Why don't you take some drinking in Phnom Penh at late night
It was 1 a.m. Underground was littered with the beer bottles everywhere. Wow, “has the brewing culture of Saigon spread to Phnom Penh? But it is so interesting” I thought.
What could be better than sitting on the sidewalk with very Cambodian dishes, "friendly" compatriots also and was immersed in the Vietnamese space in land of Cambodia. Tourist guide said that the main streets in Phnom Penh would be closed after 5 p.m. About 9:00 p.m, the whole city would go to bed. Shopping at night was not the habit of Cambodians, so that even shops opened at night, there would be no customer.
What a waste of time for early sleep!
At early 3 p.m, we rented a tuk tuk driving around Phnom Penh City to visit and buy some dishes, then sipped with friends at the hotel in the night. It was over 240 km from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, what a pity to sleep too early!
Tuk tuk driver is about 40 years old and funny. "What's your name?" "Hen." We did not know how to write it. Well, just called him Hen to get ... lucky. He drove the car through the main streets of the city with more than 2 million people. He both drove and introduced the scenery of this city by his own Vietnamese. We understood. That was good. We went along the banks of Tonle Sap River through the new West Street that called Sisowath Quay. There were many Vietnamese restaurants in Phnom Pend like Pham Ngu Lao street in district no.1, Ho Chi Minh city because of many Vietnamese tourists. Vietnamese restaurants were mainly gathered in the city center, nearby New Market (Phsar Thmey, Central Market) or 113 road.
If you want to sip or drink something on the sidewalk, let come to Sihanouk Avenue that you can take off your shoes, sit on the flowered mats to sip dried squid, baluts with Angkorian beer, Pochentong beer (sour water of palmyra tree) in the afternoon. We said: “That’s also interesting! So, What time do they close?”, the driver said: “Until it’s dark, they close” – “Where can we drink something at late night?” – I asked, - “Yes, in the city center, next to your hotels, almost Vietnamese”, he said.
After one hour by tuk tuk, we reached Paciffic hotel which was located in the main road Monivong, near Bamboo Market (Okussey). We paid for tuk tuk 20.000 riel (comparatively 100.000 VNĐ) and gave bonus 10.000 riel because of unavoidable tourist guide.
Phnom Penh at night.
Impassioned sleep in dreams
At night, we set foot on the site road surrounding the hotel. It only took about 5 minutes, a lot of restaurants selling rice, noodle with seasoned and saute’ beef, rice flat noodles, and Vietnamese noodles were appeared in front of us. We chose one restaurant and saw that all dishes could be eaten with wine or beer. Those were chicken wings, chicken drumsticks and fish sauce, fried fishes, deep fried quails and indispensably fried insects such as crickets, locusts, spiders,… Nearby there were some wash-tubs of clam, oyster, snail, mussel … which still lived and waited for the customer’s order to process. They set the tables along the pavement, exposed or covered. It was quite a lot of customers!
We sat on an empty table, and ordered two quails with two bottles of Angkorian beer. Quail with price of 4,000 riel / child (equivalent to 20,000 VND), fried fish fried with price of 20.000 riel, dried beef with price of 20,000 riel, Angkor beer with price of 4,000 riel/ bottle ... were not too expensive. We just lightly opened the button hole of beer bottle and drunk that was so convenient. In Vietnam, the price of bottled beer is more expensive than canned beer, probably because they cost the shell. Angkorian beers have a strong taste that is suitable for many Vietnamese guests.
Plate of fragrant quail with laksa leaves, salt pepper was appeared. It was so resembling in Vietnam! Most other dishes was also suitable with Vietnamese flavor. We saw one guest ordered the fried eggs of … ant. That was a strange dish but we did not. In the next table, there were three girls who ordered stir fried noodles with oyster sauce that had yellow noodles. This is an ethnical dish of Cambodian, called “nom banh chok”. The opposite restaurant was quite crowded. They sold fresh German beer with dried beef. Smell of roasted smoke was very fragrant and pervaded the whole street.
Approximately 8 p.m, the restaurants were full. Mostly, they were Vietnamese. Two men came, pulled the chair and sat on the next table. They ordered “ Two cold bottles of Angkor beer” and added one plate of fried fish, which looked like barramundi. We started talking because of Vietnamese. One 40-year-old man introduced himself: He was Binh, came from Binh Duong province and had been in Cambodia for 3 days. “Why have you been here so long” I asked, - “ I have made use of time to do some games in the casino for fun”, he smiled. It turned out to be the game of chance. I remembered that the driver pointed a big building that had been building and the second casino of Nagaworld where try the biggest chance in Cambodia.
It is very crowded that Vietnamese come to Cambodia to try this game. Tourist guide, Pham Huu Canh said that there were about 10 million Vietnamese tourists travel to Cambodia every year, the most out of foreign tourists. We did not know how many of the visitors have been patrons of the casinos but perhaps not a small number. It is evident that there are dozens of casinos have recently appeared at Moc Bai border gate. In other major cities like Siem Reap, Shihanouville also have the casino. Even in Bokor Plateau (Kampot Province) which is more than 1000 meters above sea level, also have. The most regular customers are Vietnamese. At the 600- room Thansur Bokor Hotel in the Bokor Plateau, they offer each Vietnamese tourist a coupon in both English and Vietnamese for entering casino with worth of $ 10. Changing this coupon into poker to enter gambling tables, if you lose, please quickly withdraw the position because otherwise it is easy to burn the bag.
Pleasure on Pavement
The interesting thing when you drink wine or beer in the side walk is comfortably buying the food on mobile sidewalk. The local people made the mobile stalls attached to the side of the motorbike like the police car's side car to satisfy the customers’ request. Various kinds of foods could be used popularly such as boiled peanuts, boiled corn, stir-fried corn, dried squid, dried beef, some kind of dried fishes, mango, guava, … which certainly serveed Vietnamese guests. – “Give us two cans of peanuts” – I said.The young salesman quickly brought them to, cost only 4000 riel. The peanuts were small but firm and aromatic.
Notably, in Phnom Penh there was no sellers walking to the table to beg and insist. There was only one boy coming in and asked us for a lottery ticket during our time. " Kien Giang, Ben Tre Tickets here" - he said. Vietnam ticket also exported to the temple tower country! "Yes, four tickets cost 10,000 riel, equivalent to 50,000 Vietnamese dong, more expensive than 10,000 Vietnamese dong for carrying away," he said. "Where are you from?" "Yes, Hue". "How long have you been here?" "Yes, three years. I have gone with my parent. They also sell lottery tickets.
So, the more you stay up late, the more you discover many unknown things about life.
Miss you so much!
Naturally, the salemans were Cambodian. They were friendly, gentle and funny. The distance among restaurant was really short, if you sat on wrong place and ordered the food in other restaurant, it does not matter. The people from Phnom Penh was not noisy, therefore it was pubs but not too bustling or gross. Most sellers could speak Vietnamese. The owner of the restaurant where we sat is over 40 years old, and had 3 boys who mightbe her sons or relatives working as assistant. We asked where she from, she said she came from Soc Trang, three generations came Phrom Penh to live and work. She said she followed her parents to come back to Vietnam from 10 years ago. Since her grandparents lost, she rarely came to to visit Vietnam. Her children could speak Vietnamese though not as good as her. We asked if she intend to live in Vietnam, she smiled and said she is used to live here, it is very memorable to leave away Phrom Penh.