Poll: Have You Ever Lied About Living in or Visiting Cambodia?May 13, 2006
I still remember my mother’s response the first time I told her I was visiting Cambodia about four years ago. She paused for a few seconds and then asked, “Isn’t that where they go to have sex with little boys?”
I don’t know exactly who she meant by “they,” but I certainly knew what she was getting at. Although Cambodia now welcomes around a million tourists per year, there are still many people who believe than any Westerner who sets foot in Cambodia, especially a single male, must be a drug addict, a sex tourist, or a pedophile. This is mainly because you hardly ever read any “good” news about Westerners in Cambodia. For every such article you read about a do-gooding NGO saint, there are still dozens of articles or Dateline NBC stories about Western sex tourists, rampant prostitution, human trafficking, busted kiddie fiddlers, etc.
Over the last four years, I have now visited Cambodia about six or seven times, on visits ranging from a few weeks to a few months. The first time I visited, I told anyone who asked exactly where I was going. No one, other than my mother, really questioned why. If they did, I simply showed them my photos from Angkor Wat, which always impressed them and put their concerns at ease.
On my subsequent visits, I have tried to tell fewer and fewer people where I”m going. It’s really none of their business, and I don”t want to deal with their incredulous “Back to Cambodia?!” response. I know what they’re thinking when they say this — while a single guy who visits Cambodia once MIGHT be there for innocent reasons, a guy who visits Cambodia multiple times must SURELY be screwing nine year olds.
So I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’ve taken to lying about my time spent in this beautiful country. Sure, my close friends know that I visit Cambodia for its tropical weather, lively nightlife, cheap food and beer, charming women, and exotic, unpredictable atmosphere. My best friends know that I’ll be returning to Phnom Penh in mid-June for a few weeks for the World Cup, because, unlike in the US, there will be bars showing the matches and people in those bars who care about who wins.
But why should I tell the nosy bitty from Accounting that I”m going to Cambodia? She doesn”t need to know. I don”t want her judging me and gossiping with the other office hens about what I might be up to. I don”t want to be the office “Weird single guy who hangs out in Cambodia where he”s probably banging $3 teenage whores while shooting heroin into his penis.”
So I lie. I try not to. If possible, I tell people I”m going to “Asia” and then quickly change the subject. But when my boss directly asked me yesterday about where I was going on my vacation, I mumbled something about Hong Kong. Last month, I told the guy in the office next door that I”m going to Thailand (not much better). I may tell my mother I”m going to Vietnam, but Gary Glitter has kind of ruined that excuse now. For some reason, I think it’s important to list false destinations NEAR Cambodia, so that if I”m in an accident or run into some trouble requiring me to disclose my true whereabouts, it will appear that Cambodia was an impromptu side frolic from my main innocent vacation destination. I mean, if I told co-workers I was vacationing in Buenos Aires but then called them collect two weeks later asking them to wire me bribe money to Prey Sar prison, that would be hard to explain.
I freely admit that I am bit of a paranoid, neurotic weirdo, and I probably worry far more about what people think of me than I really should. In this case, I think I’m even having Catholic guilt about shit I’m not even doing in Cambodia. But I’m wondering if I’m truly alone here. Has anyone else ever lied about living in or visiting Cambodia, because, out of shame, embarrassment, paranoia or for whatever reason, you just didn’t want people to know?