Culture is enlightening, exalting, uplifting, life-enhancing. But what they don’t tell you is what thirsty work it can be. Don’t worry, though. When it comes to where to refresh yourself, we’ve got you covered.
Why not start with one of the Kingdom’s favourite beers, Angkor. Brewed with soft spring water from the mountains of Sihanoukville coupled with the finest ingredients procured from around the world, this quality lager has earned the brand numerous Gold Awards from Monde Selection, an international quality institute, making Angkor a source of national pride.
Another premium local brew is Cambodia beer, made with only the finest European ingredients at a huge modern brewing facility on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. It has proved to be a hugely popular alternative to Angkor and you’ll find it in most bars and restaurants.
If the home ales don’t do it for you then grab a cold Heineken, available all over Cambodia thanks to it now being brewed right here in country so it’s as fresh and crisp as ever!
An epicentre of Siem Reap’s nightlife scene is Pub Street, known as Rue de la Soif (meaning “Thirsty Street”) in French, which is weird because if you’re thirsty for more than three minutes on this strip, you’re doing something wrong. Hoards of tourists congregate here to eat, drink and party as late as possible.
Night owls with fancy feet have options on this infamous strip. Angkor What? Bar and Temple Club, which almost face each other across the street, seem to be caught in a never ending dance-off. They both have the latest tunes thumping, and beer and buckets pumping, till the early hours every night of the week.
X Bar is an open-air venue at the end of Pub Street that also turns up the dance tracks on a nightly basis, as well as hosting live bands. This is the place where dawn seems to arrive earlier than anywhere else in Siem Reap. At least, that’s the only explanation we can think of for why it keeps happening to us.
An instantly recognisable franchise in town is, of course, the world famous Hard Rock Cafe. Situated in an old colonial-style building in the city centre, it’s a two-story restaurant with a large terrace overlooking the Siem Reap River. And of course the history on the walls matches perfectly with their iconic location. You’ll see a decent selection of memorabilia such as a pair of Eminem’s sneakers, one of Tom Petty’s shirts, and even a hat owned by the Queen of Pop herself, Madonna. They have a live band from the Philippines playing every night from 8pm onwards, smashing out covers of the worlds greatest ever rock hits!
The Red Piano is one of Siem Reap’s longest-running restaurants, made famous by the visit of Angelina Jolie back when she was filming Tomb Raider. Here you’ll find a great selection of Belgian beers alongside the famous Jolie cocktail, ingeniously named The Tomb Raider. Every 10th one sold is free, and every 500th gets you the drink for free, a t-shirt, and $100 cash! The venue has regular live music and upstairs seating as well, which means you can stalk, err, people watch in breezier comfort.
Menaka Speakeasy Lounge is undoubtedly Siem Reap’s most secretive drinking spot, requiring you to sneak in either via an entrance hidden inside a coffeeshop on 2 Thnou Street, or through a secret door off a side alley. A sumptuous, refined atmosphere awaits you, with some incredible cocktails, like the Samboh Sneah or the Double Rye Old Fashioned, crafted by famous American mixologist Annemarie Sagoi. House infusions are made with fresh local products such as Kampot pepper, chili, basil and jackfruit.
A short hop across town to the hip, upcoming Kandal Village area will find you at Charms, a Belgian-owned apero lounge bar. Grab some beers, wines, cocktails or spirits, and relax for a chat, or perhaps a battle of wits against your co-drinkers in a game of chess, monopoly, cards and other classics. Bar music is purely 90’s and earlier, and played at a social level, while food can be ordered in from neighbouring restaurants if hunger takes hold.
While there’s no live jazz, a classy atmosphere prevails at Le Bel Air, Siem Reap’s first Belgian restaurant – now we know we’re on the map – where 30 different Belgian beers are served in their aircon restaurant or outside in a beautiful, contemporary garden. We can wholeheartedly recommend the snail and truffle ravioli if you’re looking for a noble dish to accompany all those delicious Belgian brews. It’s simply stunning.
Keeping with the classy vibe, because disintegration should be approached with caution, Miss Wong is modelled on the drinking and opium dens of Old Shanghai – the kind of luscious, red-walled time-sink that is almost impossible to leave. Especially once you’ve got your hands on one of their expertly-mixed cocktails. There are many in-house infusions, using superior sprits and locally sources fruits and herbs to create cocktail ingredients that are unique to the region. The standouts are a classic Caribbean inspired punch, made with premium rums and fresh tropical juices. The Lemon Grass infused Collins is thrust quenching and dangerously easy to drink, while the all-time favourite China White is a delicate mix of Gin, Bianco Vermouth and tea syrup with lychees. We don’t know you, but while you may enter with elegance, we can’t promise that’s exactly how you’ll leave.
Asana Old Wooden House is one of the last traditional Khmer wooden homes left in central Siem Reap and is frankly one of the sweetest spots in town. Hang out underneath the building, Khmer style, or sit upstairs sipping on one of their special cocktails mixed with Sombai fruit and spice-infused rice wine. They hold cocktail making classes here too which provide you with an entertaining excuse to drink more whilst pretending it’s educational. We like things like that a lot.
A favourite in Siem Reap, The Village Cafe is a casual continental café that epitomises the charm and sophistication of a classic 1930’s jazz club, but with a twist! The cocktail menu is certainly not to be missed, with the standout being the house special and unforgettable Espresso Martini with orange zest!
The air-conditioned Picasso is one of those places where you end up joining 14 different conversations, sometimes at once, around its long horseshoe bar. This is not the place for a discreet Tinder date; the whole bar will know what you’re up to in a heartbeat, and you will not be allowed off the hook. They tend to hire their staff with a strict policy of maximum mischief. Picasso opens late and it’s an awful lot of fun, just don’t expect too much mercy on your livers.
Of course, there are some things that shouldn’t be left out of any Siem Reap itinerary, and a Happy Hour cocktail at the FCC Angkor is still one of them. With a view straight out on to the river, this iconic building – the old Governor’s house in the French Quarter – is ideal for enjoying two-for-one sundowners either in the fan-cooled open-sided lounge bar, which makes you feel more stylish just by being there, or in the garden downstairs. If your parents are paying, then you can make sure to get there early. Please note however that FCC Angkor is under renovation and will reopen late January 2019.
Another exquisite hotel, the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa, is a colonial-style building that looks back on to a glorious, jungle-backed swimming pool. The terrace at their L’Explorateur Bar is a perfect perch from which to languidly observe the misguided souls who would actually be in that pool while happy hour is happening.
Further down the Siem Reap river, Temple Coffee Bakery n Pool Sky Lounge is a super-funky bakery by day – all glass and metal with thoughts of running away to New York to make it as a dancer – and a cool open-air, rooftop live music venue by night, with a direct view of the river. They’ve now added Temple Club II to the group, so there’s no excuse for you not to dance the night away in at least one of their locations around Pub Street!
Further riverine frolics can be had at King’s Road Angkor, a complex with galleries, cafés, restaurants, bars and Siem Reap’s super-cool Made in Cambodia Market. Balthazar Wine Bar next door offers a sophisticated setting in which to indulge in fine wines sourced from all across the globe, along with plates of charcuterie, cheeses and gratinated toasts.
Soul Kitchen is a stunning cocktail bar and restaurant in the heart of temple town. With beautiful, unique decor – including the a magnificent Bayon temple head – creatively designed bar area, and comfortable leather seating, you really know you are in the Kingdom of Wonder. Their drinks menu features refreshing cocktails, spirits, local beers and wines, while their food menu offers a fusion of Southern American and Asian delights.
Siem Reap welcomed the latest fast food eatery recently, but this one sets itself apart from the rest – in a rather quirky way. Being the first bar and restaurant in town to be fitted with swings, Sway Away allows you to swing and drink at the same time. Don’t forget to check out daily happy hours, where draught beer is offered for only $0.50 from 11am-8pm.
Finally, Georges Rhumerie out near Wat Damnak features the eponymous boss maintaining his Reunion Island-borne rum obsession, infusing the sugarcane spirit with local flavours – fruity, spicy, sweet and sour. There are so many options in Siem Reap that staying sober here requires too much dedication. Give yourself a break, and just enjoy.
It’s not all about “if not drink for drunk then drink for what” as the Khmers say of course. There’s always the dreaded morning after to come, sorting through the fuzzy memories of the night before and holding on to anything stable to make sure you don’t spin off the face of the earth altogether. The answer for some … coffee.
At The Coffeeholic the smell will be the first thing to lift your spirits, as they roast their own coffee right there inhouse, filling the place with that comforting aroma of 100% Arabica that makes you cancel all plans for the rest of that day and grab a good book. They also have a variety of bubble teas and fresh milk teas on offer, so sit back, relax, and be sure you are having some of the best refreshments in town.
Started as a small family business in Siem Reap, and now with 13 outlets nationwide, Blue Pumpkin‘s warm and lively eateries and bakeries serve up a great cup of coffee along with shakes, smoothies, juices and more to keep you refreshed! It’s a great place to get out of the heat and relax on sofa beds under cooling air-con!