A row of beds in the garden? Check. Giant teepee? Check. Psychedelic elephants? Check. Actually, psychedelic everything? Check.
Siem Reap has its fair share of characters, but none quite like Anne and Frank Grieger. The couple cum business duo have set up Villa Anjuna, a place not quite like any other in town.
By day, the guest rooms open out onto a bright garden, where CDs hanging from trees glisten in the sun. But by night, the garden comes alight with lit-up shrubs and neon statues.
After several months of teething problems and building delays due to severe flooding, the four-room guesthouse/garden lounge/restaurant/club is finally open for business on Pannasasstra Road/Street 27.
A short chat with its German proprietor Frank revealed why he’s established this strange village rave site.
“My wife and I came here from Goa, we loved it there but the government stopped the parties, so we decided to come to Cambodia. Villa Anjuna is a piece of Goa and a piece of trance culture.”
Having looked at sites in Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh, the couple decided Siem Reap’s mix of expats, backpackers and cultural tourists was the right fit for the venue they had in mind.
“Sihanoukville has the backpackers, but the casino and red light tourists too. Here we have a very small gap for our special kind of culture.”
Frank doesn’t hold back when describing the lack of culture available in Siem Reap's nightlife hotspot. “I think that Pub Street is a very narrow view of Siem Reap. You can literally sit, drink, eat, get up, walk a few metres and then do the exact same again. Angkor beer for 50c, Cambodian amok in literally every restaurant. We wanted something different to that.”
Food-wise, Anjuna has gone for a short menu of what Frank calls International Street Food. “It’s the kind of food I think travellers like, and I like. A crossover kitchen between western and eastern food – we do have the amok, but we shake it up.”
In the drinks department, Anjuna’s colourful cocktail list is on par with the décor. Frank said he wanted to replicate the flavours of a tiki bar.
“I refuse to sell international cocktails like Cosmopolitan or Sex On The Beach. So I’ve based it around tropical cocktails like Tiki Puca Puca Mini Hula Juice or Long Island Iced Tea which we renamed Rabbit Island Iced Tea.”
Despite his eccentricities, Frank declares rather openly, (and shockingly) that he wasn’t always this way.
“I was a commodity broker but I found it boring just to trade other people’s money. A mushroom trip changed my life. Before July 1991, I loved Versace, I loved Armani, but after I took my first load of magic mushrooms, I was more interested in nature and music. There was no way back.”
After that, Frank said he went to Goa for the first time, a place he returned to with his then girlfriend, and now wife of one year, Anne.
“My mother was a hippie so I was looking for a part of this tradition. When I arrived there it felt like home, but then it was strange for me that the government tried to cut this tradition. Imagine someone stopped people smoking ganga in Jamaica? Well in India, they stopped the hippies.”
It is this lifestyle that Frank and Anne so passionately want to recreate here in their “party place.”
Despite the raucous reputation of trance revellers and hippies, the couple are eager to let people know they come in peace.
“The neighbours like the music. It’s nothing aggressive or loud, we are looking for a very nice sound carpet. I would say it’s a mix between ambient music and psychedelic music, but it’s very very soft; then sometimes we’ll mix in some electronic music.
“As soon as the staff realised what we were doing here, when they saw the black lights and the fluoro colours, they started to use their initiative, so now it’s not a Goa or German-influenced trance venue, it’s international. I went to a Buddhist Luck celebration, and we all moved like we were at a trance party, it was a strange scene, all of us trance dancing to Khmer pop music. But really, there’s no difference.”