Enter a bar in Siem Reap on any given night and you can expect hundreds of travelers and tourists, representing virtually all continents of the world, dazed, intoxicated and cramped into a small space that serves free-flowing liquors at the lowest possible rates and loud trance and techno music playing well into the sunrise.
I came to one famous joint upon the recommendation of the owner of the dormitory I was staying. A pair of backpacking Austrian girls, the nicest I have ever met, were supposed to visit the bar with me at midnight for a much-needed rest and relaxation after crossing the border from Thailand.
The dormitory owner gave me directions on how to get there but she cautioned that if I am not a party person, then I might just be in for a great culture shock.
Well, before the shock came the confusion. I tried to locate this one particular bar in Pub Street, a strip of road located at the downtown Siem Reap, filled with restaurants, bars and souvenir stalls. I couldn't find it at first, but after three roundabouts, I finally did.
Darkened and cozy, it was already bursting with party junkies, some of which were already jugging down buckets of mixed liquor. I later found out that it contained a mix of vodka, rhum, draft beer, cola and citrus.
I made my way into the interior of the bar and a blast of techno music welcomed me as I struggled to adjust to the even darker labyrinth of the bar.
In the dance floor, travelers who, earlier in the day, wore the usual drab attire of your average backpacker, were already swaying to the loud music coming from the bar. They now wear flashier and trendier outfits, signalling their readiness to partake in the now increasingly famous Angkor nightlife.
My Austrian friends and I immediately joined the frenzy and danced our way into the crowd, allowing me to see first hand, a glimpse of a daily life of backpacker. Hit the road by early morning, visit tourist spots in the afternoon and then party wild at midnight.
We were later joined by a German and Irish couple whom we've met at the border crossing. Deeper into the night, our circle of party junkies grew as we met friends from Indonesia, Italia, Prague and Brazil.
Losing all kind of inhibitions, I sipped from buckets with nearly 10 other people from our immediate circle, then as other circles close in, I too shared drinks with them.
I thought that it was the craziest and wildest party I've ever been too. But I was wrong.
An hour after midnight, at the height of the party, a girl from our ever-growing circle of shared with me that a guy from Netherlands, who I saw to be tall muscular blonde, asked her to come into his hotel room and no surprise, she said yes. A few minutes after, she vanished into the night, perhaps with the Dutch hottie.
I wasn't bothered by it since I am very familiar how friendships and relationships are formed among backpackers. Having said that, I know that no strings-attached sexual encounters, or all-nighters are common occurrences. You just have to remind these kids to play it safe.
And just when I thought the night couldn't be any wilder, one of the Italian guys who recently joined us in the dance floor asked me, this time to smoke weed, try ecstacy (Adam he called it) with eight other people in the club and let loose in a sex orgy session.
Now I would be a hyprocrite if I say that after all my travels, I haven't heard rumors or whispers of drugs and orgies among travelers, but to be directly offered is quite discomforting nonetheless.
I looked around the club and then I suddenly dawned on me that the unfocused gaze of some of the dancers, most of them caressing each other's bodies in a vulgar manner, may not have been due to liquor intoxication. A picture of me being arrested by the local police and being thrown into a cold cell flashed inside my mind.
And before I could give in to temptation, I politely declined and pulled away.
At 3 am, my Austrian friends and I went back to our dormitory.
In the morning, I told the owner of the dormitory all about my wild night at the bar and smiling sheepishly, told me, "welcome to the life of a traveler".
And without warning, she placed my dormitory bills on the counter.
Then, I was finally convinced, that I was indeed a traveler.