On an overcast afternoon in Siem Reap, with no desire to go temple-trampling again, I jumped on a tuktuk to Pub Street, which is where the main goings-on in the town happens, from entertainment to night markets, and from food and drink to the inevitable scams. I took a leisurely stroll through the narrow streets and immersed myself in the atmosphere, with all the smells of delectable Khmer food floating through the air, and the persistent-yet-friendly-enough local tuktuk drivers plying for my trade. In many ways, Pub Street is to Siem Reap what Khao San Road is to Bangkok.
Aside from the food on sale, there were many fish massage parlours, where you dip your feet in and the little fish bite off all the loose skin for you. Lots of fabrics and souvenirs were also on sale in the hustle and bustle of the area, and I took a good look in a good many of them. Two of the things that stuck in my mind from my time in Siem Reap, although regrettably I didn’t take photos of either, were the sight of a dog with rabies trying to walk down the street using its head as propulsion to slither along the pavement, and the sight of a middle-aged man plying his trade by putting bits of bamboo into a shredder to make juice, which came out in liquid form at the opposite end of his machine on the side of the road. Weirdly, I found it quite therapeutic to watch him do that for at least 5 minutes, but I didn’t try any. He wasn’t short of customers, though. He had attracted the attention of at least a dozen backpackers who had all paid him for the products!
One thing you have to watch out for when in Siem Reap town is SCAMS. Scamsters are present all over the region, especially Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam (although strangely I did not really encounter any in Laos). For some more information, check out my list of the top 5 scams to watch out for when backpacking. Here in Siem Reap, there are some well-known scams you should know about before travelling, so that you do not fall into the traps that so many people do. In particular, I would warn you of the infamous Baby Milk Scam, and while I did not encounter this myself, literally THOUSANDS of people each year are ripped off – probably by the same cheeky little girl!
For me, the main attraction of Pub Street, is of course its pubs and bars and little eateries on the side of the road (even with cheap roasted frogs!). There are, of course, streets and markets like this littered across Asia, and many of them have no character at all. However, Pub Street here in Siem Reap does have lots of character, which I am told multiplies further after dark! Part of this charm is down to the local people going about their business (even if it is a bit of a tourist trap). During the day, as well as people offering you fish foot massages and the chance to eat a fried tarantula, you will see plenty of Khmer BBQ restaurants that have open-door policies for backpackers of all ages.
I was not aware of the Khmer BBQ before my trip to Cambodia; I had heard of Korean BBQ (delicious!) but not the Khmer variation, though it seemed very similar in principle. Stopping at a restaurant called AMOK, and meeting with two mates from a nearby hostel, I had a lovely Khmer BBQ of crocodile and ostrich meat, and more than a few Angkor Beers, the local beer of the region! It was the first time I had tried ostrich, and it was quite chewy, though I’m not sure I’d try it again…
Cambodia is very sticky and uncomfortable in daylight due to the brutally hot weather. However, I’d still recommend taking half a day out of your temple-trampling to come to Pub Street or the Night Market for a good look around and to enjoy some local food! You may even pluck up the courage to try a deep-fried tarantula!