In the major cities of Cambodia, which basically means Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, massage parlors are everywhere. Thailand is the world capital of massage shops but Cambodia runs a close second. I think so many people set them up because the only thing required are some women and some mattresses. There’s nothing else to it.
Cambodia has a much smaller population than Thailand. If someone sat down and calculated the number of massage parlors per person in Phnom Penh, I think they might discover that it even beats Pattaya.
There are different kinds of massage shops in Phnom Penh. The most common have got to be the incredibly low rent places that cater to broke local guys. These are everywhere but a lot of tourists probably don’t notice them. Sometimes they are small shacks. Sometimes they are shop houses or store fronts. They put signs out front that say “massage” in Khmer or English. They also display the price which is usually 10,000 Riel. That’s $2.50 American for those keeping score at home.
Most local guys go to these places for genuine relaxation. They lay down on the dirty mattresses and get a Khmer-style massage or some cupping. Some places also do coining. The guys usually don’t ask for hand jobs. When local guys want to bust a nut they fuck someone. There isn’t a big local market for hand jobs or blow jobs.
Some of the women working these massage places do give hand jobs. Since hand jobs are a sort of specialty in these places, women who do them often ask huge amounts of money in relation to the local economy. The women in the massage shacks on the riverside in Phnom Penh start out with quotes of $20 US for a handie. Some foreign guys have had money stolen from their pockets in these places.
A few of the massage shacks are actually fronts for brothels. They look a lot like the regular places. Local guys know the difference. There are a lot of brothel shacks on the southern end of the city. There are also a few in the BKK3 district. They charge $2.50 for the massage and $5 more for sex. They usually employ Vietnamese chicks. A few have Khmer ladies working. These places are mainly for locals but they let anyone with money and a pulse inside. The horrifying word on the street is that all too many of these women are willing to work without a condom when asked, which apparently is quite often.
There are also many of the kind of “regular” or “legit” massage parlors that people from Western countries are more used to around. They are scattered all over the city. Some are nicer than others. Most have mattresses spread out on the floor with curtains dividing them. Some have private rooms. No matter how they look inside they usually charge $6 for a Khmer-style massage and $10 to $12 for an oil massage. There are many around Wat Phnom. There are also many around the old market, the riverside, and the Toul Sleng museum. The official policy in most of these places is that they do not give any extras. A lot of the women follow these rules. Some break them. There’s no real way to know what is what. Even a lot of the shady looking places that stay open 24 hours a day offer nothing extra.
Some places have developed reputations. Women in the handful of massage parlors on Street 47 north of Wat Phnom often give handies to guys who ask for them. Chicks working the row of massage parlors on Sothearos Boulevard leading south from Sihanouk Boulevard are also known to give handies. They usually start out by asking $20 for this service even though the regular price is more like $10.
There are also some pimps working in that area. They sit outside on plastic chairs and call to people passing by. They arrange “dates” in the guest houses scattered between the massage parlors. They call up women to join guys in the rooms. They usually ask for $50 but regulars pay as little as $20 plus the room fee. There’s no massage going on with these arrangements.
O’Spa on Street 75 not far from Wat Phnom has become a favorite of expats and tourists looking for that kind of service ever since Panda Massage went out of business. It has a team of Khmer ladies working and all kinds of spa services are offered but most guys just go for an oil massage and wait to see what comes up. An oil massage is $10 and women ask between $10 and $20 for a special stroke at the end. Unlike some of the other massage parlors, O’Spa actually closes at night.
There are two more types of massage places in Phnom Penh. The first are the huge massage complexes. They fill huge buildings and are usually decorated to look like something special. They’re really pretty plane inside but they stand out in Phnom Penh. Or at least they did before all the development started. There are even Starbucks around now, but I digress.
The big massage complexes have a mix of local women and Chinese women around. When you go in they ask you what kind of massage you want. You can select an oil massage or a “body massage” which is basically a Khmer or Thai style massage. Then they ask if you want a Cambodian or a Chinese woman to do the massage. If you know a woman’s number you can ask for her specifically but there’s no line up or fishbowl.
The massages are done in private rooms with genuine massage tables. They usually have a little bathroom attached too. The walls are prettied up and they usually have some soft music playing. The women are average looking.
These places are a little more expensive than the smaller massage shops. But they are still not expensive compared to massage parlors in the West or even the bigger “spa” type places in Bangkok. A massage is usually around $10 or $12. You are expected to tip the women too. You write the tip on a piece of paper at the end of the massage then pay the total for the massage and tip at the desk in front on the way out.
As a rule these places don’t offer any extras. But some women break the rules. No one can see into the rooms so some people make arrangements for hand jobs at times. One guy told me he got blown in one of these places. I don’t think he was lying but I don’t think it’s common at all. I think it’s more common for guys who are really into a chick working these places to get their phone number and meet them after. Most guys go to these places for regular massage relaxation though. A lot of local high rollers love these places. You always see Lexus and Land Rovers parked out front, especially at night. One masseuse told me they come when they’re drunk and pass out on the massage tables. I asked her what she does when that happens and she told me, “I play phone.”
Finally, there are the big massage parlor fronts. Some of these stand alone but most are attached to hotels or karaoke places. They have women with numbered pins waiting around for customers. Guys pay $6 or $10 to the place for a massage. Then they pick one of the women. I guess the owners would claim that these places are only for massage to avoid trouble. In reality, arrangements are regularly made in the rooms for sex. Locals pay $30 or $40 for sex. Foreigners can be asked for anything up to $100. Regulars aren’t ripped off but visitors are tested. This is pretty normal in a lot of Southeast Asia, and not only in the “pay for play” game. There are around a half dozen of these big massage fronts in Phnom Penh. A lot of people walk right past them without a clue. One is located next to one of the biggest and most expensive hotels in the city. Once in a while one will get raided but they usually reopen either at the same place or somewhere nearby within days.
Siem Reap and Sihanoukville are a lot more limited. They have the “regular looking” massage parlors and some shacks that are sometime refered to as “chicken houses.” The shacks are for the most part pure brothels that specialize in the wham, bam, thank you mam, blow and go model. Most of the massage parlors are “no extras” places. A few women working them sell hand jobs when they get the chance. One place in Sihanoukville was set up almost entirely for sex but it seems to have gone under. I could never figure out how they didn’t get shut down. They were totally open and even had a website advertising their services in English. I never heard anything about the place being shut down, but it is definitely closed. For some reason I imagine the owner to be wearing an old No Fear T-shirt in a shitty prison cell somewhere.
Updated January 2018 – Removed Panda Massage (closed) and added O Spa.