For whatever reason I have a bit of an obsession with provincial Cambodian cities. Well, the reason is probably Covid to be fair, but thing for it I have. And it was fate that lead to Kampong Speu street food and nightlife!
Well, not exactly fate, it was actually a trip to the most expensive hotel in Cambodia, namely the Shintu Mani Wild Hotel Now for some for some context think glamping on acid – they have “tents” that will set up a couple back $3000 a night. Yep its all inclusive, but wowzer! It has though been voted the best hotel in Asia and as you will see from the photos it is pretty plush.
Alas as a press junket I was not actually invited to stay, although I did get to zipline and have lunch. I digress somewhat…….
Why go to Kampong Speu?
Visiting the hotel had put me slap bang in the middle of Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, but having not packed sufficiently alas I was not able to take advantage of my sea legs.
Kampong Speu is on the way back to Phnom Penh, I have not been there, so I thought why not. Why not indeed…….
What’s the deal with the provincial cities of Cambodia?
There’s two types of cities in Cambodia, tourist ones and ones where tourists really never go, so Kampot stands on one side, while your Prey Veng’s of the world sit on the other.
The later tend to have a very common theme, no bars, little to no foreigners and not all that much going on. I tend to love their remoteness and trying top-notch street food, but they all tend to have one very common theme, no nightlife. Svay Rieng I am squarely looking at you!
What hotels are there in Kampong Speu City?
There is one hotel in the city, it is called Kampong Speu City Hotel! The place looks like it has not changed since communist times, which of course I loved. I enjoyed the Nazi like check-in prices less so, having to dog out a photo of not only my passport, but also my visa, particularly after 4 hours sleep. You cannot though argue with $15 a night and within a few minutes walk of all the fun stuff, which on this particular Saturday consisted of three rather large markets, a ton of street food, a food “expo” and bars.
I realize that bars should not be something that would usually be considered “special”, but again Prey Veng and Svay Rieng for example literally have zero bars. I’ll get to the bars later…..
The market expo!
Almost like a Christmas market in that it is nearly Christmas, but not in the sense that it had nothing to do with Christmas. To summarize there’s a food and drinks expo that travels around the country lighting up the nightlife for a few days. I have seen the same in both Kep and Siem Reap, but when they come to the boonies the town goes wild.
Basically its a ton of clothes, kitchenware, games and the main point of things, street food. All the classics were covered, with Khmer BBQ, clay pot/hot-pot type jazz, lobster and some weird toasties. I was to try a Khmer crab meat toasty, which overall was a great success.
The rest of the food I felt looked OK, but when it came to the seafood freshness was questioned and I duly decided to keep things real by hitting the actual “Kampong Speu Night Market”.
Kampong Speu Night Market
The only problem with the expo being in town was that it drive literally the whole town, and their motorbikes there, rather than the Kampong Speu night market. Although quiet there was a real charm to the place, standard clothes stores, rides for kids, restaurants and street food, but most excitingly bars.
Right by the riverside and in market style fashion ere a row of at least 10 bars, with imaginative names like “cocktail bar”, or “singles bar”. And no Kampong Speu does yes not have girly bars, despite how the names come across. I’d walked past early, at around 6.30 pm on a Saturday, but things were already looking fairly buzzing, which combined withe free concert at the expo made it look like a crazy Saturday night was about ensue.
Alas not for me though due to the aforementioned 4 hours sleep the night before, but if the blaring music drowning out all other sounds in the city were to go by, Kampong Speu likes to party on the weekend.
Kampong Speu Street Food
There’s two sides of the river in Kampong Speu city, the fun bit with the expo and the night market, and then threes the other side, the business side as it were, this where the hotel and buses are, as well as the proper market.
By proper market I mean vehicles have to be dodged just to browse stuff, proper stuff gets sold and it is surrounded by amazing proper Khmer street food. There was everything from sour fruits with salt, to bugs and of course Khmer BBQ. I went mostly classic by grabbing pork, a big bit of chicken and of course arse of chicken. Why does chicken anus taste so good?
I also tried a worm, worms are to far for me, but I did get some spicy big crickets. I’ve always been up for trying new things, usually for the wow factor and indeed usually once, but every now and again you find a keeper. Balut is a keeper and now bugs are a keeper for me.
To read about all things balut click here.
The night was duly finished eating street food in the only hotel in town off of an ancient table, washed down with coke and crickets, while listening to people party outside.
Kampong Speu street food and nightlife, another provincial city knocked off the list and dare I say it perhaps and actual gem has been discovered…….