Whirling Through Phnom Penh’s Nightlife by Vespa
If there’s one thing you’ll see everywhere you go in Southeast Asia, it’s motorbikes. Playing Frogger in Saigon, hopping on UberMOTOs to navigate Bangkok, weaving through the Burmese countryside on a bike… As of a few years ago, Cambodia had nearly two million motorcycles for a population of just fifteen million. This transportation is a way of life in that part of the world, so how fitting is it to explore the region on a stylish Vespa? I had the chance to do just that on a Phnom Penh nightlife tour.
Prior to setting off on my big trip, my dad gave me one warning: avoid motorcycles. This was wise advice, so, before I continue, to anyone with similar fears hesitant about doing a Vespa tour, a few notes: rather than driving the Vespas yourself (I’d be a mess attempting this!), each person rides with an experienced driver who knows the city like the back of their hand. Scooters have also been found to be much safer than motorcycles or mopeds, and Phnom Penh is a relatively quiet, traffic-free city compared to other Southeast Asian capitals. And, don’t worry, we’re just posing in the above photo — we had helmets on the whole time!
My trusty Vespa Adventures driver picked me up from my hostel to begin the night by bringing me to our first stop, a rooftop cocktail bar where I met the rest of the tour group while indulging in a delicious mojito and watching the sunset. Our guides explained to us that, though we were starting at a westernized bar to kick off the evening with some classy cocktails, we would soon be diving straight into the heart of Cambodian culinary culture.
Next stop: a sidewalk restaurant specializing in seafood. Unfortunately for me, I’m no fan of seafood, so I had to miss out on the restaurant’s trademark dishes, but we also ordered a few vegetable plates that were delicious and gave me the chance to experience an authentic Cambodian dining spot while also sipping on ice cold Angkor beer and getting to know my tour group. From here, we brought our beers to go and took in the city’s sights while heading to to stop #3.
Our third stop was a lively restaurant filled with locals and featuring live music. We were served a tasty corn dish followed by what looked like some scrumptious beef — that is until I asked what it was. The dark flecks coating the beef I took for spices? Ants!!! No thank you! While I do wish I were a less picky eater, I don’t regret skipping that one. Not one bit. But braver members of my group did sing its praises!
From there, our guides swung by Phnom Penh’s Independence Monument, commemorating Cambodia’s 1953 separation from France. After some photos and discussion of the country’s current politics, we were guided down hidden alleyways until we found ourselves at an adorable little bar lined with bookshelves. There, I enjoyed one of the best drinks I’ve tried in my life, a frozen mango cocktail, and engaged in jovial conversation with the guides and fellow tour members. But, at last, the night came to an end. I exchanged contact details with my new Cambodian friends, got dropped off at my hostel, and headed to bed giddy after such a fantastic night out.
Seeing the true side of any foreign city is a challenge without local connections. As a solo traveler who knew no one in Phnom Penh, I still longed for a chance to see the city through the eyes of a local, and Vespa Adventures gave me just that. Free flowing drinks and all-you-can eat food meant I could sample the best of Cambodian cuisine, fantastic guides and group members made for a night of learning and laughing, and seeing the city by Vespa was the cherry on top that gave the night an extra thrill. What a way to see Phnom Penh!