Sihanoukville, usually referred to by locals as Kampong Som, is a sleepy beach town located about four hours south of the Cambodian capital city of Phnom Penh. Even though the population is just over sixty thousand the place is pretty spread out. Of course there is an active commercial sex scene which is why the place is being covered here.
Most foreigners get to the city by taking a bus or taxi from Phnom Penh. There are multiple trips going in either direction at all times of the day and night. A few people fly in to the little local airport but it only gets limited service. During the rainy season which stretches from June to October the town only holds a handful of tourists though a relatively large population of expats from Western countries and places like South Korea and China calls the place home year round.
The town has several beaches ranging from the public and polluted to the private and slightly more scenic. The public beaches are more popular and they even get visitors during some of the downpours of the rainy season. Anywhere there are tourists there will probably be some working women and that’s true here too. Freelancers show up at some of the shack bars that line Serendipity Beach during the day but especially at night. They tend to be some of the least attractive working women around and there are lots of stories of guys being ripped off and even drugged after meeting women in these situations. Nothing like that has ever happened to me but it’s obviously a possibility especially when dealing with total strangers who aren’t connected to any kind of establishment for accountability. Dolphin Bar was once one of the most popular bars on the beach for freelancers but those days seem to have passed and they are now more spread around.
Freelancers also work at some of the clubs in town but the scene seems to have died down a lot. Utopia used to be very popular but nowadays it is slow going. There are some rumors around that working women were kicked out of the place a while back but I have no way to confirm that. There are some other clubs around that see a few freelancers but as far as I can tell there is no main center of activity.
Next to the famous Golden Lions traffic circle on 23 Tola Street there is a plaza that houses a collection of about 12 bars that look a lot like the kind of beer bars one would find in Pattaya. Click here for a map of the location. While there are a few “regular” bars in the mix like McGinnis and a few more that have closed up shop for good most of the bars have indicative names like Pussy Riot and at least a few women on staff. In the low season some bars have as few as one or two women working but things pick up when the rain is off. Surprisingly the women in some of the bars rival their counterparts at the bars of Phnom Penh in terms of looks. I’ve even seen one or two stunners around. On any given night one or two bars usually has a high number of women on staff even in the off season.
Around the corner on Serendipity Road there are a lot more mainstream bars, restaurants, hotels and guest houses. In the middle of all that lies a bar called Bar None which always seems to have some ladies on hand even in the middle of the rainy season. There was another bar on the same side of the street at the bottom of the hill near the beach the last time I visited with a few women inside but it didn’t have a name posted outside and I wasn’t intrigued enough to ask.
Across town there is a short road tucked away lined with hostess bars from one end to another. On every map I’ve seen this little stretch is called Victory Street but people who want to go there usually tell a tuk tuk or moto driver that they want to the go the Victory Hill bars. Click here for a map of the location. There might be a dozen bars there though they look more like the bars in the capital than the previously mentioned beer bars found near the roundabout. They all have open fronts though and rely on fans rather than air conditioners to cool things down. A lot of times this doesn’t work so it can be hot and sticky when the outside temperature rises. I guess a lot of people travel to towns like Sihanoukville for the hot weather but I have to admit I’m not a big fan of sweating through my shirt.
The Victory Hill bars tend to have more women on staff than the others around town with a few notable exceptions. Dragonfly seems to be the best bar with plenty of good looking women on staff with the rather large V Lounge following closely on its heels. The women work even in rainy season which truth be told can be a bit dreary. Women wait outside of their bars in hopes that a customer will pass by this out of the way location. There are some pretty shady characters hanging out in the street too though at least it is nothing like the armies of beggars, hawkers and pill pushers one sees in places like Angeles City or P Burgos Street. I’ve never been asked for anything on Victory Street. Only uncomfortably gawked at.
There are a few more bars around town that attract women from time to time but they are scattered around. The main one I know of is called Charlie Harper’s but it looks pretty dead during the rainy season.
The bars near the roundabout and those on Victory Street staff their own women and work like most other bars. Guys buy their own drinks at regular price. If they want to spend some time with one or more of the women on staff they will typically by them some lady drinks which cost about $3.50 which is around a dollar more than the normal price. This extra money goes to the women drinking so it’s a form of tip. If a guy and girl have some chemistry and want to go out of the bar it can usually be arranged by paying a bar fine of $10 USD. This allows the woman to leave the bar early but since she doesn’t receive any of the bar fine she will expect the customer to give her a tip ranging from 20 to 50 dollars depending on the situation. Some customers give even more but very few get away for any less. Not all women working in bars will go out with every customer. Some women only work for drinks or only go out with particular customers. This is a reality in nearly all bars of this nature in Cambodia.
Some other bars don’t staff women at all so those who show up are freelancers working on their own accord. Guys can buy them drinks at regular prices and negotiate with them if they are looking for anything else. These women are free to come and go as they please so no bar fine exists.
There used to be a whole host of shanty brothels with a mix of Vietnamese and Cambodian women working near the port but it seems that many of them have been shuttered or swept away. Some say this is the result of a local crackdown but I haven’t seen any news of that. It may just be a sign of changing times or a transformation toward new and more hidden modes of operation. There still seems to be a few of these places around but they employ some of the least attractive women around and are surrounded with shady characters. For a few dollars customers who are mostly local guys take a lady into a dirty back corner and have a few minutes of fun. Truth be told these places aren’t safe, clear or particularly fun in my judgement.
Massage parlors can be found all over the city but not necessarily concentrated in any one particular area. With the exception of one place that was openly advertising online that since seems to have closed down none of the massage shops are specifically geared toward happy endings. Still some of the women in at least some of the massage parlors around will offer hand finishes to single male customers who opt for oil massages in private rooms. The typical rates range from 20 USD and up all in.
Most locals and a lot of Asian visitors and expats in Sihanoukville rely on KTVs for their adult needs. Karaoke places large and small are located all over the city with some being more obvious that others. A few are catered to families and friends looking for a night out but all but a handful have hostesses either on premises or on call for male customers who are in search of company. For a nominal rate these women will do things like sing, refill glasses and serve food. Not much else goes on inside any KTV though guys looking for more can often negotiate to meet the women outside of the business to go somewhere else. King Pharoah located right across the street from the bars near the Golden Lions is one of the largest and most obvious KTV complexes in town. A few hours of singing, drinking and eating for a small group runs around sixty dollars US. Some tips are also expected by most of the people working there including the gals who run the music machines. The guys in the parking lot can even ask for tips but that’s easily refused with a polite smile and a head shake.
That’s what I have to report for now. I doubt I’ll have much more in the future. Even though I saw one of the most beautiful women I have ever encountered in my life there Sihanoukville is hardly my favorite destination. It is simply one of the many places I have been. I call it like I see it and tell you what I know in hopes that you’ll get some entertainment value out of it. As they say “it is what it is.”