Pub Street, Siem Reap

Pub Street, Siem Reap, in the morning at ten.
In the evening the very short Pub Street is only for pedestrians. Tuk-tuk and moto drivers are kept out at the street entrance. A busker team plays Cambodian music across the street from Kamasutra, an incongruously named restaurant that serves delicious Indian food. Freshly showered tourists dressed casual for dinner, mostly Western and Japanese and lesser numbers of Taiwanese and Chinese, plus gracious Cambodian staff: they fill the restaurants, massage houses, a second-hand bookshop that has a fine selection of the classics, and the pubs. An attractive young couple dressed in traditional Cambodian costumes walk up and down the street so slowly they appear still; they pass fliers goading tourists to another location—the Night Market—also for restaurants and shops and massage. The buildings on Pub Street are French colonial, two-level, both open to the street; they are lit red and golden and silver and dark-intimate, and are cool and breezy now in November when tourists have begun to arrive. When the buskers play, their strings and bell-sounds come clear into the restaurants and, in that setting, smelling a pungency of spices differently blended, watching dark and bright and colored silks on a quiet people who fold hands and bow one-hundred percent, my feeling is of being levitated in a very foreign place. Nothing happens more than that people are happy with each other, or in their solitude. There isn’t loud laughter nor rowdy boisterousness, just that sound of bells and strings, and thoughts of temples where all have been all day, audacious temples that are a magnificent attempt to show heaven on earth in style and scale.

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Picture: Turning back to see the entrance to Pub Street, morning, at ten.

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