The sun was setting as a red vehicle pulled up along Siem Reap’s famous Pub Street. Picking up customers in front of Hard Rock Cafe, it set off to embark on an unusual drinking and sightseeing tour around the tourist town’s nightlife hub.
Not quite a tuk-tuk, nor a food truck, the bar-on-wheels turns heads as it drives down the street for its bar stools and open design, thumping music and revellers enjoying themselves.
Australian expat Sonya Duck began operating Bar Cycle Cambodia in January this year. She first worked as a teacher in Phnom Penh when arriving in the Kingdom, but is now focused on her business venture.
More than six years ago, Duck – fondly referred to as Ducky by her customers – arrived in Cambodia as a tourist, falling in love with the country and its people.
The tuk-tuk bar idea was hatched when Duck visited Bali in Indonesia, where she had her first mobile drinking bar experience and enjoyed it immensely.
Inspired, Duck decided to bring the service to Siem Reap.
“After my experience in Bali, I decided to start a tuk-tuk bar business in Cambodia. I chose Siem Reap to give tourists who visited temples in the morning something fun to do in the evening,” she told The Post.
Bar Cycle Cambodia’s customers pedal away to keep the bar flowing as they enjoy their drinks, listen to music and people watch as Pub Street’s bustling nightlife takes place around them.
South Korean tourist Seon Gnam said: “We love this experience. This was hands down one of our favourite nights in Cambodia and probably the best of our whole Southeast Asia trip.
“We were having so much fun that we added on another hour. You can pedal as much or as little as you like. So don’t let the reluctance to cycle stop you from experiencing this.”
Bar Cycle Cambodia is certainly the first of its kind in Cambodia, but Duck claims her business is also the first to bring the tuk-tuk bar experience to the Indochina region.
According to Wikipedia, the world’s first multi-passenger human-powered vehicle called a party bike – or “pedal pub” – was invented by Het Fietscafe BV from the Netherlands in 1997.
Duck said that many of her first-time customers opt for the one hour tour, but after experiencing the fun, most of them extend the tour a further hour.
A one hour tour will get you around Siem Reap’s riverside area, Pub Street and night market with a free-flow supply of beer, vodka, gin, soft drinks or water, as well as a Wi-Fi connection.
“Customers can book a tour for [a minimum of] four people and the maximum number of people we can cater to in a tour is twelve.
“Our customers are made up of tourists, locals and expatriates. Some of them even book our tuk-tuk bar to throw birthday parties for their friends. It’s also very popular among volunteers in Siem Reap,” said Duck.
She said people can also book a tour for three-and-a-half hours.
The vehicle operated by Bar Cycle Cambodia was imported from China and shipped to Siem Reap.
“I ordered the vehicle from a company in China but some parts of the vehicle, including the roof and seats, needed repair so I hired locals to fix them,” Duck said.
Asked if she will start offering the service in Phnom Penh, she said that it would be a big challenge as the capital is notorious for its heavy traffic.
“It would not be easy for a vehicle like the tuk-tuk bar to travel around the city,” she said.
Richard from Manchester, England, on his first trip to Cambodia with his partner, told The Post: “It’s really fun and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
With only one vehicle available, Bar Cycle Cambodia offers its service from 4pm to 10pm on a booking basis. Customers can book a tour for a maximum duration of three-and-a-half-hours.
The tour route usually goes through Siem Reap’s nightlife hub, but Duck said customers can choose their own route if they wish.
However, the bar is not allowed to enter the vicinity of temples due to religious and cultural sensitivities around drinking alcohol.
Customers who book the tour will pay by the hour and get a free flow of drinks. A one hour tour costs $15 per person and a three-and-a-half-hour tour costs $45 per person.
For more information, you can visit Bar Cycle Cambodia’s website (www.barcycle-cambodia.com) or Facebook (@barcyclecambodia).