From the Mekong to the Markets of Phnom Penh… I’m a Walking Freak Show
Crossing the border from Vietnam to Cambodia by boat via the Mekong Delta river was an awesome experience. In my attempts to zoom up to Phnom Penh directly from Chau Doc, I skipped south Cambodia. I was trying to meet up with my friend Lucy, whom I missed again by 2 days. F$#% LUCY!
I stayed at a hostel with a huge deck overlooking the water in Phnom Penh, and we all know how I feel about having a bar 2 minutes from my room… bonus! I partied a few nights with people I had met in the hostel, but the nightlife was not yet up to par with South America. Yet I was offered multitudes of marijuana in the hostel, from the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to bed. When I answered ‘No, thank you’ I was then offered opium. This occurred repeatedly, every 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, Cambodia was my least favorite place throughout my whole trip. But I’m always willing to give a country a second chance. I had heard so many great things about the country and I think I entered with high expectations.
Keep in mind, every ones experience in a country is different. Certain aspects or occurrences can really ruin a destination for you. Personally, I found Cambodians to be quite rude, Cultural taboos are different from place to place, but there were many events that really got under my skin. A few of us from the hostel went out for some beers. One of the girls we were with had short hair and after whispering to each other for a couple minutes, two of the waiters came up to our table and ask her if she was a boy or girl. Who does that?
I also saw a group of local men making fun of a middle aged tourist. This tourist was travelling with his family, not a huge guy, but he had a bit of a beer belly. They were calling him fat, laughing, pointing and making gestures to impersonate having a large belly. I believe they referred to him as Santa Clause at one point as well.
This frustration stems from being quit self conscious about my own body and also having comments directed towards me, due to not being a super skinny girl. Even the really small girls who’s bodies I would die for were referred to as ‘big’ and pointed at. Pretty much, if your ribs aren’t showing, your a fatty. This was quite a culture shock, as I had just come from South America where females of all sizes, shapes and colours are celebrated… maybe a bit too celebrated, but better than being put down every day.
The amount of comments and thumbs up I received in regards to my breasts also made me quite uncomfortable on many occasions throughout all of South East Asia. Females can experienced being harassed by ignorant or drunk men all places in the world, but this was different. In this case you ponder if this behaviour is accepted in their culture and their aim did not seem as much perverted, as it did shock or awe. How do I react when this is happening on all occasions, even when my body is covered up as much as possible?
Walking down the street, in a store, restaurant or on a tour… I’m not saying I have GIANT boobs, but what I considered to be slightly larger than average breasts in North America seemed to be considered as freak show material in Cambodia.
Although it was my own self conscious nature and sensitivity that did not allow me to enjoy Cambodia as much, I found out that this was not the only place these comments would be made. And I can’t help but say that my self esteem was quite broken down by the end of my travels through South East Asia.