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.
I travelled to motherhood – huge ass and 2 – 3 sizes above my normal pant size, but dammit my pre-preggo bra fits again. BOOOO. At least you have something to motorboat. hahaha
haha…. touche! everyone enjoys motorboating!
This story made me really sad because I think of the santa man, who is just trying to vacation with his family, getting made fun of my skinny cambodians. I had a bad experience with being fat in japan, actually, and I don’t usually like to talk about it because it was also pretty self esteem-stomping. I was with a friend, hanging out and having a few beers in this popular city park and we were talking to a very drunk little japanese dude and is friend. I guess he thought we were making fun of him (we kind of were) because he came up and shoved a sandwich in and around my face and called me a fat pig. Sooooo horrible, right? Like, I’m a little chubby, but guys still wanna do me and shit. Anyway, my friend yelled at him in Japanese and I poured my beer in his shoes (which he wasn’t wearing, like a dumb weiner). So I feel you when you say that experience ruined that country for you.
haha… I wish I had a beer to pour on peoples shoes when it happened to me! It seems most people have experienced this unless, as I said, their ribs are showing.
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I’m sorry that your experience was what it was–what a shame. I hear you and can see how it would turn you off to the country. Once, while in a certain European country where women chain smoke to keep their metabolism high and tend to be size 0, I had some of these feelings. I was a size 12, had good self-esteem had not felt negative about myself/appearance elsewhere.
Anyway, perhaps you could check out countries where people aren’t so harsh in their judgments of bodies that don’t fit their norm. Of course, that can get tricky, too. In some of these places, the attention can seem positive and even flattering, but in others, it may be that you’re seen as promiscuous even if your clothes are modest.
Wherever you go next, I hope it’s a more positive experience. Happy travels!
Thanks for the support Lisa… it was a weird contrast to South America in that sense. But I am all good in New Zealand now!
And it’s hard to not wear tank tops and such when I was in Asia because it was SOOOO hot!
What a great experience I guess! LOL You’re a tourist anyway so no need to be conscious with your physical looks! It’s understandable that you possesses different body features than those natives there so no need to feel that way.
It’s true… I guess I’ve just never been comfortable being starred at either… not that anyone else would really be comfortable with that haha
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I’m Cambodian born in USA . And yeah they will call my cousin fat who is 130 pound 5″5 male(which would be really skinny here). The average women are like 70 pounds there and shorter.And of course they would call me a giant 5″8 220 pounds. And theyll definitely do it in your face. And we can speak the language so yeah. They don’t descriminate against race.
But outside the city it’s a different story.