Tourist trap. Where it all happens. Lots of cheap food and drinks. Too many pushy touts and hawkers.
Much has been said about Pub Street in Siem Reap. Some people love it there while some just hate it. Me? I’m a firm believer of going to a place, seeing for myself and formulating my own decision.
If I have to sum up a review, I’d say that Pub Street is like any major areas where tourists gather – it has its good and bad sides. It is up to the person then to make the most out of the experience.
For me, it is a great place to explore on foot as indeed there are various cheap restaurants and shops selling trinkets. I don’t drink alcohol so I can’t vouch for the pubs and bars, but those people we pass by who were hanging out in such places looked like they were enjoying themselves 🙂 As for the touts and hawkers, they didn’t really bother us much. Probably because we’re Filipinos and in the dark can be easily mistaken as Cambodians? Or maybe it was obvious we were budget travelers? Hehe. Those tuktuk drivers who did call out to us were friendly and smiling and were freely throwing about the name of Manny Pacquiao and acting as if we were the boxer’s relatives. Funny!
On our second night in Siem Reap, after all that temple hopping and experiencing relics of the past in and around the Roluos Group and Grand Circuit temples, we wanted to try something of the present and eat some Khmer food.
Pub Street is just a very short tuktuk/remorque ride from our accommodation (Ta Som Guest House). The area is hard to miss at night because it just beckons with all its sparkling lights and the cacophony of sounds coming from it makes people curious. Kristal, Jonathan and I were in full agreement to try out some street food.
As we were walking along we did not realize that we wandered into the nearby Night Market already. That part of town is also a great place to walk around in. More shops and restaurants there. There was this traditional looking building by a river (well I think it was a river) outlined by a string of lights. Nearby are a line of carts selling treats.
My companions and I were drawn to the cart that proclaimed in bold red letters that they were selling banana pancakes with chocolate and nutella. Upon spotting that, I instantaneously felt the sugar monster inside me rear up its head in full attention. Within 10 minutes, we had hot pancakes on our hands. We found a bench facing that traditional looking building I mentioned earlier and ate our sweet find in semi darkness. Best-banana-pancake-ever! Cost $1.
After licking our fingers free of any hint of banana, chocolate and nutella, we decided to wander around again in search of more substantial food because, yeah, we just had dessert first and now it’s time for the main meal 😀
We came across this cart selling $1 short pudgy noodles. We had no idea what it was but the guy’s deft cooking skills was fun to watch. We ordered one serving each and found low stools behind the cart where customers could eat. There weren’t any tables in sight, which was fine because this setup is more or less just like the pungko-pungko setup in Cebu. This type of eating isn’t alien to us, so we settled in and ate. Oops! the noodles were spicy! My mouth exploded. There was little water left inside my water bottle. Omg! With nothing to do but endure the spiciness, I was finally able to finish most of it and got full. Definitely was an interesting meal ^_^
Now full, we decided to look around the place some more and scout for shops that might yield nice souvenirs for us to buy before we go back to the Philippines. We went back and forth between Pub Street and the Night Market. We saw stalls selling dried fruits, Cambodian clothing (e.g. Aladdin pants), art, silverware, elephant figurines, and a lot more.
Overall, the Night Market and Pub Street were a feast for the senses. The lights coming off from the shops, the colors on every corner, the smells from restaurants, the boisterous sounds of people having fun and touts shouting their wares, and the balmy feeling of the night – all are definitely great to experience. At least for me. Because after all those temples and being near ancient stones, going to somewhere you can people watch and eat nice things just made this trip even more satisfying. ^_^
After we had our fill, we went back to the guest house. The next day, we finally got to visit Angkor Wat and other beautiful temples. We saw monkeys and elephants on the road too!