WARNING: HYDRATE BEFORE READING
F&B whiz Kristina Dziedzic, an American newly settled into Cambodia, gives us the lowdown on how to “properly attack” the temple city’s infamous Pub Street. Follow her footsteps in executing the ultimate fail-safe plan of getting through Siem Reap‘s colorful nightlife!
Ibuprofen? Check. Liter of water? Check. Tummy full of carbs? Check.
This preparation may sound like one of a marathon athlete, and that’s exactly what it is – a libation marathon. I’ve been living in Siem Reap for a couple months now, and after much research – and a slew of terrible hangovers – I have successfully mastered the proper attack of the infamous Pub Street. This carefully calculated plan will take you from loungey cocktail sipping to dancing your face off, with a steady progression in between. Follow these steps and you’ll get the true Pub Street experience in all its glory!
STEP ONE: Picasso Bar
Alley West, Pub Street | Opens at 1pm
Not necessarily ready to handle the palpable thudding beats pervading Pub Street just yet? I don’t blame you. I need a cocktail in me before I can handle that. Featuring Happy Hour from 5-9pm, this local expat favorite is the perfect mellow spot to start the evening.
Picasso Bar’s vaulted ceiling and horseshoe-shaped bar sets a charming vibe to casually sip a properly made cocktail on Pub Street. Serving an arrangement of delicious tapas until 11pm, it’s also a great place to get some grub in before a long night of partying. The atmosphere is slightly more sophisticated than the neon adorned, bucket serving clubs on the main strip, making it the ideal place to rub elbows with other travelers to exchange travel tips.
Tip: Make sure you arrive during happy hour where their signature Sangria is buy one, get one free!
STEP TWO: Miss Wong’s
The Lane, Pub Street | Opens at 6pm
Slipping into a more seductive scene, Miss Wong’s, with its crimson walls and soft glowing lanterns, is the perfect stop to get you in the right mood for the evening. Serving house-infused liquors and crafted cocktails from local ingredients, there’s no question why this sultry lounge tops most lists of best bars in Siem Reap.
Located just steps away from the hustle of Pub Street, the owner, New Zealand’s Dean Williams, says, “I wanted a place where people could chat and not be drowned out by loud music; a place where customers feel like they are away from the hustle.” Miss Wong’s is exactly that. Its roaring 20’s speakeasy vibe also serves up home-style Chinese dishes that pair perfectly with my favorite drink, the Apricot & Kaffir Lime Martini.
STEP THREE: X Bar
Sivath and Sok San Road | Opens at 3pm
By now you should be feeling a little buzz. Ready to amp up it up a bit? Good! Our next stop is one of Siem Reap’s best rooftop bars. If the great view of the city wasn’t enough, maybe the the 6 foot half-pipe, live music, or pool tables will do it for you.
With a great grungy, skater vibe, X Bar is the perfect spot to transition into the debauchery of Pub Street proper. Jump start your night with a drinking game or get your body warmed up on the dance floor. Serving up potent cocktails and buckets, this is the bar to take your night to the next level.
Tip: Not a bad spot to check out the sunset – or sunrise, as it’s open until dawn.
STEP FOUR: Angkor What?
Street 8, Pub Street | Opens at 1pm
This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include Pub Street’s – scratch that – Siem Reap’s most popular bar. Angkor What? is a Pub Street staple. Yes, upon first glance it doesn’t look like much, but by now you should be in the state of mind where blaring music, dirty floors, and cheap draft beer is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Equipped with smiling bartenders, throwback jams, and cozy side booths overlooking the dance floor, Angkor What? is the definition of a guilty pleasure bar. Like a bad boy ex-boyfriend – even though you know it’s not good for you, you can’t help but go back.
STEP FIVE: YOLO Bar
New Street A, Pub Street | Opens at 5pm
If you’ve made it this far, stretch those hamstrings and get ready to dance. This open-air, 2nd-floor dive is the kind of place where you need a few cocktails in you before visiting – hence the reason it’s the last on my list.
Blacklight face paint, beer pong tables, and a stage to dance on may be the cornerstones of what makes Pub Street a bit tacky, but I must say, I have never left this bar unhappy. I’m not sure whether it’s the tatted bartenders, the loud lively music, or the Khmer hype dancers that do it for me, but something about the energy of this place is infectious. If you’re looking to nose-dive into the backpacker scene and leave with a sore face from smiling, make sure you end your night at YOLO Bar.
Tip: Grab a flyer from the bouncer at the bottom of the stairs before going up for a free shot!
By now your liver has had enough. Chug that water, take that Ibuprofen, and draw the blinds. After a proper night’s rest, you’ll be back to your full self in no time – well, not for me, but that missing piece of dignity belongs to Pub Street now.