Pub Street became an ongoing joke amongst our group of travellers on our tour of Cambodia and Vietnam.
If you’re not sure what Pub Street is, it’s exactly what you think it is. Possibly the least creative naming of a location in the history of the world. It is quite literally a street full of pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants – all of which sell copious amounts of alcohol.
Where I’m from, the Gold Coast in Australia, partying is pretty common.
Some might say we consume an above average amount of alcohol and I can say with confidence every time my GP asks how many standard drinks I consume during a ‘binge’ he almost falls off his chair. So when I met the first member of the Hands on Journeys crew at Ho Chi Minh airport on our connecting flight to Siem Reap, I asked nervously “Do you think this will be like, a party trip. Do you think everyone will party?” To which Maria replied “Oh God I hope so! It is now!” I made some awkward comment about how the best way to bond with someone is to get rolling drunk with them, do some stupid stuff and make some (fuzzy) memories.
And bond we did! We arrived at the hotel in Siem Reap at about 10pm local time, which meant 1am Australian time, which meant I had been travelling for 17 hours and was ready for a shower and bed. But Simla, almighty founder of Hands on Journeys, had other ideas. She convinced us to go out to Pub Street for what she called ‘one drink’. Many hours and twice as many tequila shots later, I deemed that as a lie.
We jumped in a tuk tuk and met the majority of the group in a restaurant where I was immediately force fed a beer and awkwardly introduced to everyone at the table. Shortly afterwards we were fist pumping to some heavy tunes, licking salt off each others hands (ok maybe that was just me) and laughing like we’d known each other for years.
If I told you the things that happened that night you wouldn’t believe me.
We saw, and fueled, a massive dance battle between a 13 year old local girl and some random tourist who I’m pretty sure was a professional b-boy. They are absolutely tearing it up while about 50 people look on, yelling encouragement and voicing their amazement at these moves. Next minute some guy dressed all in white jumps in and does a backflip. Where else does that happen?!
The clubs are all open and security is loose, so everyone from all the different clubs just dance and mingle in the street outside each respective venue. The music is clashing and the drinks are in street-friendly plastic cups but it’s just heavenly and free. I met an older man who was wearing knee high women’s socks and denim short shorts, who handed me a note that just said ‘Jeff”. I had my hair done by a local who just decided my current hairstyle wasn’t working for me and needed improving. We played games in the street until the early AM, until we were ready for bed and my stomach had a hot date with a Cambodian toilet bowl.
A couple of days later our resident traveller and English legend, Dan, would get so reckless in Pub Street he did the worm in the street and started a flash mob. Both of which became ongoing jokes throughout the entire trip and vivid memories I will cherish forever.
Why does this matter on a tour?
Although these experiences and Pub Street might not seem that amazing from your point of view, this place was pinnacle to my experience with Hands on Journeys as it set the tone for the entire trip. I made memories with these fantastic people who everyone opened up and were perfectly and unashamedly themselves. When considering travelling in a group you might worry that you won’t like the other people, or they might not like you, so it was a huge relief to me, personally, that I could jump off a plane and into this group of people who were so open to having fun and doing stupid things as I am.
Although we encountered a huge variety of experiences together during our trip, for me it was that first night on Pub Street that brought me together with this group and I will forever be grateful to, and fondly remember our Pub Street.
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