I may not have quite found my place in the gay bars of Phnom Penh, but I did manage to work my way around the gay saunas of this city with quite a bit more success. In fact, the saunas I visited were all busier than the city’s gay bars. I suppose that this points to a gay culture that is still secretive and underground rather than one that allows for downing jagerbombs on the streets while smooching a boy.
There is no real gay area in Phnom Penh, so you will find the saunas sprawled out in unassuming local neighbours, right next door to other local businesses and shopfronts. Here is the lowdown on the three saunas that I visited.
AMAM Spa – 20A St 390
If you are staying by the popular riverside it’s a bit of a trek to this gay sauna, which sits on a deserted street in the local BKK3 area, south of the Genocide Museum – so get in one of the city’s many tuk tuks to get yourself there. I arrived here on a Sunday night at around 6pm and all of the lockers were already taken, so this is definitely a happening place for some gay action on the weekend. If the place is full just hang around for ten minutes and someone is bound to leave, and then you can pay your very reasonable $4 entrance fee. This place had a very local feel and I only saw one other foreigner throughout the whole time I was there. One thing that I definitely sensed is that the guys are quite shy, they are not brilliant at making eye contact, and so if you want some action your best bet is to head into the baking hot steam room where hands roam free and you don’t have to worry about throwing out coy glances. Of course, you will have no idea what your new buddy looks like but beggars can’t be choosers.
The happy staff of AMAM Spa
Love Spa – St 105
Not too far away from AMAM Spa, you will probably need to jump in a tuk tuk to get here too. Lucky for me, Love Spa is only a 15 minute walk from where I was living in Phnom Penh, even if it meant walking along street 105 with the stinky open sewer. Anyway, Love Spa is my favourite of all the gay saunas in Phnom Penh. I think that it has the best design of all the gay saunas in the city (which in truth all look a little run down) and I that it attracts the best looking bunch of young, lean, Khmer guys. But what really made me love this place is that there was a live drag show with multiple costume changes on the premises of the sauna at 6.30pm. For a while, all of the gays absconded from the heat of the steam room and sat in the garden to watch a drag show – it was so cool. This place also had the best hot tub of the three saunas I visited, and the hot tub is my favourite part of the gay sauna experience. Just try not to think about what might be floating in the water.
Galaxy Khmer – #18 St 246
This sauna is very well located for tourists in the city as it is situated right by the riverside, slap bang in the middle of the tourist district. Because of its ideal location, Galaxy Khmer seems to attract a constant stream of visitors, and although I only saw one other foreigner there, I am guessing that you’ll see more foreign tourists here because of its location. Before visiting Galaxy Khmer I was a little apprehensive as I heard that the staff were not very friendly, but I found that to the contrary, the staff at Galaxy Khmer were the friendliest of all the Phnom Penh gay saunas I visited. As soon as I entered they were telling me that I was handsome and hoped I would get lucky – and as a sucker for a compliment, I was endeared to them right away. The facilities look a little run down but there are two jacuzzis inside and they are both huge – winning.
Apparently there is also a gay sauna in town (in the Russian Market area) called Khmer Spa. Alas, I didn’t make it there. Well, I made it to the door but not inside as it was closed due to the local elections in Cambodia. Next time.
And that is that. My definitive guide to the gay saunas of Phnom Penh – enjoy and be safe!