I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my day; traveled all over the world; and also been in my share of bars, pubs, and other establishments that serve adult beverages. I’ve seen some amazing ones, some terrible ones, and some that are very nice…but decidedly boring. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not how expensive or fancy or well-decorated a bar is that makes it fun, but the vibe.
I also know that it’s damn hard to be original in the bar and restaurant world, and that’s why I was pleased as (alcoholic) punch to see the BoxVille entertainment district in Siem Reap.
We actually spotted it on the way in from the airport late at night. I was shocked because I was last in Siem Reap only a little more than a year ago and it didn’t exist then – not even a trace or signs of construction. But I guess that’s the whole point of construction using shipping containers: they can go up virtually overnight, cost little, and be a net positive for the environment, too.
They’ve done just that with genius foresight as they’ve put together a new market and entertainment venue meant to compete with (and siphon off tourists from) the traditional Pub Street area in downtown Siem Reap. However, if they had to build each bar, music venue, coffee shop, and store with brick-and-mortar, the cost (and risk that it didn’t work out) would be prohibitive.
Coming back to the BoxVille venue the last night just to check it out, it far exceeded any expectations I had. There was a row of bars – most of them taking up just one shipping container, with spaces cut open for the actual bar with stools or just a serving area – and other seating at small tables, upturned barrels, etc. out front. There was also a second row of shipping container bars upstairs, and the stairs to get up there were withing a diagonally laid shipping container! Awesome!
Upstairs, the containers were more open so people could sit in or by them and look down on the courtyard area below.
There were also a few bars that were bigger, taking up two or three shipping containers cleverly laid out at funky angles or adjoining each other, leaving more open space for seating, dancefloors, or even a big stage for a live band that was playing.
Of course, each of them was decorated to the nines. There were neon signs everywhere and plenty of the nice string lighting hanging around and between them, creating a really amazing light show. Most of the bars also had their own theme, like with old motorcycle and car parts attached to the walls and antique road signs hung. One bar above us shot a massive cloud of soap bubbles every ten minutes, creating an awesome visual effect.
Nearby, we even saw that they’re expanding into a larger bar made of shipping containers that has a jail theme, as prison bars adorn the fronts of all of the shipping containers. Have a drink while in jail and your friends can take photos!
To further flesh out this entertainment complex, there were plenty of bigger comfortable outdoor seating areas, stalls and kiosks selling things, and I see plans for a huge pool and water complex to be built soon.
I can’t wait to come back to Siem Reap next year and see the progress they’ve made with BoxVille!