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Bright lights, Bad City

Night life in Cambodia was less than charismatic. One would think walking along streets crowded with tourists and foreigners would give me a sense of belonging and a familiarity of home amongst Khmer speaking locals. Wrong. I felt alone and walked with a sense of unease and guilt. Men well beyond their forties walk shamelesslyhand in hand with young, seemingly local, Asian women with dark hair, dark skin, and small frames dressed inskimpy outfits. I assume they are local women given their lack of english proficiency compared to their male counterparts. Such act would warrant disapproving stares back home. Yet, men here walk with their heads held high without a care of embarrassment or self-disgust. The women flaunt their sexuality while the foreign men flaunt their indiscretion. I truly felt sick to my stomach.

We stayed in the Red Light District of Phnom Penh. Across the street we saw these, "girly bars", were men flock and women flirtatiously tend to their needs. The bars usually have rooms upstairs where sex can be transacted.

Even younger foreign men, ones in their twenties and thirties, are equally shameless. Andrew and I saw a young man in his mid-twenties get approached by a local on her scooter on a busy street corner. Without a wink, he asked, "How much for boom-boom?" (Boom-boom being a euphemism for sex). She answers, "5 dollars"with the best English she could render and they whirled away on her bike. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. How could the value of a woman be reduced to a mere 5 dollars?

Every corner I turned and every brightly lit street I strolled down I saw women straddling men, young and old of every colour, at the local bars. These men are probably lonely and these women are hungry for a dollar. With povertyand corruption inhabiting the same place, where both men and women sell their souls to the devil and the local law enforcement feed on every drop of their desperation, I can see how countries like Cambodia are an oasis for sex tourism.

In the morning before our departure from Phnom Penh, we loaded our bus and I saw this man exit Oasis Bar at 5am. He stumbled, still in a drunken stupor, and sat on the front bench while the women continued to flirt with him. I saw past their fake smiles. Those women were exhausted. I wonder what he was doing there all night? Wait, I already know.

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