It was a surreal moment as I watched a scantily clad, beautiful young Khmer woman saunter down a hallway inside the Red Light district “mall” here in Phnom Penh. Dull, flickering LED lights cast bouncing patterns on the brightly painted red walls, causing the whole hallway to glow. The further the young woman walked, the more the scarlet glow enveloped her figure, almost claiming it [for that is all she is, right?…a body to be bought and used?].
Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, there were a handful of middle-aged to elderly expatriate men hanging around at the bar stools and cafe tables. As my group wandered around, we caught sight of sex workers crouching in little hidden alcoves, using their alone time to quickly eat some food or just rest. There were little children hanging around too, some of which we were told are children of the sex workers, while some are the children of business owners in the mall (a former outlet-type mall that is now considered the Red Light district) of Phnom Penh. Ironically, Jessie J’s song “Pricetag” was playing at one of the bars. Seems like everybody’s got a price, I wonder how they sleep at night… The beat of the catchy song, mixed with the dim lights and the smell of beer all created a YOLO [you only live once] type of atmosphere (I never use that phrase but I am tired and can’t think of any other way to state it). At least for the Westerners at the district with fat wallets, only living once might not seem like a bad deal. You can have all the love you like for the night…just reach into your pocket, and sorry Jessie J, but for some it is all about the money, money, money.