Aug 18 2012

Review: The Spirit House, Phnom Penh

Published by at 2:33 am under Food

Update: The Spirit House is closed.

Confucius said, “All good things are difficult to achieve.” I don’t wish to contradict the wisdom of the ancients, but let’s just say that fortunately, The Spirit House isn’t excessively difficult to find, even though it is a darn good thing if you love a sunset. Because, while there are bars aplenty on the western bank of the Tonle Sap river with lovely views, if you look closely, you’ll realise they are not best placed for Phnom Penh sunset spotting. Think back to primary school — now where does the sun go to bed…?

The spirit in the sky

The spirit in the sky.

To shift your perspective, cross the Japanese Friendship Bridge (north riverside, past the port). Don’t get too distracted by the river view, as you’ll need to turn immediately left down the side of the bridge, then follow the unmade road around to the right. Suddenly thrust into Cambodian countryside, with trees and wooden stilt houses, you may wonder if you’re on the right road, but keep going — you can’t fail to spot your destination. Spirit House is a purple and green edifice decorated to be unmissable, about 200 metres down.

Not exactly a shy and retiring paint job

A shy and retiring paint job.

Other than the paint, there’s nothing too showy about The Spirit House. After all, everyone is here for the panorama. To aid your viewing, there’s a river-facing terrace with seating and the internal bar has three sides of windows. Refreshment is provided by a standard choice of beers and spirits on the menu, along with some Khmer food staples, at reasonable prices.

So, about that view. Look left to the Japanese bridge, the twinkly city lights and the new high rises of Canadia and Vattanak towers. Look right to a patchwork of painted corrugated iron and rust shanty dwellings. Look up at a Michaelangelo sky and get swallowed in the sunset.

It’s surprising how long you can spend watching boats cruise up and down while the bridge lights up and you try to spot landmarks. Given the hideaway location, it’s best to take your tuk tuk driver’s number or ask him to wait, because it’s a long walk back over the bridge when the spell finally breaks.

The Spirit House
31 Tonle Sap Road, Phnom Penh
T: (o992) 50756 

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