The Streets of Phnom Penh. Street 172. Cheap Beer and Soi Dogs.

Many of the streets in this city have a certain character which is often derived from the types of business which are to be found there. Street 172 is central to everywhere you will feel you need to be as a tourist here on a day to day basis at least. It has a selection of everything, there are many bar/restaurants along the street which are essentially identical to each other, they serve the same food at the same prices with mostly similar, slightly disinterested service. There is an exception to this which is sundance, see our separate review here. The big pull of these places however is the price, this street has the cheapest beer in town at fifty cents at most of the places, some do this as a happy hour, some do it all day but the fact is you can get your buzz on for very little money indeed on st 172, in fact it will cost you more to buy cans at a booze shop.

Staying with the budget conscious vibe many of these bar/restaurants are also guesthouses, again with some of the cheapest deals around, $5 dorm rooms are common here but  if you really want to negotiate maybe you can get it even cheaper. The food in these places is often unremarkable, not bad usually just not great but it is cheaper here than closer to riverside with most meals coming in at around $3-4 for Khmer food and $4-5 for western food. Now because I said most were unremarkable that does not mean that there are no exceptions; The Blue Dolphin Vet half way down the street actually does really good food at the same prices as everywhere else with Char Kdout coming in at a respectable $3:50 for a very nice plate of food and thier western dishes with sauces are really worth eating, the mustard and peppar sauce is top notch but a little further down on the other side is Rustic which does very good Italian and pizza indeed, actually some of the best pizza you will get in Cambodia but if you want the pizza happy you will need to try one of the other places on the street, there are a few!

There is a new addition to the street as well and this is Mollyda’s sandwich shop, owned and run by the lovely Molly this place does Subway style subs but does them very well, the bread is to die for as it is freshly baked on the premises every day, I know I used live above it and the smell is delightful. The bread is the same as the Subway bread but fresh and has none of the sweetness the Khmer bread almost always has, the ingredients are high quality and even the dressings are home made, just writing this makes me yearn for a big Italian salami with two cheeses and honey mustard dressing I may have to drive down to 172 when I’m done here.

This street seems to have taken on some of the character of the old Buong Kak lakeside area, if you are keen to have a smoke when you are out on the street this is generally not a problem. Many of the bars, with the notable exception of Sundance are smoke friendly, you just have to be discrete and have some common sense, or better still, if you really feel that you want to smoke why not do it somewhere private before you come out. No moral high ground there at all it’s just always wise with these types of things to be careful, Prey Sar is quite a notorious prison and not somewhere you want to end up, although to do so you would need to be very unlucky and/ or very stupid. If the need has grabbed you you could always combine eating and buzz provision, there are no shortage of places which serve happy pizza. For those not in the know this is simply a pizza with a thick layer of ganga spread under the toppings before the pizza is cooked, if this is your bag then just look out for the signs saying that they serve happy pizza.

If you don’t want to go the pizza route then there are a couple of new bars on the street which may be able to help you; The Red Fox, sister bar to the one on St 136, and Dirty Old Sailor, a Scandinavian owned bar which really shows some promise. Both of these are more expensive than most on the street but then again it would be hard not to be with all the half dollar beer places!

There are also a number of massage places along the street, some legit massage some not so, but it is easy to see the difference. We recomend trying Le Grand Spa about half way down the street for a nice environment and a great massage all for a reasonable price, if you want to have a massage with your partner you can have a double massage in the same room which is quite nice.

The street does not have many but it does have some of the typically Asian girly bars but you won’t walk in by mistake, the girls sat outside and the somewhat darker or more neon palacey feel gives it away. There are other streets which specialise in this type of bar so look out for our article in the near future about st 136.

One of the really great things about this street is that it has a little bit of everything but it is fairly cheap for most things and there is a 24 hour grocery shop in the middle, other than this the street closes down quite early and is normally quiet by about twelve which is great if you are aiming to sleep here, although there is a very noisy hotel building project just on the next street along, 178, so getting a room on the Sundance side of the street may be wise. The street is five minutes walk from the riverside and less from the Royal Palace while Central Market and street 51 are just a stone’s throw away. All in all it is actually quite a good little street to stay on in the short term but the feeling of course is very backpacker so you have to decide if you can deal with that, you could always pay a little more to stay at Sundance in the middle of the street which, as we have reported before is simply better than many other places on 172. This street has a little  charm left, it is kind of the backpacker ghetto that Lakeside used to be but it does still have some redeeming features, I actually do like the street!

Lucien Grey

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