New Year’s Eve is one of the unique times of the year when you have an event that is celebrated widely around the world. There are some iconic places in the world where the passing into the new year would be celebrated and likely shown to others around the world on television (e.g., Times Square, Sydney Harbor, Eiffel Tower, Moscow Red Square), but regardless where you are, there is likely some special events organized to celebrate this event.
When planning for the Southeast Asia trip, Kristi and I knew that we would be passing into the new year somewhere during the trip. So we decided to pick a place that would be memorable to do so; we thought it would be neat to experience the first sunrise of the year at one of the most recognizable landmarks in Southeast Asia, the temple of Angkor Wat. That was the anchor place on our itinerary, and the rest of the travel plans was put together around that. And that means the New Year’s Eve would be spent in the nearby city of Siem Reap.
After a full day of visiting the temples of Angkor, we went to downtown Siem Reap for dinner, and after a nice dinner at the Angkor Palm Restaurant and dessert at the Blue Pumpkin, we walked around in the Old Market area for a while to see the activities around. There were a lot of people around, but that’s probably quite normal in that touristy area especially at that time of the year that’s considered a high season for tourism. When we got closer to the popular Pub Street, however, we started seeing places decorated and crowd started building up as it’s getting closer to midnight. We walked passed the street earlier in the evening and it was still quite empty. As we continued on to another street nearby, we passed an area where there were restaurants set up on the side of the road with open kitchen where cooks were preparing grilled foods. The aroma of the food cooking on the grill was very inviting for the passersby; too bad we already had our dinner.
We decided to head back to our hotel after that, around 9 pm or so, since we didn’t want to oversleep and miss the moment we’re planning to experience the following morning. So we celebrated the passing into the new year… but with the folks in Australia on television.
The photo below was taken near the Pub Street. You can see the crowd starting to build up for the New Year’s Eve celebration.
Pub Street is a street in downtown Siem Reap, Cambodia, that is well-known among the foreign tourists as a place to visit in Siem Reap. It is located only a few blocks away from the Old Market (Psar Chaa). From its name, you can guess that on this street you can easily find places to eat, drink, and socialize. It reminded me to the area near Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh or Khao San Road in Bangkok. While you can see activities during the day, the place is even more crowded at night as the foreign visitors who go to the temples of Angkor Archaeological Park during the day come here to have dinner, shop, and relax. The area is popular as a late night destination as well with its clubs and other establishments that open late.
We went to the Pub Street area on our second night in Siem Reap. Initially we thought we might eat at one of the restaurants there as many of them were mentioned in the guidebooks. However, while we were waiting for our hotel shuttle to take us to downtown, we met a British couple who was staying at the same hotel and had been in Siem Reap for several days, and they recommended a restaurant on the Market Street to try out (close to the Pub Street, but not exactly one of the more well-known Pub Street restaurants). We wanted to have dinner at a Cambodian restaurant serving Khmer dishes, not at one serving Western foods. Apparently the restaurants on Pub Street are more catered to the western audience, so while it might be a good place to find dishes like pizza or steak, you might be better off going elsewhere for more authentic Khmer dishes.
We did walk through the street on the way to the restaurant where we had dinner. Pub Street is not that long to cover in a few minutes of walking, and when we went through there it was still early in the evening that the places had only started getting visitors, and in comparison it was not quite as crowded as Khao San Road in Bangkok when we visited few days before. But later on in the night it did get more crowded, especially as the pubs and restaurants on the street were getting ready to welcome the New Year at midnight that night.
The photo below as taken as walked through the street. This is the Red Piano Restaurant, one of the well-known restaurants on Pub Street that is popular among the tourists. It’s known as the favorite place of Angelina Jolie and her crew to hang out when they were in Siem Reap filming the movie Tomb Raider. Many people said the food there was mediocre quality, but it’s a great place to people watch given its strategic location.
Siem Reap is the capital city of the Siem Reap Province in Cambodia. Its name means ‘the defeat of Siam,’ commemorating the victory of the Khmer people over the invading Siam (Thai) people in the 1500s. Today the city is fast growing because of the booming tourism / hospitality business. The city is located very close to the site of the ancient city of Angkor, which was the seat of the Khmer Empire that ruled a large part of Southeast Asia more than 1,000 years ago. Today tourists come to Siem Reap and use it as the base to explore the area that is full of temple ruins, including the famous Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat, which is still in use for worship by the locals, is the world’s largest religious monument.
We came to Siem Reap after our visit to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. Our stay in Siem Reap was arranged through a local tour company called Derleng Tours. They suggested a typical itinerary for a three day, two night visit to Siem Reap, which we then customized to what we would like to see and do. During the duration of our stay, we had a private tour guide and driver with air-conditioned van that accompanied us to places around Siem Reap that we wanted to visit.
The photo below was taken in downtown Siem Reap on a street called the Pub Street. This place is a popular hangout place for foreign visitors. The particular place on the photo is a pub/restaurant called The Red Piano. It became famous because it was visited by Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie when she came to the area to film Tomb Raider.