Can Do Can Go
Asia » Cambodia » Destinations in Cambodia »

Siem Reap: Pub Street

Pub Street is the centre of Siem Reap’s night life, with restaurants and bars (and the odd guest house) easily outnumbering other businesses by several to one. It’s a haunt for fairly adventurous travellers – it tends to be round-the-world studenty types or fading hippies that you find round there. So perhaps it’s not so very surprising that the bars and restaurants there aren’t really geared up to catering for disabled people – even though, with the tragically high numbers of people maimed by land mines in Cambodia over the last half-century, disabled people aren’t exactly rare in Siem Reap.

Our correspondent visited more than half a dozen establishments before giving up in a fit of despondency.

None of the places had a dropped kerb. Indeed, the concept of a dropped kerb seems to have missed Siem Reap almost completely. Although there’s the odd wooden ramp at the roadside, most of them are designed for motorbikes and not wide enough for wheelchairs. This wouldn’t matter if Siem Reap’s pavements weren’t blocked by so many trees and other obstacles that it’s impossible to go for more than a few metres before reaching an impasse.

The pavements themselves are cluttered with temporary or permanent structures put there by the businesses. In most cases you have to negotiate another step up from pavement level to the inside of the bar or restaurant.

You might think that that’s the last of the steps. While many places are on one level, several of them aren’t. One restaurant confidently assured us that disabled people would be welcome in their bar on the second floor, even though they had no lift. And even the places that are ground-floor-only usually have at least one step somewhere.

And, almost without exception, they like to pack the tables in, making it very difficult to navigate a way through if you’re using a wheelchair or are visually impaired.

CanDoCanGo "Can't go" logoToilet access is very hit-and-miss. You won’t find any toilets specifically designed for people with reduced mobility. In at least one place, there aren’t any toilets on the ground floor at all! In most of the rest, you’re likely to have to ask for assistance to clear cleaning equipment and other impediments so that you can get past.

Attitudes towards helping blind customers vary wildly. None of the places we visited had Braille or audio menus, though some restaurants confirmed that their staff would be happy to help by reading from the printed menu. (Given the general standard of English in Siem Reap, this could be a frustrating experience itself.) On the other hand, one restaurant told our correspondent flatly that they didn’t serve blind people – amputees, yes, but blind people, no.


On one level, it’s maybe not surprising that so little seems to have been done in Pub Street to provide for people with disabilities. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia and is still struggling to deal with the legacy of protracted civil war and genocide.

On another, though, physical impairments are a major part of that legacy. But efforts to remove obstacles from everyday life for disabled people in Cambodia are sporadic at best, and so far they seem to have passed Pub Street by altogether.