In Phuket, Thailand, I spent some creepy time chatting with womanizing older German men. They all had twenty-something year old Thai girlfriends already, but they had big other plans.
“Every day vee play Poker together,” said Hans with a leer, “And vee put money in a pot. Vhen we have a full pot, you know vhat we do?” I didn’t know. “Vacation! Cambodia!” he gave a wink. “They haff niiiice young girls there. Very young.”
Cambodia is notorious for it’s horrific sex trade, most notably, providing older Western tourists with very young girls, and sometimes boys. Upon entering the country, I was slapped with numerous billboards that stated “PROTECT OUR NATIONAL TREASURES,” showing a photo of a young Cambodian child. “A CHILD IS ANYONE UNDER 18.” said the poster. “It is illegal to sexually exploit a child.” At the bottom of the poster, a telephone hotline was provided for bystanders to report sexual wrongdoing.
Today, eating spicy green mango salad in a sun-drenched cafe, I suddenly wished I had written down the hotline. Across from me sat two large, pasty Western men, lecherously feeding Sprite to two EXTREMELY young Cambodian street girls. My breath came faster and my blood churned. What should I do? I glared at the men, scheming a plan.
Then, two more young girls appeared, begging every tourist they met to buy their small trinkets. The two Western men gestured them over. They sat them down at the table with Sprite, gave them crayons and paper, paid the bill, left a stack of money for the four grinning children and walked away.
The girls enjoyed their sodas for a hour, giggling and gossiping, with huge smiles on their faces. I snapped a photo.
Maybe the men came back later to collect favors from the children, but I like to think they actually just wanted to be nice. Sometimes paranoia is necessary, but sometimes people are just sweet.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!