White Rabbit leading Siem Reap’s funky funtels into the new year
POSHTELS – swish hostels – have made their mark in Siem Reap Town and now funtels – party and entertainment hostels – are on the upswing in Temple Town.
Just opened in town is Pomme, the Siem Reap branch of the establishment of the same name in Battambang, where the Pomme’s café draws a hip local crowd as well as catering to travellers, and where Saturday night is known as ‘Pomme night’ to expats.
To announce its presence in town, Pomme will hold a live music concert on Saturday night (Dec 14), including a Siem Reap album launch for the ‘Sam Rocker Band’.
The Khmer band from Phnom Penh, fronted by self-described tomboy singer Sam Rocker, held a Phnom Penh launch of its new album, ‘Back to the Roots’ earlier this month and Olly Smith, co-owner of Pomme says their special appearance is the result of a recommendation.
“They were looking for a space to launch the album and were referred to us through a mutual friend, Jason.
“Sam Rocker is also a solo artist, so I believe she will do a set on her own of covers and original music before the whole band comes on (stage) to showcase their newer songs and some older ones.
“They support the LGBT community as do we and so it made sense for us to be the spot for them to launch it. We also promote live and upcoming bands whenever we can as well as artists.”
Some proceedings from the night will go to Jason’s NGO APTBY, (A Place to Be Yourself), a drop-in / resource centre for the LGBTIQ+ community in Siem Reap.
Olly Smith says that the Pomme hostel and bar will also feature ingoing entertainment.
“We have a beer garden, a private sports lounge for live sport showings, movies and we hope to promote other events such as art exhibitions, stand-up comedy nights and meetings,” he says.
On the hostel accommodation side, Pomme Siem Reap has two dormitories that can sleep 20 people, with plans to expand with private rooms later next year.
UK expat Olly was captivated by the region after holidaying in Cambodia in 2009, and moved to Thailand in 2010 to run a bar and hostel on Koh Samed island. After seven years he moved to Cambodia in 2017, and in early 2018 he and his business partner Jonny Free opened ‘Pomme Battambang’. This year, they decided to expand into Siem Reap.
“After the success of Pomme Battambang, we realised we had a great product and wanted to bring it to a busier city,” Olly said. “Siem Reap fitted the bill and after scouting a few locations, we fell in love with space we are at now and knew we couldn’t miss the opportunity. I moved to Siem Reap while Jonny stayed in Battambang, although we often switch over or make the short trip to help out on busy event nights.”
Meanwhile, over in Siem Reap’s funky Wat Bo district, the more-funktel-than-funtel ‘White Rabbit’ has moved burrows to a funky building where it’s set to continue being the funky party place.
The White Rabbit is partnered with the international Hostelworld group, which in August celebrated its twentieth birthday with the world’s biggest hostel party: 20 parties in 20 hostels over 20 days in 20 countries.
The White Rabbit was one of the 20 chosen global venues and, as owner Maximilian Dick says, “To be featured during the campaign was a huge compliment to all the hard work we put in over the last two years. Hostelworld flew a team of three people from London and Sydney to decorate our place, which was marketed all over the world.
“Our Theme was “Farewell Pluto” so the whole place had a space theme, everyone was dressed up, and with around 130 people we partied until 12am and then we headed off altogether to Pub Street.”
But Maximilian stressed there’s more partying to come.
“We host Pub Crawls 3 times a week,” he says. “And the next big party will be our New Year’s celebration, where we estimate to have over 220 guests partying with us.”
Maximilian says his philosophy as owner is to provide more than just accommodation, to provide a fun stay and to that end he conjured up the name ‘White Rabbit’.
Maximilian says he set about creating the Rabbit as uniquely different from its competitors right from opening day on August 29, 2017.
“A hostel is not just about having a cheap bed in a dorm room – it’s about who you meet and how you spent your time. When people talk about their travels and experience in hostels, they don’t talk about how comfy the mattress was or how good the showers were.
“They talk about the times they have been sitting with fellow travellers, shared stories with them , did some amazing trips with them or even met the love of their life. We want to be a place where people from all nations feel at home and create memories of a lifetime.
“We create the perfect environment for all these stories. We have activities where guests can join and ‘family’ dinners to bring everyone together.”
Maximilian adds that’s why he came up with the White Rabbit name, a name that’s again uniquely different.
“I wanted to create an escape from reality, a place where you forget the world around you and you can be yourself in a safe surrounding,” he says.
White Rabbit goes pretty well with it, you dive down the rabbit hole of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and enter a different reality, when Neo ‘follows the White Rabbit’ his journey in the matrix starts.”