I am not saying you cannot have fun without having a drink. Children do not drink and they tend to have fun. I am not even saying that not drinking is childish (although I do believe this – however being a politically correct, sensitive new age guy I do mind what I say). It’s just that, well, drinking is such a part of the social fabric of life in Cambodia; drinking is almost compulsory. After all, meeting friends for a beer is cheaper than meeting for a coffee in one of the 926 new coffee shops that seem to dominate the landscape in Phnom Penh nowadays.
Few people need a reason to have a drink in Cambodia, but in case you do, here are the top 10 reasons in no particular order.
1. Health: Cambodia is generally hot, damm hot and humid. Dehydration is a real and present danger to anyone in Cambodia: people die from dehydration. Beer is one of the best forms of hydration known to mankind. Drinking beer helps keep you hydrated. The World Health Organisation recommends that consumption should average one can of beer per two hours for visitors to Cambodia, increasing to one per hour for those who spend a lot of time at the beach or beside the pool. Putting ice in your beer is for medicinal reasons as well as for the “chill factor”. Gin and Tonic also helps ward off Malaria. Tonic contains quinine -the anti malarial drug – and Gin just makes the medicine taste even better. Malaria can kill you; having a few Gin and Tonics for medicinal reasons could just save your life.
2. Evenings: They are a boring time in Cambodia, especially so the TV. Without bars and booze there is little to do to while away the evening hours. If you do not feel like having a beer or a Gin and Tonic in a bar, such essential items can be purchased cheaply for home consumption. After 10 Gins you even begin to think you understand that Khmer comedy on the TV.
3. Sleep: Alcohol is a sedative; it is a natural occurring substance. It allows you to fall asleep quickly and soundly. You do not have to talk about important issues with the wife in bed if you are asleep. It saves arguments. Yes you can get the same effect with pills, but let’s face it, these are dangerous.
4. Sex: Alcohol has probably been responsible for more sexual liaisons than any other reason. Without Alcohol how would fat an ugly people ever get laid? They deserve the chance to have sex too. A formal study by the Kinsey Institute revealed that Alcohol was responsible for some of the best sex that people had, well apparently so; many respondents couldn’t quite remember clearly, but they had a smile on their face.
5. $$$$$: Cambodia is a poor country. The more money you spend, the more money there is that goes around. Your drinking supports a very large industry. The landlord gets rent from the premises in which the bar is located. The bar staff have jobs. The beer shop is able to pay rent and employ staff. The brewery workers have jobs and so too do the delivery drivers. By drinking in bars in Cambodia you are helping to support literally thousands of families. Drinking gives you the moral high ground.
6. Time: What else are you going to do with your time? Few people are so poor that they cannot find a couple of hours a day to help struggling Cambodian Families by spending money to help them (refer to point 5). Yes you could be doing other things, but those with a social conscience will sacrifice a couple of hours a day to help the economy.
7. Stability/Networking: Routine is important to many people; having a routine of visiting regular drinking establishments enables people to find you easily and for you to find them. Also finding decent jobs in Cambodia is more about networking and word of mouth than anything else. You will not find that great opportunity strolling along the riverfront or sitting at home in front of the TV. Meeting people is part of networking, in Cambodia you meet people in bars they get to know you and offer you opportunities. Drinking is important for career progression in Cambodia.
8. Courage: Alcohol gives you a false sense of bravado and self confidence. How else would you summon the courage to tell your boss he is an idiot? Whilst this may result is small step backward for your career, thanks to the networking environment you are in (refer to point 7), you should not be without employment for too long.
9. Emotional Health: Human beings are social animals. We like to congregate, talk, laugh and meet members of the opposite sex. Bars facilitate this. Alcohol helps to break down your inhibitions and you can have a great time – even if you cannot remember it and at least these days there are usually plenty of pictures to help remind you. Drinking helps enhance emotions: drinking is therefore emotionally healthy.
10. Indulgence: Beer taste good, damm good, especially on a hot day. After a hard day’s work few people picture a steaming hot cup of coffee. Instead they crave a nice cold refreshing beer. When you become full of beer you can move on to spirits from many different countries. Drinking allows you to experience the world without leaving your bar stool. You worked hard for your money; indulging in a little reward such as a beer or spirit is a just reward for your efforts.
Summary: Life is about balance. All work and no play makes for a boring life: hell you may as well be back home earning real money. Drinking in Cambodia helps you keep a well balanced life. It keeps you physically and emotionally healthy and it lets you help Cambodian families by keeping them in work. So drinking is Cambodia is both a personal and a social good, and it doesn’t get any better than that.