangerous individuals anywhere in the world.

47 year old John Edward Thompson of New South Wales, Australia was clubbed to death in a robbery with wooden sticks while living in Sihanoukville, where violent crime against tourists is more than common.

Source: Daily Telegraph Australia

19 Year Old British Student Eddie Gibson Went to Cambodia and Never Returned

According to the words of his mother Jo Gibson-Clarke, Eddie Gibson, despite being a teenager was well travelled and very capable. He was on his way to visit Bangkok, Thailand but also went for a short visit to Cambodia and has never been seen or heard from again. Like so many before him and so many after him, Eddie Gibson simply vanished in Cambodia with no one investigating on his disappearance.

As I have explained countless times before, violent crimes without repercussions are easy and frequent in Cambodia. The cost of a human life is low (you can have anyone offed for $50) and guns are plentiful. With former Khmer Rouge henchmen roaming the country freely, still armed with their military grade weaponry and explosives, killing someone is a matter of simply wanting to, or having been paid a little to. The body would be then thrown in the jungle where wild dogs will eat it and no one will ever hear from you again. Cambodian police will not investigate and no one will be brought to justice.

Source: Daily Mail UK

David Mitchell, Owner of Ginger Monkey Bar Murdered in Phnom Penh

37 Year Old David Mitchell – a British owner of a Ginger Monkey bar in Phnom Penh and his girlfriend, 29 year old Jane Nye – a journalist from Wellington, New Zealand were stabbed in an armed robbery by a nymphetamine addict in Cambodia’s capital city. David Mitchell died as a result of vicious stabbings, while Jane Nye who had her throat slashed and got bludgeoned survived and was recovering in the hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.

If you survive a violent attack that near kills you, the first and most obvious thing to do is to remove yourself from Cambodia immediately. You don’t want any more dealings with this murderous nation and besides, if you come to a Cambodian hospital with life threatening wounds, you’ll leave with life threatening wounds and an HIV.

Source: New Zealand National News

French Tourist Jean-Pierre Blouin Killed in Sihanoukville

63 year old Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blouin was found floating in the sea near Ocheteal beach with fatal wounds to the neck, head and chest. His passport and an empty wallet were found nearby.

In an unrelated incident, another Frenchman, the hotel owner in Cambodia was hacked to death with a meat cleaver in his bedroom.

In yet another unrelated incident, a Canadian girl was raped on a beach in Sihanoukville by a Cambodian military police officer in 2004.

Source: Monsters and Critics

Canadian Aid Worker Jiri Zivny Beaten and Left for Dead in Sihanoukville

43 year old Jiri Zivny was a member of the team of volunteers from International Humanitarian Hope Society, a Kamloops, BC, Canada based humanitarian agency that specializes in distribution of vitamins and food to orphanages in Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Thailand and Burma. In mid January, 2009 Jiri Zivny was withdrawing money from an ATM machine in Sihanoukville when he was attacked, brutally beaten and left for dead in a ditch. When he was discovered, he was stripped of all of his possessions, including his clothes and in a coma. It took a while to get him to the hospital where he was later proclaimed dead due to severe head trauma suffered during the attack.

In an attempt to play down the crime (or perhaps in an attempt to come with a fabricated “breaking story” to establish himself as a superior journalist), a news surfaced that according to some Canadian, the murder of Jiri Zivny was a traffic accident. Even though Jiri Zivny’s body had no rash or scratches typical of bike accidents, and had his cell phone, camera, money and clothes disappear with the attack, Cambodian officials are in a major rush to make his brutal murder play down as a traffic accident. Such whitewash is something that could be expected. Cambodian authorities are experts at sweeping the story under the carpet if it could jeopardize visitor numbers.

Source: National Post

Contradicting Statements About Safety in Cambodia

This is the list of just a few documented cases of foreigners – both tourists and expats killed in violent crime attacks in Cambodia. Strangely enough and following truly bad journalism, many reports contain contradicting or downright silly statements regarding safety in Cambodia. For example following statement from the Reuters report about the murder of David Mitchell in Phnom Penh concludes with the following statement:

Despite its reputation for lawlessness, most violence against foreigners in the impoverished southeast nation, which is still recovering from decades of civil war including the Khmer Rouge genocide, is limited to street crime or assault.

Most violence against foreigners is limited to street crime or assault? Hmm… Does that not cover it all, really? Sure there are also foreigners hacked up with meat cleavers in their own bedrooms, like the French hotel owner, but getting violently assaulted in the street is all it takes to get you killed in Cambodia and that’s exactly what happens in this country more often than any politically correct newspaper would like to admit. Tourist safety is in question so let’s stop being politically correct and call a spade a spade. The politically incorrect translation of said statement, without beating about the bush would read:

Foreigners in Cambodia are subjected to considerable danger of being the victims of violent crime.

Then there is an even more ridiculous statement about safety in Cambodia in an article related to the murder of Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blouin who was killed for 2,000 Riel (about $.50). The statement reads:

While muggings are common in Cambodia, where a sense of lawlessness and a gun culture remain after decades of war that ended in 1998, serious attacks on foreigners have been rare.

Wow! So mugging is not a serious crime? Does this reporter mean that unless a person dies, it’s not worthy of mentioning and doesn’t add to how dangerous the country really is? Violent armed robberies are extremely common in Cambodia and just because some people survive them – regardless of how bloodied and near dead they end up – are we not supposed to count them and continue fooling new travellers to Cambodia with statements that Cambodia is otherwise safe?

Many foreigners (including myself) have been and still are subjected to violent assaults in Cambodia, but all know really darn well that reporting the assaults to the Cambodian police is a waste of time. Yet it’s only a waste of time if they are lucky. In a less lucky case, upon reporting, they would be subjected to extortion or ridicule by the police themselves. Thus, foreigners simply chalk it up as a bad experience, try to collect themselves and swallow the pride hoping it will not happen to them again. The scars follow them for the rest of their lives, but there simply is nothing they can do about it in a country like Cambodia. Unless the case involves shockingly gory loss of life, not only will it not be reported to the police, it will not make it to the media at all.

What Causes Violent Crime Against Tourists in Cambodia?

It is important to understand that a country with hundreds of murders each day will not get an international community talking. However if a government arrests just one person outside of standards accepted by the international community, that could cause a massive media backlash. One wrong arrest could result in human rights violations accusations which could result in shrinkage of foreign aid and foreign support for opposition to oust current dictatorship.

Hence for a government of Cambodia it is easier and more “international media friendly” to let violent crime get out of hand, even if it involves tourists, than having any of the criminals prosecuted and put away. Unfortunately, this approach hurts both ordinary Cambodians who needlessly die in the hands of criminals the number of which seem to be growing like mushrooms after rain, as well as foreigners who are far more attractive targets for violent crime than the locals.

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Angkor People and Corruption in Cambodia

Here I was at last – facing the entrance gate to Angkor Wat after a brief bike ride around the vast moat that surrounds it. Ready to start exploring the largest religious complex in the world, I noticed that the area around the Angkor temples is densely inhabited by Angkor People – locals living in wooden houses on stilts. Whole Angkor Archaeological Park is full of randomly scattered villages people of which take good advantage of increasing popularity of Angkor and unceasingly follow every tourist until they succeed in talking them into spending some money. Sadly, at present time, exploring Angkor Wat also means being hassled by locals on every step of your way.

I am not entirely sure what Angkor People would do if they didn’t live in the neighbourhood of famous ancient temples. Tourists are a source of easy money and Angkor People are well aware of it by taking full advantage of the fact, but what if they weren’t that lucky and haven’t had their predecessors built these phenomenal complexes that result in millions of dollars in revenue? I can imagine that at some point in the past, they were focused on growing cattle, growing rice and perhaps hand-crafting useful items that could be offered for sale at markets in Siem Reap.

But this is no longer the case. Nowadays the villagers get up early in the morning and station themselves at the gates to the nearest temple or other point of interest that attracts lots of tourists and spend their whole days following each and every one of them around basing their livelihood on their success rate to get as much out of each tourist as possible. Children as young as 3 years old are dispatched by their parents after the tourists because it’s easier for them to talk a tourist into buying worthless junk than it is for their parents. Afterall, who could say no to a child that just learned how to speak and is already reciting well tailored sentences in English that are aimed to melt your heart and… most importantly, open your wallet?

Photo: Instead of Sending Them to School Parents Equip Their Kids to Sell Junk to Tourists (Angkor Wat)

Photo: Instead of Sending Them to School Parents Equip Their Kids to Sell Junk to Tourists (Angkor Wat)

If you end up spending several days exploring the temples of Angkor, you will notice that children who should be at school spend their whole days bothering tourists, vastly undisturbed by the fact that they are not getting any education. The ability to talk as many foreigners as possible into spending the money is all they have going for the future. They can’t read or write in their mother’s tongue, but they can already speak English and possibly one or more other foreign languages. Infants who are too small to follow tourists around are trained to recognize foreigners and repeatedly scream “Hello” at them. You will get that on every step. Kids under two years old will instantly leap on their feet and start yelling “Hello” and waving at you as soon as they catch a glimpse of you. And this is the way they are brought up – believing that their purpose in life is to get after every foreigner in vicinity and don’t stop bothering them until they have lured some money out of them. And if the wallet gets pulled out, then try to get as much as possible – never settle with little amounts.

From the beginning I could not comprehend the fact that when you go to Angkor you see all those kids trying to get money from you when they should be at school, but as I started paying closer attention to the issue, I noticed that parents themselves don’t want to send the kids to school because if they spend the best part of the day there, then who’s gonna bother tourist for easy money? It’s much easier for kids to score dough than it is for adults so why waste kid’s time for schools? The older they get, the more difficult it will be for them to talk foreigners out of their money so school gets simply taken off the list of important things for their kids.

But it gets even worse. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Cambodia is one of the world’s most corrupt countries, second only to the likes of Somalia where there is no government to begin with so it’s hard to talk about corruption or well known, long established mothers of all things corrupt – Burma (Myanmar) and Haiti. The government of Cambodia is too corrupt to care about anything other than their own pockets. The fact that their people lack education is of little concern or, more likely, a preferred outcome because obviously uneducated, poor population will continue attracting foreign donations much of which will end up in the pockets of corrupt officials. They need the world to see the poor people with no access to education and health care because that’s what drives sympathy and compassion and those are the main driving force behind millions dollars that come to Cambodia from international philanthropists. And once this money is in Cambodia, people in power get to choose what is done with it. Only a small fraction makes it to where it’s needed and this is precisely the purpose.

Again, if living conditions for ordinary people improved, donations would shrink or… stop completely. In other words, if they used the money they have to fix their country and improve the economy, then there would be no more need for international organizations to continuously sending more aid. This fact is amplified even more by the fact that Angkor attracts millions of people to Cambodia every year and that generates massive revenue. It starts with a $20 – $25 visa fee, continues with a pile of expenses to cover for everyone’s stay and gets highlighted with Angkor Entrance Fee which ranges from $20 to $60 per person.

Here’s the catch – Apsara Authority, Cambodian organization responsible for protection, conservation and research at Angkor World Heritage Site sees mere 10% of all the funds accumulated by charging entrance fees to Angkor Archaeological Park. This is yet another scam played up by corrupt Cambodian government (along with the scam by Sokha Hotels chain, the Sokimex gasoline conglomerate division with close ties to CPP – Cambodia’s leading People’s Party which runs ticket concessions and gets to keep 17% of revenue generated by Angkor temples).

If majority of the monies Angkor generates was used to preserve and protect it, then foreign organizations that currently sponsor preservation, restoration and protection efforts at Angkor would no longer be necessary. Whereas right now, because Cambodian body responsible for preservation and protection of Angkor (Apsara Authority) doesn’t have enough money, they heavily rely on help from the abroad. But let’s ask again – why does Apsara Authority not have enough money in the first place? How is it possible that they can’t make ends meet if Angkor generates millions upon millions of dollars in direct foreign revenue (plus indirect revenue from Tuk Tuk fees, tour operation fees, sales of keepsakes, etc.)?

Just as foreign donations to Cambodia disappear in the black hole of the corrupt Cambodian system, so do the money generated by Angkor temples. For as long as majority of Cambodian people remain poor, uneducated and health care deprived, the donations will not stop coming. And for as long as Apsara Authority continues not getting enough money to look after the works needed to preserve Angkor themselves, foreign sponsors will continue investing their money to Angkor to ensure this magnificent site doesn’t fall into ruin.

It’s Hard Being a Foreigner in Siem Reap

Ha introduced me to the hardship she and her daughter were going through, yet even though unintentionally, she was introduced to the hardship I was going through myself – the hardship of being a foreigner in Siem Reap. I didn’t have to say a word, all it took was for Ha to spend some time with me. After a brief while she acknowledged that being a foreigner in Cambodia is truly horrible, because of treatment we westerners receive from locals.

First of all, when I was talking to Ha, I was never able to finish a simple sentence without being interrupted by a pushy Cambodian eager to get money from me at any cost. I would be walking down the street, minding my own business yet because of my skin color, I would be treated like cheap hooker. I’d be yelled yet, clapped at from across the street, honked at, whistled at or just plain have somebody in my face doing his darn best to talk me into buying something from them. There was no end to this abuse and there was not a single minute I would get without being bothered.

No matter where we would go or what we would do, there would be locals jumping me and insisting on doing some business with them. They never take “No” for an answer and treat bothering foreigners almost religiously. It’s as if something terrible would happen if each of them who caught a sight of me (or anyone else who looks like an obvious foreigner) would not make some kind of move at me, whether verbally, by making obnoxious noises or by getting in my face directly.

This is the real Cambodia – extremely hostile towards foreigners and beyond pushy. Ha has never experienced anything like that because she’s Vietnamese and looks too close to being a Cambodian. But as she was there with me, she could see how much I as a westerner have to put up with and how Cambodians would not take NO for an answer and would continue bothering me even if I completely ignored them. It was frustrating the crap out of her and she was not even the victim.

I think every Cambodian should try hanging around with a foreigner to see what it is like when a person doesn’t get a minute of peace without being harassed by a local. And I really hate to sound like I’m exaggerating, but when I say “a minute of peace” I’m actually being excessively generous. If it was only once per minute that some local jumps me, perhaps I wouldn’t even bother writing this post. But Cambodians go way above and beyond harassment. It is virtually nonstop – as a foreigner you get harassed at virtually every moment.

We had to leave talking to when we are in the room as that was the only place where I could finish a sentence without being interrupted by a pushy local. Courtesy and respect are not virtues known to Cambodians. Personal space means nothing to them so they will stick their noses straight in your face and won’t remove them easily. It almost seems as though their strategy at earning your business is to frustrate you to the point at which you eventually give in. Instead of trying to earn your business by offering quality service, they simply believe that after you have been harassed enough, you will eventually break and agree to accept their Tuk Tuk ride or whatever it is they want you to spend money on.

Photo: Siem Reap Tuk Tuk Driver Looking Out for Foreigners

Photo: Siem Reap Tuk Tuk Driver Looking Out for Foreigners

Being a foreigner in Cambodia is truly hard. Most locals or people from the hood would not realize what we foreigners have to go through in Cambodia, but those who try to hang out with one of us will get a first person feel of what it’s like. And what it’s really like is anything but pretty. Ha knows it very well and felt sorry for me. It got to a point when she would jump pushy locals back and scream at them in Cambodian to leave me alone. While I was at the end with my senses despite ignoring all pushy locals, Ha stood up for me and tried to beat off some of that unceasing abuse. Ha introduced me to the hardship she and her daughter were going through, yet even though unintentionally, she was introduced to the hardship I was going through myself – the hardship of being a foreigner in Siem Reap. I didn’t have to say a word, all it took was for Ha to spend some time with me. After a brief while she acknowledged that being a foreigner in Cambodia is truly horrible, because of treatment we westerners receive from locals.

First of all, when I was talking to Ha, I was never able to finish a simple sentence without being interrupted by a pushy Cambodian eager to get money from me at any cost. I would be walking down the street, minding my own business yet because of my skin color, I would be treated like cheap hooker. I’d be yelled yet, clapped at from across the street, honked at, whistled at or just plain have somebody in my face doing his darn best to talk me into buying something from them. There was no end to this abuse and there was not a single minute I would get without being bothered.

No matter where we would go or what we would do, there would be locals jumping me and insisting on doing some business with them. They never take “No” for an answer and treat bothering foreigners almost religiously. It’s as if something terrible would happen if each of them who caught a sight of me (or anyone else who looks like an obvious foreigner) would not make some kind of move at me, whether verbally, by making obnoxious noises or by getting in my face directly.

This is the real Cambodia – extremely hostile towards foreigners and beyond pushy. Ha has never experienced anything like that because she’s Vietnamese and looks too close to being a Cambodian. But as she was there with me, she could see how much I as a westerner have to put up with and how Cambodians would not take NO for an answer and would continue bothering me even if I completely ignored them. It was frustrating the crap out of her and she was not even the victim.

I think every Cambodian should try hanging around with a foreigner to see what it is like when a person doesn’t get a minute of peace without being harassed by a local. And I really hate to sound like I’m exaggerating, but when I say “a minute of peace” I’m actually being excessively generous. If it was only once per minute that some local jumps me, perhaps I wouldn’t even bother writing this post. But Cambodians go way above and beyond harassment. It is virtually nonstop – as a foreigner you get harassed at virtually every moment.

We had to leave talking to when we are in the room as that was the only place where I could finish a sentence without being interrupted by a pushy local. Courtesy and respect are not virtues known to Cambodians. Personal space means nothing to them so they will stick their noses straight in your face and won’t remove them easily. It almost seems as though their strategy at earning your business is to frustrate you to the point at which you eventually give in. Instead of trying to earn your business by offering quality service, they simply believe that after you have been harassed enough, you will eventually break and agree to accept their Tuk Tuk ride or whatever it is they want you to spend money on.

Being a foreigner in Cambodia is truly hard. Most locals or people from the hood would not realize what we foreigners have to go through in Cambodia, but those who try to hang out with one of us will get a first person feel of what it’s like. Then they would change their approach instantly. After meeting with and speaking to countless foreigners in Siem Reap, I could see that this approach hurts local businesses. Foreigners who would otherwise spend more money refuse to go shopping so they don’t have to expose themselves to this treatment and those who would otherwise stay longer are making plans to speed up their departure as they can’t put up with this anymore.

There is no doubt that disrespect of foreigners has opposite of desired effect for locals. Because of that, even if there are any sincere locals who would like to offer sincere service to foreigners, they will be ignored because foreigners are pushed to the limits and have no other option but to ignore. You can see which foreigner has just come to Siem Reap and is still hanging on to being polite and responds multiple times every minute to being jumped by explaining that they are OK for now. You see the same foreigner a few hours later and without responding, they are speedily moving towards their guesthouse to escape the mistreatment.

Because Ha looks like a Cambodian, she was not subjected to abuse but it only took her a few hours of hanging out with me to get fed up with that herself. It got to a point when she would jump pushy locals back and scream at them in Cambodian to leave me alone. While I was at the end with my senses despite ignoring all pushy locals, Ha stood up for me and tried to beat off some of that unceasing abuse.

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Legendary Khmer Hospitality Myth

If you’re doing your homework and looking up info on Cambodians (Khmer people), you may stumble across references about Khmer Hospitality which is allegedly legendary. I had also heard about it prior to my arrival to Cambodia and just as everyone else who came to the country with open mind, I was set up for a big surprise. Legendary Khmer hospitality is a myth. At least the genuine one, but then again – all other forms of hospitality are worse than hostility. Let me explain:

When I was offered sticky rice cakes by complete strangers at Wat Bo temple, it was my day two of a three month stay in the country. This generous gift was from the heart and represented the most sincere form of generosity. Exactly the way I’ve heard about and came to expect. Sadly enough, this was an extremely isolated incident and cases of genuine hospitality and/or generosity towards strangers, especially if the stranger is a foreigner are virtually nonexistent. During the three months following this experience, all I have encountered on daily basis was fake hospitality. What’s fake hospitality?

You see – as a foreigner, you will be nothing less and nothing more to Cambodians than a walking bag of money, or a walking ATM machine if you will. Cambodians won’t see a friend in you, they will only see the opportunity to make money. They may act like the nicest friends to you, but hidden motives will come to light sooner or later. You may even be offered something (aka hospitality), but if you are given something, it’s because they will expect something back in return. The fact that it’s natural for westerners to return the favor was noticed by Cambodians who relentlessly abuse it for their benefit.

You may encounter a random local approaching you with beaming smile, offering you free drink in this scorching weather (or anything else) which will surely leave you in awe. What they’re doing is making you feel obliged to buy something from them. It’s a way to get close to foreigners as it’s getting more and more difficult due to extremely aggressive nature of Tuk Tuk drivers and omnipresent touts. This is not hospitality, this is abuse of the fact that westerners are used to appreciate random acts of kindness and understand the premise of returning the favor.

If you stay in a country for an extended period of time, you will make some local friends. If you are volunteering, you will be dedicating your time, skill and effort (as well as money) to betterment of their lives and locals you will be volunteering for will become your friends. They will not need to “bribe” you with “free” offering the way other locals have to, because they are already close to you so the barrier is broken. They can straight up mention that they are cooking and ask you if you’d like to try a local dish. You will not be asked for anything, but sooner or later the time will come when you will be told something along the lines of: “my mom, who invited you to have papaya salad with us few weeks ago…”

One way or another, you will be reminded that they did something for you. That reminder will come when they need something. They will bide their time until the most suitable time (time that can bring them most in return) comes. Sharing something from the heart, just because it’s the right thing to do and because it gives you good karma points is extremely, extremely rare in Cambodia and if you encounter such thing, you can count yourself as one of very few.

It is important to understand the following:

I understand that Cambodians are impoverished people with bleak outlooks for brighter future as corruption is deeply embedded in all levels of society, including high rank politicians, but that still doesn’t mean that this urban myth should continue being spread on. Legendary Khmer hospitality is a myth. If you want to experience genuine hospitality, where people give unconditionally, without expectations to get something in return, go to Eastern Europe. Finding it in Cambodia is extremely rare. And this is not limited to hospitality. The same applies to help, for example. You won’t get unconditional help in Cambodia. If you are lost, need directions or advice and approach a local, they will instantly try to take advantage of the situation and make something off of you. Under normal circumstances, locals have to fight with dozens of other locals who struggle to get to the foreigner for a shot at making money off of them. If a foreigner makes their own effort to expose themselves to a local, it will be like blessing to the local and they won’t pass on this opportunity.

Genuine hospitality in Cambodia doesn’t exist. As doesn’t unconditional help. I realize that one should strive to only say good things about others and if there is something bad, then you either need not mention it or still need to say it’s good because that’s a nice thing to do. But I believe it’s inappropriate to continue spreading on the myth about legendary Khmer hospitality even though it doesn’t exist. I believe in providing truthful information, not incomplete truth in the name of being politically correct. when something is good, I’ll say it’s good and give due respect and acknowledgement. But when something is bad, I won’t simply ignore it just so I don’t sound hurtful.

The truth is, for one case of genuine hospitality, there are hundred of cases of fake hospitality in Cambodia. Fake hospitality is often camouflaged with fancy fluff so if a person is unobservant or ignorant, they may not even realize that they were taken advantage of. The reason no one will go openly at you with fake hospitality is that in case you are that naive, then there is a chance to take advantage of you repeatedly. Perhaps that’s why urban legends about Khmer Hospitality exist. It’s like brainwash by the politicians – not only will you do as they say, you will even ask for it and recommend your friend to do it that way too.