I’ve read two more books on Cambodia recently, both of which were deeply disturbing.
“Off the Rails in Phnom Penh: Into the Dark Heart of Guns, Girls and Ganja,” by Amit Gilboa. I added this to my Christmas list after seeing reviews comparing it to a Hunter S. Thompson-style romp through Cambodia, and Lara made sure Santa delivered the goods.
Gilboa was a journalist based in Vietnam, and during several trips to Phnom Penh be became closely acquainted with members of the expatriate community there. It was originally published in 1998, so I’m not sure how much things have changed in the interim. Substantially, I hope. The book was a letdown on two fronts.
1. I just didn’t find much of it that interesting or engaging. I caught myself scanning a lot. There are moments. But it seldom approaches the amusing mayhem or eloquence of Thompson’s books.
2. The details on prostitution really disturbed me, especially some of the Westerners’ attitudes toward Cambodian women. It’s important to note Gilboa isn’t endorsing this. Mostly, he’s just reporting it. But it’s deeply disturbing and