Kenneth (Jed) once said to me ‘I can dance the ass off of pretty much anyone I have ever met.’ In Phnom Penh I had a chance to see for myself.
Being a woman I don’t take much interest in girlie bars. However, I have a small circle of male friends here. Most are fifteen/twenty years younger than me, but this doesn’t seem to place any obstacles in our interaction. Our conversations are open and extremely frank, down to details.
Occasionally they take me to some of the ‘interesting’ places, as well as telling me stories of their ‘conquests’. I do not keep it a secret from the guys that the stories are often distasteful, and they are, in the majority, wankers and assholes in the way they use women here. Not that it makes any difference to their conduct.
The longer I stayed in Cambodia, the more I was beginning to understand what keeps guys here, and eventually I asked that same question of Jed. I knew he spent some years in Thailand and Vietnam prior to settling in Cambodia, all three countries famous for their sex industry. So I wanted to understand the girlie bar scene, how it functions, what takes place and what keeps it going.
It was some time in autumn 2016 that my friend and I decided to visit one of the bars on street 104, one of a few streets exclusively devoted to ‘adult’ entertainment. I had never been there before. A band comprised of Western expat musicians was playing the old favourites, I could hear the tune as I was going up the staircase.
As I came up to the ballustrade and looked at the stage and the small dancefloor in front of it… there he was, the man from Sihanoukville with the all knowing eyes. The recognition was instant. I have to say here that I have a photographic memory for faces. It is enough for me to see a person once, and if there was something memorable attached to the experience – I would remember the face in detail.
I didn’t move further inside the bar and stayed on the steps observing, hidden from view by the staircase. The man was dancing with one of the girls. A live wire, he was thoroughly enjoying himself, swinging the girl, moving her, putting his arms around her, looking intently in her face. He was completely absorbed in the dance. The girl was around twenty, tiny and very slim, as most Khmer girls are. She seemed very unsure of what was happening, of such total focus and an obvious enjoyment he was getting out of the dance. I could see this confusion and uncertainty in her face. Most guys here do not abandon self to a dance like that, instead concentrating on girls’ assets, the touching and the cuddling that takes place the minute a man walks in and sits down.
What did it for me, however, was when the dance ended. The man from Sihanoukville confidently patted the girl on the bum, laughed heartily and walked towards the table with her. The pat made it quite clear that he was used to the bar girl scene and looked upon their charms as an absolute entitlement.
As the song ended I quietly backed away, walked down the steps and headed home. Remember, at this point I still didn’t know it was Kenneth (Jed), but the whole event seemed to be connected to Jed, just the gut feeling I had, and it suddenly didn’t feel right.
A few months later I came across both the girl and a tangible confirmation of what I had seen. In 2014 Jed mentioned that he had a local girlfriend who didn’t speak English. I thought perhaps it was her he was dancing with. But that turned out not to be the case. The photos on this page were taken when my friends and I went to the place a few months later, and there she was…. she simply works there.
This is why I stated earlier that some of what had taken place here in Cambodia is downright unexplainable; it feels as if something out there was determined that I find out and kept placing things in front of me.
I said nothing to Jed until the confirmation of his physical identity dropped in my lap a few months later.