Dec 13 2012
No sooner had I ripped the November 30 page off my desk calendar than the Christmas trees were sprouting up and the decorations were invading the Siem Reap shops. Carol concerts have started and the party season is in full swing. In fact if you are one of those who goes on holiday every December expressly to escape the Christmas spirit and seasonal good cheer, there may be better places for you than this jolly old town. But if you are planning on being here for the festivities, here’s a quick rundown of some of the treats Siem Reap has in store for you.
For early birds the season kicks off at artsy riverside Hotel 1961, with Snow White and The Beatles — the closest you will find to a traditional pantomime in these parts. You can catch the show at 19:30 on Friday December 14, or at 15:00 or 19:30 on Saturday December 15. An hour and a quarter of child-friendly fun with a healthy dose of adult humour — which I am assured will go straight over every child’s head — costs $6 for adults and $3 for children under 13. Tickets on sale at the 1961 Hotel.
Film buffs can immerse themselves in Christmas spirit by watching the 2005 Christmas film Joyeux Noel, the Golden Globe-nominated and heartwarming tale of that famous football match between enemy sides on the first Christmas day of the First World War. The screening takes place at the 25-seater Siem Reap Film Society from 19:00 on Sunday December 16. Entry is $5 and includes soft drinks and popcorn.
If you just can’t get in the mood without a touch of sparkle and glitter you can find all kinds of suitable adornments for your hotel or hostel room in the night markets, many of the souvenir shops and at the wonderful Siem Reap Bookshop on Hospital Street if you don’t wish to stray too far from Pub Street.
For those who prefer home-made decorations and happen to have the kids in tow, you could take them to Jungle Junction’s Sunday kids’ club on December 16 where staff will be helping the little’ uns to make their very own Christmas cards and decorations.
Once your room is suitably decked out you may not want to venture into the warm night air at all on Christmas Eve, but if you do you can enjoy the goodwill of revellers from around the world on Pub Street, sing along to classic Christmas tracks and maybe even sit on Santa’s knee at the Angkor What? Bar’s annual party.
For worship at a different kind of altar, mass is celebrated in English on Christmas Eve at Siem Reap Catholic Church on River Road East at 18:30. You can enjoy the novelty of hearing the service all over again in Khmer at 08:30 on Christmas Day and re-live those childhood European holidays when your parents made you sit through mass in Greek, Spanish or Italian.
Christmas Eve in Siem Reap also has a wide choice of festive dinners to suit most tastes and budgets. Molly Malone’s Irish Bar, Steakhouse and Guesthouse offers the full works – roast turkey or Norwegian salmon with all the trimmings plus starter, dessert and a welcome glass of mulled wine for $28.75, kids $16.50, main course only $18. Bookings are essential.
For something with a more European flavour try Soria Moria Hotel on Wat Bo Road. For $29 a head you can enjoy a Scandinavian buffet dinner including Swedish meatballs, roast pork belly, free flowing beer and wine and a welcome glass of “glogg”. The party starts at 18:30 and children from Sangkheum Centre for Children will entertain guests with carol singing from 19:00. Booking advised.
At the upper end of the scale the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa is just one of the luxury hotels in town offering a real Christmas Eve treat. Their poolside buffet with Western and Khmer options sill set you back $85 plus tax and service and includes aperitif, music from a string quartet and Christmas carols. Shinta Mani Hotel is celebrating its first Christmas in its striking new home with a $50 plus tax and service five-course Euro-Asian fusion dinner in its chic Kroya Restaurant. Price includes carol singers and a glass of Prosecco.
Christmas Day itself is slightly less frenetic than Christmas Eve, but if you are not out visiting temples or floating villages you can still enjoy some festive cheer. Make sure you have a reservation if you wish to share the craic with Molly Malone’s traditional lunch from 12:00 onwards. Reservations are also de rigueur for the Raffles Hotel’s popular Christmas Day brunch, which is indeed so popular that it now appears to take up almost the entire ground floor of the hotel. For a very reasonable $38 per adult you can enjoy a gargantuan buffet, Christmas carols, gifts from Santa for the children and be serenaded by the resident pianist throughout your meal. Be there by noon, latest.
If you need to keep the children occupied while you tuck into some serious Christmas spirit then once again you could do a lot worse than take the whole family for a fun day at Jungle Junction where the traditional three-course turkey lunch costs $25 for adults, with children’s meals also on offer. Distractions to keep children busy include face painting and Santa movies and the little angels will all receive a gift bag too. Runs 12:00 to 14:00, and bookings essential.
DATE CHANGE: Please note the date for Jungle Junction’s Christmas Kids’ Club has been amended to Sunday December 16.
Upper West Side, River Road
T: (063) 966 961
Siem Reap Film Society
Above ‘ABOUT Asia Travel’
2-4 Charles de Gaulle Avenue
7 High School Road
T: (010) 527 568
Pub Street, Old Market Area
T: (012) 490 755
Siem Reap Catholic Church
River Road East
T: (063) 965 280
Molly Malone’s Irish Bar, Steakhouse & Guesthouse
Pub Street, Old Market Area
T: (063) 963 533
Soria Moria Hotel
Wat Bo Road
T: (063) 964 768
Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa
Royal Palace Gardens, Off Route 6
T: (063) 760 428
Shinta Mani Hotel
Street 14, Corner of Oum Khun Street
T (063) 761 998
Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor
1 Charles de Gaulle Avenue
T: (063) 963 888
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