Games in Siem Reap

What we say: 3.5 stars

We’re fast approaching the time of year when long stretches of hot, soggy sunshine are interspersed with hour to two hour bursts of hot, wet rain, and it’s therefore time to look at the idea of ‘strategic stranding’. To be honest, the rain is not actually that big a deal unless in taking shelter you find yourself stuck in a prahok factory or, worse, stuck with one of those people that Southeast Asia attracts in droves: the drunk cynical-idealist.

Backgammon, one of the oldest and most engaging games devised

Backgammon, one of the oldest and most engaging games devised.

Strategic stranding means making sure that when the rains come, you are dry, happy and content to pass the time in good company. Given that the deluges do, kindly, give fair warning of their arrival, it is possible to make good use of that 20 to 30 minutes to get yourself to somewhere you can settle down and while away the time, and one nice way to do that is playing games.

In Siem Reap, plenty of bars have pool tables if that’s your game, though as far as I know only El Camino, Chilli Si Dang and Molly Malone’s have darts boards.

Chess board at Raffles

Chess board at Raffles.

And for fans of games that don’t require a plug and socket (what cranky people like me might call real games with their strange integration of real human interaction), there’s plenty to keep you off the streets, come rain or shine. At Molly Malone’s you’ll find chess, Jenga, Scrabble, Connect 4 — not the kind where you have to buy a girl a drink when you lose — and playing cards. Chilli Si Dang also has chess, Scrabble and cards, as well as Travel Monopoly so you can test how much you’ve picked up on your meanderings around the world.

Backgammon is one of the oldest board games in the world, which Louis de Bernieres describes in his magnificent novel Birds Without Wings as a “game in which the first half consists of skill, and the second half of luck, so it appeals to both the cunning and the reckless, but it is always skill that wins”. Backgammon boards used to be like hens’ teeth in Cambodia, but you’ll find one in Laundry Bar, and also at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor if you’re in the mood for something a little more special.

Raffles also boasts a beautifully carved chess set, cards and a Khmer chess board if you fancy learning that too.

Molly Malone’s
End of Pub Street
T: (063) 963 533

El Camino
Street 26, Wat Bo Area
T: 092 207 842

Chilli Si Dang
East River Road, Wat Bo Area
T: (015) 831 195

Laundry Bar
Old Market Area

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor
1 Charles de Gaulle Avenue
T: (063) 963 888

Last updated: 31st January, 2015

About the author:
Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.
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