Over the last few years there has been a rash of robberies at $3 massage parlors in Phnom Penh. If you pay attention to the news in Cambodia, you will see that it happens all the time. And those are just the reported robberies. You can bet that a lot more go unreported.
It’s not just foreigners and tourists that get it either. There are several reports of Cambodian guys getting pick pocketed at this kind of place too. They seem more likely to report it to the police too. Which means it comes up in news reports. So no matter who you are, you may be a target if you wander into any of these places.
The $3 massage places where people get robbed aren’t necessarily dangerous. That might sound odd, but it’s true. I haven’t heard anything about people being physically attacked or even threatened. Instead the thieves that work this circuit work in the shadows. They simply lift money out of your pocket or wallet why you get a massage and maybe more.
$3 massage parlors in Phnom Penh
Years ago I wrote about cheap $2.50 massage parlors in Cambodia. In that post I was talking about the 10000 Riel massage parlors aimed at locals where sex is often thrown in. Those places are not to be confused with the new $3 and $5 massage parlors that have sprung up in Phnom Penh. There is a difference.
The $3 or $5 massage parlors where people are routinely being robbed are mainly around the riverside area in Phnom Penh. There are some in other places, but you find the most along the riverside or roads full of hostess bars like Street 130 and Street 136. They usually have open fronts instead of glass doors. And they have chicks on couches inside who call out to you when you pass: “Hello massage!” The chicks in real massage places don’t do that. They don’t really do it in the sex places either, with some exceptions.
The ten thousand Riel or $2.50 massage parlors can still be found in Phnom Penh and all around the country. They could possibly have some thieves and pick pockets hanging around I guess. But it’s definitely not their main mode of making money. They get paid by providing services to guys as I described in my previous post.
There are also cheap brothels around. I wrote about them in another post. They aren’t really set up to bring in foreign guys, even though non-Cambodians do go to them from time to time. The brothels are usually on the up-and-up. They make their money by providing a service, rather than ripping guys off.
How money is stolen in massage parlors
There seem to be two approaches to robbing guys who go these massage parlors. The first is the most common. You go into a private massage area and hang up your clothes. Then, while a cute tanned Cambodian chick rubs your back, a sneaky thief comes in through a window, hole in the wall, or trap door. He lifts some of the biggest notes out of your pockets or wallet. Then he replaces them with fakes. Although the fake bills are obvious and actually say “FAKE” right on them, the hope is that you don’t notice until you’re already out of the shop.
The second stealing style is a little different. After you and a chick go into the massage area, a bunch of other chicks file in behind. They all start massaging you and hope to either intimidate or elate you into letting them participate. Then on the way out they hit you with some outrageous bill and go into a frenzy if you won’t pay. This scam is also common in China.
Apparently there’s also a scheme where they mix a sedative with massage oil and lull you to sleep. Then they take all of your money. But I guess when you wake up you can call the police like this Chinese guy did. This is the only time I’ve heard anything like this.
I have been to many massage parlors in Cambodia over the years. I have never been robbed. I think a lot of it comes down to knowing what kind of place you are going into and what to expect. There is also an element of awareness. Then again, it could just be that I don’t wander in to low end sketchy massage parlors drunk at midnight with thousands of dollars in my pocket.
More about $3 massage in Cambodia
I don’t know where the $3 massage parlors come from, but there sure are a lot of them in Phnom Penh. A lot are in key areas where the rent is really high too. So you ought to know something is up. I mean, how can a place with two chicks that charges $3 for massage make a profit on the riverside where people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to run restaurants and pubs? Something is obviously fishy, and it’s not just the water in the Mekong.
The funny thing is that guys often do get at least a handjob while they’re getting robbed. Many even get sex while they get fucked out of their cash. Another funny thing is that the reported stories of robberies usually end with a guy getting the police. The cops go to the massage place and the people there first deny stealing the money. Then they offer to give some payment. If $500 is stolen they might give $300, without admitting that they did anything wrong. Then the guy who gets some of his money back gives the cops who help him negotiate a “donation” of maybe fifty bucks. And the places stay open. One massage parlor has been in the news several time for this yet it’s still in business today.
This shouldn’t be any real surprise for people who know how things work. I explained some of it when I wrote about why you shouldn’t give money to beggars in Cambodia. There are some similar happenings when it comes to stolen bags, bikes, phones and more. Let’s just say the person emptying your wallet in the back of a massage parlor isn’t the only one getting paid in most cases.
The funny thing is that massage places are routinely raided and closed for offering sex at an agreed price. Although they don’t have people inside stealing money, they run afoul of the law by simply offering a place for people to do pay for play. Meanwhile other places continue to operate without a problem, including some gigantic and expensive joints. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how that works.