by Craig Bowman
Our tour guide just told us we are headed to our last stop of the night. We have been to several places and according to my watch, it is near the end of the tour, but it just seems time has gone by so quick. Our last stop already?
Our group gets on our Vespa’s and leave Independence Monument after a brief history lesson and picture opt. We cruise for a quick bit and stop on the side of the street. At this time, although it is a big sized street, it is rather dead and a bit dark. Spread out on the curb of the street is garbage piled up in a somewhat organized circle. In sight, I do not see anything looking like a place of business. For this tour, this is unusual. In our prior stops, we have been to a few fancy places including an upscale hotel. Other stops might not have been fancy, but they were places packed with people, unlike this stop. I haven’t been in Phnom Penh long, and I gather it is not the biggest city in Southeast Asia, but have we really exhausted the quality places as we reach our last destination?
We all hop off our Vespa’s and take a look around trying to figure this stop out. Our tour guide motions us to follow him a few steps away from the garbage and more into the street light. We see a bunch of standing structure varying in sizes from 3 feet 1 m to 2.4 m with little temple style designs on the top. Now I have seen these around on my travels, but I’m not sure where I saw them and what they are. Rith, our tour guide, explains to us what we are looking at. I cannot remember the local name, but it translates into “spirit house”. Local people buy them and place outside their business to help keep the bad spirits away.
Now this is all very cool and interesting, but I am still wondering about this last stop. After the “spirit house” education, Rith walks us down a narrow alley away from the safety of the streetlight. As it gets darker, it gets more quite. Walking through, we see a few cats dart by our path and get greeted by a barking dog. The fence did separated us from this canine, but a few of us did show off our jumpy reaction time as we were startled by the dog.
We take a left turn into a narrower corridor, then all of a sudden lights, sounds of people talking, and stylish bars. I asked myself, “Where did this come from?” We went from trash and a dark alley to this very cool and hip scene all seemingly hidden within Phnom Penh.
We are in an area named Bassac Lane. A few clothing and food shops, but mostly small bars. Each bar having their own characteristic. One with Japanese styling, another with an actual motor cycle hanging from the ceiling. We had our fancy cocktails at the Library Bar. It did have plenty of books on the shelves for us, although we weren’t in the reading mood.
Bassac Lane was the perfect and surprising last stop. After the tour was over, a few of us decided to stay and visit the other surrounding bars. It was a great tour with a lot of variety. Although I was only in Phnom Penh for a day and a half, I feel like I know the city. Thanks to Vespa Adventures.