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Why there's never been a better time for a Phnom Penh bar crawl

Your guide to a boozy weekend getaway in Cambodia’s capital.

By Choltanutkun Tun-atiruj | Dec 09, 2016

  • Why there's never been a better time for a Phnom Penh bar crawl

Just about an hour’s flight from Bangkok takes you to the rich-in-culture capital of Cambodia. Phnom Penh’s been developing a lot over the past few years, especially its nightlife scene. Though we can’t say the cocktail and craft beer bars are as advanced as Bangkok yet, they’re sure showing some potential. Here are a few places you simply must visit, where we guarantee the drinks are on the same level as your favorite spot on Sathorn.

Chinese House

Imagine having a meal and then knocking back drinks in one of the city’s most-storied heritage sites and you’ll get the gist of Chinese House. This glamorous building with its vaulted ceilings, courtyards and wooden beams traces back to 1903-1905, and takes up a prime spot in the French colonial district. Today, guests visit for the Pan-Asian Pacific cuisine of South African chef Amy Baard (who won Iron Chef Thailand in 2014). Though the wine cellar is fully stocked with over 100 labels (starting at a low US$4.75/B166 per glass), the cocktails are an equally strong point. Twenty-eight-year-old Khmer native Mr. Peke’s menu moves from the fruity and refreshing Tutti Frutti—vodka, triple sec, lime, grenadine, San Pellegrino Orange, passion Fruit, soda, bitters and lime ($6.50/B228)—to the richer China White, which sees gin and kaffir lime cordial mixed with coconut milk and soda ($5.50/B193). Or if you’re still undecided about their signature cocktails, just ask the bartender to make something to your taste for $6.50 (B228). Of the 20 beer labels, we like Belgium’s Moa St Joseph ($9.25/B324). Try hitting it up on a Sunday afternoon, when they host brunch with live music. 
45 Sisowath Quay (corner of Street 84, in front of Phnom Penh Port), Phnom Penh, +855(0)92-553-330, Open daily 11-1am. info@chinesehouse.asia
 
 
 

Elbow Room

The down-to-earth industrial feel of metal and raw exposed bricks will feel all too familiar at this spot where they both perfect the classics and dish out their own creations. Elbow Room goes as far as to claim they have the best cocktails in PP city—try the Yuz Ya Head, which sees Jasmine tea infused rum combined with house-made sesame orgeat syrup, pressed lime, coconut and yuzu foam (US$5/B175). If you’re not a tea fan, try the coffee-based 1st of The Month—bourbon, dry curacao, Cynar, cold-brew coffee and Angostura bitters (US$6/B210). Local flavors also get their own cocktail interpretations in the Riel OG, which blends Cambodian herbs with Sipsmith Summer Cup gin, house-made made strawberry cordial and citrus. It’s also a live venue, professionally equipped to showcase some of Phnom Penh’s local hip-hop music scene with occasional visits from international artists.
35 Street 308, Phnom Penh, +855(0)78-890-617, Open daily 7pm-1.30am (2.30am on weekend). enquiry@la-familia.com
 
 
 

Hops Brewery and Craft Beer Garden

This huge space is more like one of our typical suburban Bangkok pub: beer garden, grill restaurant, private rooms, terraces and a stage for live bands. Best of all though is the tournament-quality pool table and electronic darts. They also brew their own craft beer from natural ingredients imported from Germany. Gold Angel (acl. 4.8%, US$3.90/B137 for 1/2 pint) is a lager fused between Asian and European tastes—easy to drink and smooth. For something stronger yet still refreshing, try the German wheat Amber Witch (acl. 5.1%, US$5.90/B207 for 1/2 pint)—perfect for warm weather. Red Fury (acl. 7.8% , US$6.20/B217 for 1/2 pint) is a stout and has been specifically created for experienced beer-drinkers, brewed with a German recipe based on an English stout. Lastly, their IPA (alc. 6.8%, US$6.20/B217 for 1/2 pint) is the most bitter and has a high alcohol level.
17 Street 228, Phnom Penh, +855(0)93-999-017, Open daily 9am-midnight. info@hops-brewery.com 

Phnom Penh’s Best Hotels

The Plantation

The beautiful, frangipani-fringed courtyard pool offers a quaintly luxe vibe, while guest rooms, though not up to international boutique standards, are spacious and cheerful.  
Rates start at B3,900
28, 184 St., Phnom Penh, +8550-2321-5151. www.theplantation.asia 
 

Raffles Hotel Le Royal

Old-school colonial elegance with hardwood floors, four-poster beds and a fleet of limos. The Oriental of Phnom Penh.
Rates start at B6,500
92 Rukhak Vithei Duan Penh, Sangkat Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh, +855-2398-1888. www.raffles.com/phnom-penh
 

Kabiki

A historic colonial house in 3,500 sq meters of landscaped grounds. It pitches itself as a family-friendly hotel, but it’s also one of the city’s most beautiful.
Rates start at B3,000
22, 264 St., Phnom Penh, +855-23-222-290. www.the-kabiki.hotel-phnompenh.com

Essentials

Getting There
The cheapest return flights we can find are from AirAsia, starting from just under B4,000 for trips in Jan 2017. The direct flight takes one hour. Thai Airways flies return for B5,855 and Bangkok Airways from B7,300.
 
Visa
Thais don’t need a visa to travel to Cambodia and can stay up to 14 days. For more information please call the Cambodian Embassy on 02-957-5851 during 8:30am-midday and 2-5pm.
 
Currency
As well as Cambodian riel, US dollars are widely used.
US$1 = B35
4,000 riel = US$1
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