Siem Reap By Night
Siem Reap is a strange town. It really felt like two towns rolled into one. One town for the tourists who like to drink and have a good time and another for all the Cambodians who actually call Siem Reap home. This is about both of those towns rolled into one. Before even arriving in Siem Reap I had heard about the infamous Pub Street — a street lined with bars and restaurants. Victor and I decided to check out the area and it was everything I expected it to be: Menus heralding drink specials, restaurants ranging from Italian to Khmer, and plenty of college-age foreigners looking for a good time.
Mixed into this area are beautiful old buildings and interesting shops, many of which claim that the proceeds from crafts go back to children and other populations in need. As I noted in my previous post, Victor and I had been exposed to the charity side of tourism in Cambodia. I’ve been reading a lot about this lately and I discussed this with a colleague in Jakarta who had worked in Phnom Penh for several years. She told me that Cambodia has become known for the multitude of NGOs that come to work there and that it can be very murky where some of the money goes. She also mentioned a wealthy gated community outside Phnom Penh where many of the NGO directors have large homes. Siem Reap is known for a scam involving kids who ask you to buy them powered milk. They will return the milk and then take the cash. I had read about this in a guide book and then a friend told me about it happening to her. Aid is an extremely complex issue, so no easy answers here.
Victor and I had some dinner on Pub Street, nothing fantastic, and decided to find a cocktail bar that came recommended from the blog Eating Asia, of which I am a big fan. Miss Wong Cocktail Bar (The Lane – Between streets 7 & 8) was a great recommendation, once we finally found it. This trendy little bar is a bit tucked away, but still close enough to it all.
Plenty of distractions for tourists on the streets of Siem Reap:
Some market scenes near Pub Street:
After our day trip to the floating village, Sophon, our guide, invited us out for the night. Our night out took place on the opposite side of town from Pub Street. I couldn’t tell you the name of the street because Sophon picked us up. The street was lined with restaurants and karaoke bars. This was the area of town that locals go to, it wasn’t as well kept and some of the bars looked at bit seedy. Sophon ordered a delicious fish and noodle dish and we put back several beers. I asked him if he ever goes out near Pub Street. He said rarely, that it is mainly meant for the tourists. I was glad we got a chance to hang out with him and see the other side of Siem Reap.