Go for hot and steamy
I know some prefer it cool, smooth and slow, but I have to confess I’m a major fan of hot and steamy. Of course, this does usually result in short lived affairs, but I don’t know anyone who could handle that much intensity for longer anyway. Especially with the Italians, God do the Italians really know how to do it. On the other hand, you’d take your time over a Cambodian. They’re edgier and, when I do go for one, the things they do with ice just make my knees go weak.
I’ve heard of people who don’t like coffee. Obviously, everyone’s free to make their own choices about such important things in life, but I don’t think I could let someone like that into the house. They’re clearly unreliable. You’d never stop worrying about whether they’ll burn the place down, or give drugs to the dogs. You have to feel sorry for them though. I mean, life without coffee? It’s a bit like Lord of the Rings without Hobbits: meaningless and liable to end badly.
For the non-insane, normal coffee-addicted person, Siem Reap happily boasts a fabulous array of tempting fixes. My current favourite is Upstairs Cafe, not just because I can get my hands on a strong, beautifully formed Italian (illy), but also because the cakes here make you reconsider whether your life thus far lived was really life at all. Upstairs is a new kid on the Wat Bo Road block, and this lovely nostalgic spot is fast developing a core of utterly devoted fans. Turning grown women, and some men, into weak-kneed ninnies, it’s like the Ryan Gosling of cafes. Go there, you won’t be sad.
If you’ve never been to Cambodia, you may be surprised at how civilised (in that Western sense) things really are here, and the prevalence of illy coffee is all the evidence you really need. In addition to Upstairs Café, I’ve so far found it in Central Café, the FCC Angkor, The Station (which is an excellent wine bar I’ve been meaning to tell you about for ages) and the Blue Pumpkin. These also happen to be rather excellent places for taking a time out.
Le Grand Cafe is another great spot for a coffee too (except the cappuccinos intriguingly – the French are allergic to making good cappuccinos for some reason and if you’ve ever mistakenly ordered one in France, you’ll know exactly what I mean. In the brief period that I waitressed there, I made such a fortune in tips from making proper cappuccinos for grateful British tourists that the owner decided I must have been ripping off their wallets). It’s not just that they serve good coffee here, the café itself is pretty special too. A beautiful French colonial building, it has a magnificent vaulted ceiling, with a classy but unfussy décor, and great big, glassless windows upstairs that make this a hyper belle world-watching, slow-time-passing location.
Local coffees are another matter entirely. I can still remember the astonishment when I first drank an iced coffee with sweet milk in Thailand. Until that moment I’d always thought of iced coffee as something of a perversion, a pollution of one of life’s little perfections. Which just goes to show how horribly wrong you can be, and that the really fun stuff is usually the stuff that someone, somewhere thinks is really twisted. For coffee fans, kick-arse strong, bitter coffee, lightened with ice and condensed milk is a must while you’re here and, of course, the best places to try it in are in the local cafés and restaurants where you can soak up a little local atmosphere along with the caffeine.
Wat Bo Road
Old Market Area
T: (017) 692 997
T: (063) 760280
Near Old Market
T: (063) 963 574
T: (017) 925 181
Hotel de la Paix
(063) 966 000
Le Grand Café
Old Market Area
T : (092) 535 800
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.
Our top 10 places to eat and drink around Siem Reap