Feb 11 2011
The Phnom Penh club scene can leave one feeling a bit like Goldilocks looking for a bowl of porridge — this club’s too small, that club’s too sleazy … but finally there’s a nightclub in Phnom Penh that is just right. Pontoon was one of the most popular clubs in town until it mysteriously disappeared last September. Much to the relief of Phnom Penh club-goers, it’s back with a bang and better than ever.
Previous incarnations of Pontoon were riverside — it was actually an attached pontoon and boat floating on the Tonle Sap. In 2008, the pontoon partially sank in the early morning hours, but luckily no one was hurt. After the titanic episode, Pontoon was docked at Koh Pich — Diamond Island — and soldiered on as the only place in town where one had a remote possibility of hearing dance music that wasn’t awful, awful crap. Despite massive popularity, they had to close in 2010 for “safety and licensing reasons”. In Cambodia, safety and licensing concerns tends to be code for “not paying large enough bribes”, but of course that’s just idle speculation.
After more that four months gone, Pontoon was nearly forgotten. Expats crowded into Riverhouse, Saint Tropaz and Heart of Darkness, griping about the music and wishing there was something better.
And then everything changed. Last month the new Pontoon opened up in the middle of Phnom Penh clubland — it’s on Street 172 off of Rue Pasteur (Street 51). The space is impressive — there’s a proper dance floor and separate seating areas where it’s still possible to have a conversation. The bar is massive, the sort you can loiter around without embarrassment. The $3 mixed drinks are strong and many nights have drink promotions.
Sundays through Tuesdays see a mash up of various types of music: pop, dance, hip hop and electro. Wednesdays are Ladies’ Night with 50% off cocktails for chicas and, wait for it, free jello shots. On Thursdays, Marcus Mucous takes charge with a gay night called “Hoochie Mamma”. Last week they had a live cabaret show including three beautiful Khmer drag performers and $2 mixed drinks. On Fridays, when they often have special guest DJs, you’ll hear mostly electronic music, and on Saturdays they play a mix of old and new hip hop. On the weekends there’s a $3 entry fee but on Fridays it’s free in until midnight and on Saturdays it’s free if you arrive before 22:30.
The club attracts a good mix of Khmers and Western expats and backpackers all eager to hear good tunes and get down. Tonight features the Stanton Warriors, a UK breakbeat duo. See you on the dance floor!
#80 St 172 near Rue Pasteur (St 51), Phnom Penh.
T: (010) 030 0400; (016) 779 966. Open daily, 21:00 – 5:00ish.
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