Siem Reap is getting upmarket

Photo: Miss Avan, waitress in the popular Khmer owned Temple Club bar and restaurant.

Slowly but steadily Cambodia is recovering from apocalyptic times.
Besides NGO workers, in the late 80′s and early 90′s it was a place for adventurers, followed by backpackers in the last decade.  One of the musts for Cambodia goers is to visit the famous temples of Angkor. The nearby city of Siem Reap has in the mean time become an attractive holiday destination though not for admirers of historic miracles exclusively anymore. Besides organised tours with groups of Chinese and Koreans who will stay just one or two nights and those who are into history and culture only, the number of holiday goers who will stay longer to relax at the pool or play golf in the daytime and enjoy Siem Reap’s small but upmarket nightlive is rising. Although it is still visible,  poverty is preferably kept outside the city centre. Currently Tripadvisor lists 174 hotels, 105 of which have a swimming pool. In terms of luxery, top of the list is the Amansara resort with room rates between $725 and $825 a night. For comparison, this is a three years average income for Cambodians.
At the same time Siem Reap is becoming an attractive destination for gay males.  Besides gay cocktail- and wine-bars, a dozen or so gay-owned hotels, Siem Reap features Cambodia’s only male-only resort.
Visiting the city two times within half a year, here are a few changes which I noticed:

The cozy and busy food-court in  the center near pub street will close next month to make way to a large new mall. In the daytime the premises used to be a primary school. Reportedly it has been sold by the city council for $10 million. Here are some pics of the south side.

Happy pizza and happy shakes are seasoned with marijuana. According to recent stories all the happy shops, mostly concentrated in Hospital street, have stopped or became extremely careful in serving their food ‘happy’, after some got heavily fined by the police.

As of March 2012, the lowest price for a draft beer in the city centre has increased from $ 0.50 to $0.75.

New manager Sophea, mentioned in a previous post, finally got what she wished for; the Khmer Queen, Cambodia’s first gay/ladyboy cabaret restaurant will open next June.

Even tomato soup isn’t old school tomato soup anymore. It looked like potato soup and tasted like potato soup.
I had to go to the kitchen to convince myself it was made from green tomato’s.

Siem Reap must have the highest no. of Lexus SUV’s per capita in the world.

Quite a few bars, restaurants and hotels are managed by foreigners, but since the land ownership laws are very strict, practically all buildings are owned by Khmer investors. Of course these are mostly privileged people with old money and the right connections, but as the text on miss Avan’s T-shirt; “Khmer and Proud of it” says, it indeed seems to underline a noticable new vibe in the self-awareness of the new Khmer generation.

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