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Siem Reap - A Night On The Town
Restaurants and Bars
We are dropped off back at Kazna, take off our shoes at the front entrance and walk barefoot up the main spiral stairs to our room after collecting our key. Whilst we have been out exploring the room and bathroom have been cleaned and the complimentary fresh fruit and bottled water have been replenished. It has been a hot and sweaty first day but incredibly rewarding. We take turns to shower and wash off the dirt of the day. The aircon is cool and comforting but the allure of a cold beer in Pub Street is overwhelming so we each throw on a clean T-shirt, lock our door and make our way down the stairs to the entrance. ‘Where are you off to?’ asks the owner, who is manning the reception. ‘Birthday celebration in Pub Street’ I reply. ‘Well, have a good time’ he says. ‘We will!!’ we say in unison. Walking around the ruins of Angkor realistically you need trainers (best) or sturdy shoes but to walk in to town flip flops are quite sufficient.
We turn right out of the entrance down a dusty street which has small shops, other guest houses, restaurants and strange TV lounges seemingly for motorcycle taxi drivers judging by the number of bikes outside. These lounges open on to the road and basically consist of several rows of canvas chairs facing a wall with about eight to ten televisions, the fat, square variety. The people are there drinking water, soft drinks or the occasional beer but what is surprising is that all the TVs are tuned to different channels! We look at each other and shake our heads uncomprehendingly and continue on our way. After about 100m we reach a busier road and turn left towards the main thoroughfare which runs through the town. The Pub Street area is on the other side.
Crossing the road we find a large market, Center Market, full of all kinds of stuff aimed at tourists. T-shirts galore, fake brand names and local images (mainly Angkor ruins and Angkor Beer), Cambodian cotton and silk scarves, paintings, wood carvings, stone carvings and even some local silver jewellery and fake gem stones (the real thing requires a certificate). We are interested in some T-shirts and bargain the girl down to $3 for three different designs which we reckon is a good deal and my son spots an ornamental silver box which he decides will be good as a gift for someone. The price starts at $25 but we get it down to $10 and he is satisfied. The market is full of interesting things and we want to see more but the thought of a cold beer soon puts paid to ideas of further purchases and we leave and make our way down the road by the side of the local hospital that faces ‘Pub Street’. We have found out that ‘Pub Street’ is just a name given to one street in the area, Street 8, by foreigners because this is where the first pubs and bars started, must have been about 10 years earlier. Since then the whole area has grown as more and more locals and foreigners have opened new restaurants and bars together with shops and travel agencies and all sorts basically catering to the needs of the tourist trade.
We chose a bar on 2 Thnou Street that offers Anchor beer at 50c. Not to be confused with Angkor beer, Cambodia’s official beer, which seemed to be a bit more expensive. They are both brewed in the country however with several more besides. There were quite a few other customers, mostly tourists, but the girl who took our order brought the beer quickly, it was ice cold and the first few gulps went down easily! The atmosphere was very relaxed and about ten minutes later we ordered a second, we hadn’t realised that we were so dehydrated by the day’s activity. The light begins to fade and the neon glare replaces it offering beer and massages to the needy, time to find some food before we get stuck in. Tonight we decided Indian would be the choice and we had already decided which one it would be the previous night during our look around, Maharajah.
Maharajah Royal Indian Cuisine Halal is located on Street 7 in the Old Market Area, opposite the hospital about 50m down. It has both indoor and outdoor seating although only a few of the later but it was a balmy evening, not too sticky, and we decided to eat outside. The food selection was good and they served beer, Angkor this time. To eat we chose some vegetable samosa for starters and then mutton curry, beef masala with aloo gobi and garlic naan. Rice was included. We drank a toast to my son’s birthday (again) and the starter arrived followed closely by the rest of our order. More beers were ordered, we were getting in to the swing of things. The food was good but frankly not worthy of some of the gushing plaudits you will find elsewhere. That is not to say that we didn’t enjoy it but do you really think you are going to find the best curry in the world in Siem Reap? I have eaten much better Indian food in Mumbai and even Hong Kong.
Time to move on so we called for the bill, all in all it came to about $35 and I paid with a $100 note. The change came back and we left some riels as tip and moved back to our original bar. By now the beer was beginning to take effect and the need for a cigarette surfaced. In the bar they told us that we could buy them at a shop just around the corner. Life was sweet, the beer was cold and what could be better? On a bar stool nearby was a foreigner on his own. We got chatting and invited him to join us. He was a Kiwi living in Siem Reap seemingly doing nothing. He had come up from Sihanoukville a few months back, bored with the beach lifestyle. Still, he told us that Sihanoukville was no longer the Wild East, like it had been a few years earlier and that a lot of travellers now went there for the body surfing. Lots of bars and cafes together with guest houses for accommodation, he recommended it as a change, and much cheaper at that, than the beaches in Thailand.
The time whizzed by, as it always does when the beer starts flowing, and the conversation moved on to politics and the way of the world in general. But it was time to and, being somewhat unsteady on our feet, decided to take a tuk tuk back to Kazna. It took less than 5 minutes and we paid the driver the basic one dollar fare. We stumbled up the drive to the door. ‘What time is it?’. ‘Half one’ my son replied. Still, the door was open but we remembered to take off our shoes and went inside and there was the owner to greet us WITH A BIRTHDAY CAKE! Laugh, we could have cried. ‘Happy Birthday’ says he and, taking the plate leads us upstairs to our room where we proceed to cut the faux cream cake (perfect after gallons of beer!) at his insistence and have our own special celebration, one person totally sober, two totally out of it. Sadly neither of us had the presence of mind to take a photo but i am sure you can imagine the scene. Having eaten some of the cake we told the owner that we had to get up early and so we really had better go to bed. He understood and left us, we just looked at each other and burst out laughing, ‘What was that all about?’ my son said. ’I must have told him it was your birthday today when I made the booking because I wanted you to see Angkor Wat on your special day’ I replied. ‘Nice one, Dad!’. We are feeling no pain, clean our teeth and flop into our respective beds. Tomorrow will be a brand new day.