Dec 26 2012

New Year’s Eve in Siem Reap

Published by at 4:36 am under Festivals

For as long as most people can remember, New Year’s Eve in Siem Reap has meant just one thing: the Pub Street party. Such is its notoriety that last year a group of 100 Singaporeans shunned the charms of their home town and chartered their own plane to transport them to Siem Reap’s festivities instead. But this year, the celebrations fall slap bang in the middle of the three-month mourning period for the late King Father, which means that officially the annual Pub Street Party is off. But fear not.

Pub Street: the heart of the action, even when the action is officially cancelled

Pub Street: the heart of the action, even when the action is officially cancelled.

In reality, official cancellation simply means that sound systems and temporary bars will not be permitted in the street itself. All other festivities will continue, the bars and restaurants that line the thoroughfare that is Siem Reap’s hedonistic heart will be doing business as usual, and at time of writing the owners of the Angkor What? and The Temple bar, whose DJs compete for supremacy every other night of  the year, were still trying to find a way of synchronising their music systems to prevent too many bleeding ear drums.

So if your New Year’s Eve just isn’t the same without getting up close and personal with thousands of fellow revellers, head for Pub Street and you will not be disappointed. It is also a surprisingly good way meet the locals as Khmers in Siem Reap throw themselves into the celebrations with great gusto despite the fact that their own New Year is in the middle of April. It is also worth noting that throwing large quantities of water and the occasional fire cracker is a popular Khmer way of celebrating. You have been warned.

Plenty of Pub Street establishments have upstairs balconies if you’d like to watch proceedings without actually getting in among it, but such seating will be at a premium. Another option is to spend the evening at one of the bars or restaurants in the streets and alleys running parallel and perpendicular to Pub Street itself, and dip into the crowds if you feel the need.

Plenty of room upstairs...balcony seating in Pub Street

Plenty of room upstairs… balcony seating in Pub Street.

The Sun, an airy new restaurant on a prime corner site opposite the southern end of Pub Street, would be a good choice for spectating without getting dirty. Or wet. Miss Wong’s classy cocktail bar on The Lane is the perfect place to escape the crowds, and provides a very civilised backdrop – as well as top notch dry martinis — to see in the new year, all just a stone’s throw from the madding crowds. And just one street further west, The Station wine bar is rumoured to be giving bubbly away from 23:00 onwards.

NYE is a good excuse for one of Miss Wong's cocktails. If you need an excuse

NYE is a good excuse for one of Miss Wong’s cocktails. If you need an excuse.

If you want to party but would prefer to stay away from Pub Street itself, there are plenty of other parties to choose from. The Linga Bar on Pub Street Alley never disappoints when it throws a party and NYE should be no different with a DJ and partying till the wee small hours. Next to The Old Market, The Warehouse Bar will be hosting a late night rooftop party with free bubbly, and just a few yards away, The Laundry Bar’s two DJs will be playing soul and funk music until the early hours. For those with plenty of stamina, Villa Anjuna in the Wat Bo area of town is kicking off at 14:00 with two DJs playing minimal techno and tech house into the new year, with fireworks at midnight and “Western food” all day.

For a little more sophistication you could try Asana, a bar-restaurant housed in an alluring traditional Khmer wooden house on one of the alleys between Pub Street and Street 7 where the New Year’s Eve dinner is a $45 set menu which includes wine or champagne. And if you are one of those who likes to mark the year’s end but can no longer party until dawn, you might like Tangram Garden, where diners eat in private palm-roofed cabanas in a peaceful garden about 500 metres from the Old Market area. Most tuk tuk drivers don’t know how to find it so unless you do, it might be best to take up their offer of a pick up. The New Year’s Eve five course table d’hote menu includes vegetarian options and is priced at $17.50 a head for advance reservations and $22.50 for walk-ins.

Unexpected tradition in the upstairs bar at Asana.

Unexpected tradition in the upstairs bar at Asana.

If you really want to push the boat out many of the town’s luxury hotels will be hosting gala dinners, but for something a bit different try the Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa. Their gala buffet comes with a selection of live music acts, circus performances from the renowned Phare Ponleu Selpak art school in Battambang and a spectacular firework display at midnight. Your ticket also includes a welcome cocktail. The $105 price tag may be a bit steep for some, so you might prefer to just hang around The Royal Palace Gardens at midnight where you should be able to see the firework display at least for free.

For $100 a head you can cocoon yourself in loveliness at the Heritage Suites Hotel whose “exclusive menu and wine pairing” is served poolside from 20:00. You will be entertained by a saxophone player,  a traditional Apsara dance show and a jazz band.

After a night of full on partying a good breakfast will be the order of the day.  For the hangover kill-or-cure full cooked version try Rosy Guest House opposite the Royal Palace gardens, or Molly Malone’s Irish bar just off the southern end of Pub Street. The Cafe Central near The Old Market does great eggs benedict and La Boulangerie on Street 7 and The Bodhi Tree Riverside Café both do great coffee. That should pull you together.

The Sun
Corner of Pub Street and Street 11
Old Market Area
T: (012) 181 4001

Miss Wong
The Lane
Old Market Area
T: (092) 428 332

The Station Winebar
Street 7
Old Market Area
T: (097) 850 4043

The Linga Bar
Pub Street Alley
Old Market Area
T: (012) 246 912

The Warehouse
2 Thnou Street
Old Market Area
T: (063) 965 204

Laundry Bar
Street 9, Off 2 Thnou Street
Old Market Area

Villa Anjuna
Street 26
Wat Bo Village
T: (013) 870 072 or (067) 974 212

Alley between The Lane and Street 7
Old Market Area
T: (078) 208 718

Tangram Garden
Wat Damnak Village
T: (097) 726 1110

Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa
Royal Palace Gardens, Off Route 6
T: (063) 760 428

Heritage Suites Hotel
Next to Wat Po Lanka
T: (063) 969 100

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