Globalisation has mixed tradition with modern development in Cambodia, and it’s not slowing down any time soon. From Christmas to Chinese New Year, and now Valentine’s Day, a cultural whirlpool of West and East is moulding the future of the Kingdom.
In the past few years, LIFT has hit the streets and found that most young Cambodians were buying gifts for their boyfriends and girlfriends.
This year, it seems there’s a new rising trend in Cambodia’s young generation: waiting for Valentine’s Day to confess and consummate their love.
And because of this jump to bed, guest houses across Phnom Penh are cashing in.
“Teens are more likely to check into guest houses located on the city’s outskirts or on small blocks, where not many people can recognise them,” said Ket Thearith, the owner of Victoria Guest House.
“These are the guest houses that have special discounts [on Valentine’s Day],” Ket Thearith added.
Another guest house owner who wished to remain unnamed said that his guest house is unpopular on Valentine’s Day because of his check-in policy.
“Young people don’t like it here because it’s in the middle of the capital, and our policy is that guests can only have a room if they show their ID card in advance,” he said.
Many guest houses in Phnom Penh plan to discount on Valentine’s Day and also charge by the hour. For example, some will set a specific price-per-hour. One popular rate will be five dollars per three hours.
According to Dy, who would not reveal his full name, having three hours would encourage young Cambodians to use the whole time for sexual activities – whether planned or not.
Dy said he spoke from his own experience on Valentine’s Day.
In response to the popularity of guest house discounts on Valentine’s Day, the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Tourism set a regulatory law stating that Cambodian citizens under the age of 18 are not allowed to rent any rooms without the permission of an adult.
A police officer, who chose not to reveal his name, said that those caught in violation of this law will be brought back to their parents and educated as to why it is an important law. Their parents would then have to sign a legal contract to prove their child was returned and “educated”.
But will a law regulating guest houses really stop young Cambodians from their first time this Valentine’s Day?
Twenty-seven-year-old Ben Vannaren, an ANZ customer service consultant, said that “I hope that something like a discount at a guest house won’t compromise agreements between young lovers”.
Ben Vannaren added that “girls might regret making a decision too soon”.