Night markets and locals bars in Siem Reap
27.08.2011 - 27.08.2011 29 °C
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Having explored the temples of Angkor Wat on a previous visit I opted to let Trey and the boys tour this enormous temple complex on their own. Bright and early they and their guide departed by tuk-tuk for what I was sure would be a hot, humid but fascinating tour of the largest temple complex in the world. These were some of the temples that Trey and the boys visited.
For myself I had a productive day catching up on emails and my Blog. A few leisurely hours were spent reminding myself of downtown. It has been some five years since I lasted visited Siem Reap. The city has certainly grown but not to the detriment of its charm and vitality. French bakeries serving delicious cakes and pastries are still in evidence. As in Phnom Penh every wheeled glass walled food vendor appears to have French baguettes on offer. Shops, market stalls and restaurants asked for our could be bartered into reasonable prices. What more could be wanted.
Early in the morning the markets were particularly quiet. With vendors desperate for sales I was continuously offered ‘special’ morning prices. With a lack of tourists and need for money lingering in the air price bartering became a very one sided affair, with essentially any vaguely reasonable offer being accepted, if one had the buying skills! At various stalls I purchased a few souvenirs and presents for those back home. In the late afternoon I returned with Trey, Ed and Marin to many of the same stalls. It was quite amusing to be recognized as a ‘lucky’ buyer from the morning – as in much of southeast Asia the first purchaser of the day is often considered lucky their bank notes being waved over the remaining merchandise to encourage future trade. Obtaining good prices and chatting amiably with the local stallholders we headed for the night market, after a brief stop for cold beers where we met our Siem Reap tuk-tuk driver for the first time. Named Koh San he had painted his tuk-tuk in black with yellow signage, labeling it the Batman and Superman – mobile. With a color scheme like this we could not resist and arranged a custom tour of the area for the following day – great marketing!
Arriving at the night market fairy lights, street music and the general hustle and bustle of a southeast Asian night market greeted us. This was to prove to be one of our favorite night markets of the trip. Stall holders were easy to bargain with, always with a smile. Food and beer in the market was tasty and cheap and of greatest interest, especially to Marin, massages were available aplenty.
Perhaps twenty massage shops lined the alley leading to the night market. Later we were to call this the massage gauntlet as competition for a limited number of tourists brought masseuses into the alley, proffering their services sometimes a little too aggressively. Trey and Marin immediately opted for a fish massage. This was the first time they had allowed small fish to nibble on their feet but for $2 with a free beer it could not be resisted. With giggles and shouts of ‘hell no’ as water, fish and feet met their amusement became infectious on the other fish massage obtaining tourists.
From there we spent a happy hour wandering the stalls of the market before returning to run the massage gauntlet one again. However, with foot massages priced at a dollar for fifteen minutes (and all manner of back, neck and shoulder massages priced similarly) none of us could resist, as we descended as a group on a single shop. At these prices the massages were both popular and surprisingly invigorating. Walking down the alley afterwards my feet tingled, feeling very relaxed after their brief rub down.
Still relatively early in the evening and with the Batman-mobile tuk-tuk greeting us at the end of the street we headed out of the city towards the locals only bar area of Trey Kon. This is where locals from the hospitality industry unwind after a hard day serving the likes of us. Bouncing down a potholed, muddy alley, the area had none of the tourist class of downtown. No matter. This was a great opportunity to mingle with the locals.
Our arrival at various bars always brought smiles from our new neighbors. Those with the confidence and language skills were eager to talk with us, often wondering what we were doing so far away from the tourist areas. Across the street a nightclub blasted out the best of the Cambodian charts. With the music resembling western pop but not copying we enjoyed a good couple of hours dancing and drinking with the locals – much to their amusement.
Returning to our hotel at a late hour, once again by the Batmobile, Koh San would be back in less than five hours to start our early morning tour. Poor guy!