The first day I rode along National 6 road, one of the things I noticed the most was the number of Western-style hotels. People who have grown up in Siem Reap say there has been an increase in the number of hotels to cater to tourists.
Right behind or beside the hotels are families who live in very small and simple houses and living spaces. It is a weird contradiction.
There are over two million visitors who come through the one airport in Siem Reap and people are adapting to cater to tourists. I keep thinking, “How is that money being used to cater to the needs of Cambodians?”
I don’t always like what I see when I’m going around the markets or other areas. A few times I’ve seen girls wearing very skimpy shirts because it’s hot, but the custom in many places is to cover your shoulders and wear clothing that cover up to your knees. Especially in the rural areas. This is why I stress and will continue to stress the importance about learning about a place and its history before coming.
On the van ride down to Phnom Penh, we stopped in one of the smaller cities. While I was having some noodles, I saw an old Western man touching the waist of his very young “girlfriend” or whatever you want to call it. I was very angry and sad at the same time.
My friend and I are going to be going around the city more day and I’m sure I will be seeing much more of that. While I’m sure some of the relationships are legitimate and it’s hard to tell everyone’s story, the guys who are just looking for a good time make it very obvious.
Last time we were here cycling in 2010, our group went to an Italian restaurant. There were a few Western/Asian couples, hard to tell what was legitimate. But right behind our table was a very old man buying champagne for two young girls. When we went to the club later, another old man was just standing alone for awhile on the dance floor. When he saw a young looking Cambodian girl he liked, he was quick to buy a drink. One of the leaders told us a man could get oral sex for 25 cents in the city.
While this is a huge problem, there are many inspiring stories that I will most definitely be writing about.