A woman’s terrifying experience at a bar in Cambodia has raised safety concerns for travelers with solo adventurers being urged to be “hyper-vigilant.”
Ashley Victoria Phaup, from South Carolina in the US, is an experienced traveler and has been traveling around southeast Asia on her own.
“I went into it thinking I was totally safe,” she told Yahoo News Australia. “I have a lot of solo travelers in my TikTok feed and I follow their very positive experiences as solo women.”
The 35-year-old was in Siem Reap, a resort town in the country’s northwest, and was hoping to explore the area.
She was a five-minute walk away from the popular Pub Street, filled with restaurants, markets and bars, so decided to wander down for a drink.
But while inside a “really cool” rooftop bar, which was recommended to her by a tuk-tuk driver outside, a stranger approached her and struck up a conversation.
“I realized something was off literally the moment she sat down,” Ms Phaup told Yahoo.
“And then it was just red flag after red flag until I got to the point that I knew I needed to [leave].”
‘Something wasn’t right’
Ms Phaup said the woman “lit up a cigarette and ordered a beer” without explaining why she’d sat at her table.
“As a solo traveler I don’t get to talk to people a lot and I really love to sincerely talk to locals and hang out with them,” she said.
But after 40 minutes, Ms Phaup was growing increasing worried and thought something might be off, particularly when the woman became “invested” in her.
“She wanted to go to another bar and insisted on waiting for me,” she said. “But something wasn’t right, so that’s when I decided to bail.”
Woman learns of strangers ‘intentions’
The solo traveler hid out in the bathroom where she started to “do some research”. It was then she read other people’s accounts of “dodgy scams” in Cambodia and she feared she was a target.
Wanting to alert other travelers of the potential danger of such schemes, Ms Phaup detailed her “Cambodian horror story” in a series of videos on social media.
“They intended to rob me, assault me, and/or traffic me according to what I read,” she wrote in one which she shared on TikTok.
At first, Ms Phaup feared she was a target of “human trafficking,” but told Yahoo News Australia she later learned this probably wasn’t the case.
“I was told it probably wasn’t a human trafficking situation because of my age, but that an assault or potentially robbery was more likely,” she said.
Alarmingly, her story prompted dozens more to share their own experiences with many saying they too had been targeted.
Others warned against traveling solo, particularly women.
“Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand is not safe for solo traveling these days,” one person claimed in the comments.
“Definitely don’t solo travel in Cambodia,” another said.
Warning for Aussies traveling solo
Southeast Asia is a popular destination for Australian backpackers.
Anna Gladman, CEO of nib Travel told Yahoo News Australia that while they can’t comment on this particular incident or any specific scams, there is a warning here for all solo travelers.
“You do have to be hyper-vigilant and don’t share that you are traveling alone,” she said.
“If you feel a car is following you when you are walking, do a quick turn and walk in the opposite direction.”
If you are alone and don’t want company from strangers, like in Ashley’s case, there are a few things you should try.
“If you’re on a coach or train, sit on the outside seat, and place your handbag, coat or jacket on the window seat,” Ms Gladman suggested
“Or if you’re in a bar or restaurant, put your coat on the back of the seat opposite you; this makes it look as if you have company.”
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