No gory details with this one, sorry.
Let’s just say I met a travel agent who had the “perfect” solution to my live-work needs. In the end I ended up with a solution that didn’t work & less money than I started with. I told him I wanted at least some of my money back and he said he’d try his hardest to get it back to me, then he tried to sell me on a guest house instead.
Though he says he’ll try & get my money back, I know it’s not going to happen, and after all this and on top of all that, he wants to be business partners with me.
I said I would happily build a website, shoot photography for his business, and write marketing copy for him. But rather than pay me for these time-consuming and skill-based services, he tried to wine and dine me with a Thai energy drink while we sat at tables outside a convenience store. He said I should move to Sihanoukville and help him run a travel agency.
I put in $800, you put in $800, he said — as if we’d been friends for years — and we split the profits 50-50.
I told him I wouldn’t invest.
My best hope was to try to get him to pay me to make his website, do some writing, and possibly some design work.
He nodded sagely with his 80’s sunglasses.
Big money, he said, if I went into business with him.
When he finished his fancy energy drink, he stood up and told me to get a local phone and that he had some business to attend to.
Let’s meet in Sihanoukville tomorrow, he said.
Sure, sure, I answered.
I felt like I was dealing with the Wolf of Wall Street, in Kampot. Being honest and occasionally naive to a fault, I could probably learn something from the guy, if I didn’t lose my pants in the process.
The next day he emailed me and said he couldn’t meet me.
The Wolves of Cambodia
Cambodians are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever, ever met, but you’ll find wolves on Wall Street, in Bangkok, and in Cambodia. The Cambodian culture and way of thinking is completely alien to a Westerner such as myself, so it’s difficult to know who to trust. And, of course, they are very, very, very poor. A plane ticket here from the USA costs more than most Cambodians make in a year.
Imagine that a billionaire Wall Street investor takes a tour of the poorest American ghetto, wearing hippie clothes, flashy sunglasses, and a snakeskin backpack. He takes pictures, ticks off this location from his tourism checklist, and flies away in a helicopter.
The contents of my backpack are worth more than an annual tuk tuk driver’s salary.
So, yes, there will be wolves in Cambodia.
I’ve written about this stuff before, so I’ll stop beating a dead horse.
If you are considering doing business in Cambodia, and many have the personality to do work with them successfully, but not me. I am not an aggressive business person. I am honest, hard-working, ethical, and believe that quality is the highest priority. So I wouldn’t do well in Wall Street or Silicon Valley either.
I am not being racist or stereotypical. If you think so, then do you research. Start with khmer440.com, which is run and written by expats who live here and some articles make my tales look like children’s stories.
I’ve met several other travelers with their own horror stories. One German girl I met got roofied her first day in PP (Phnom Penh)and ripped off for $600, as much as six times the PP tuk tuk driver’s monthly salary, according to the Last Home Hostel owner. A guy I met in Sihanoukville ran a bar together with a local, left the country for a couple months, to find the bar and his two grand investment had vanished into the streets of Phnom Penh.
Also see my post about the bitter diver.
[Update 3/6/14: It’s a touchy subject for some, and I was a little rough in my initial draft, after being fleeced for X dollars, which is why I retracted this post shortly after publishing it. The situation here is beyond complicated. You’re dealing with a wounded national psyche, a very poor nation, friendly people, a different culture, a corrupt government, sexpatism, obnoxious hippie tourists, and a host of other factors, that make it as complex and touchy a subject as the idiocy of the Peace Corps.]
Upset over my run-in with the Wolf, I decided to
Buy a Lady Bike and Return to PP
I decided to head back to PP for a month or so to my previous hostel, which has good internet, and, most importantly, a desk. And a friendly staff. And good food. And it’s less touristy, once you get off my street.
When I asked the nearest travel agent if she could transport my new bike to PP, she asked what kind of bike it was. Is it a mountain bike? she asked.
No, I said, it has a basket on the front. I doubted she’d understand me if I said it was the kind the Wicked Witch of the West rode.
Oh, she said, it’s a lady bike.
I kept laughing while she explained that they had to use different types of racks to transport lady bikes vs. mountain bikes.
Fine, I said, while we did the deal.
So long Kampot, I have enjoyed the bike rides and learned much from my business dealings.
PP here I come.