What does 1979 mean to you? It was the year that Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols was found dead in NYC, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal, Los Angeles passed its first Gay and Lesbian Rights Bill, the Sandinista National Liberal Front assumed power in Nicaragua, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. For Cambodians, it was an extremely important year, as the nation witnessed the collapse of the Pol Pot regime. With the help of the Prime Minister, Hun Sen and the Vietnamese government, the dictatorship of three years and eight months came crashing down. During that time, over two million Cambodians had died under Pol Pot’s rule. Many others had suffered from starvation, slave labor, torture, and imprisonment.
Needless to say, 1979 was a powerful year, significant beyond words. With the Pol Pot regime destroyed, the Cambodian people had another chance at life. They were able to live freely, with basic human rights and a chance for a brighter future.
When I went to Siem Reap, 1979 came to have yet another meaning for me. After a long day of exploring the Hindu-Buddhist temples of Angkor Wat, my tuk-tuk driver dropped me off on the street corner, where I was about the head back to my guesthouse. I turned to the right and saw a cheerful, smiling face standing next to a sign that read “1979 Chill Out Lounge.” This friendly Cambodian man asked me how my day was and if I’d like to join him for a drink. After the many steps I’d climbed and odd yoga-like angles the endless photographs required, I figured I could relax for a bit. Their open-air bar was the perfect place to people watch and make some new friends. Robin Sopheap, the man who had invited me in, turned out to be the owner of the venue, and ironically enough, was born in 1979 as well.
Robin and his brother Prum, the bartender, treated me and every other guest like we were family. Their vintage bar may be small in size, but it packs in much charm and character. Lights are strewn about its fence, alongside its outdoor tables and chairs. Pictures of Bob Marley and James Brown hang here and there, complemented by paper lanterns and retro speakers. The music they played was the epitome of chilling out- a bit of reggae, a bit of samba, and a bit of jazz. After a long day climbing stone steps in the sun, I was finally able to completely relax.
The vodka tonic they served was ice-cold, with a splash of lime and just enough bite to take the edge off. I chatted with my new friends about Siem Reap, Cambodian history and culture, and before I knew it the chef brought out a delicious vegetarian meal. The Khmer cuisine for the night was a green curry with fresh, crisp vegetables, tofu, peanuts, and rice. On the side, I had a soft, flaky baguette with fantastic cheeses. Although I wasn’t able to finish all my food, it was definitely the perfect ending to a day filled with ancient ruins, knowledge gained, friends made, and my palate certainly pleased.
If you find yourself in Siem Reap, Cambodia, be sure to check out 1979 Chill Out Lounge on Soksan Street. It’s right around the corner from Garden Village Guesthouse and super close to the city center and night market. Robin and Prum will make you feel at home and cater to your cravings.
For a peek of what their drink menu consists of (and how great their prices are), see the 1979 Chill Out Lounge Drink Menu.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Robin or Prum at firstname.lastname@example.org or #016 233 367. While in Siem Reap, this is the place to chill out.