Why I Didn’t Get a Bar Job in Sihanoukville

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One reason why I returned to Sihanoukville is because I loved it – my ultimate backpacker beach paradise, the land of all-night parties and 50-cent beers and awesome backpackers from all over the world.

I also realized that I was running low on cash and had to start living a lot more cheaply if I was going to make it to the end of my trip. Sihanoukville was a place where I could live very well for very cheap, and where there were a lot of bar jobs.

Yes, I was ready to become a bartender.  Or at least a professional party-starter.

And for me, there was only one place in Sihanoukville worthy of my employment: JJ’s Playground. JJ’s is the one place where all the backpackers end up at the end of the night.  It’s the hottest place in town, so for me, there was no other option!

I went over to JJ’s right away to find out the details.

Hey,” I said to the owner, Jason.  “Remember me?  We met in Koh Phi Phi, and then I came here a few months later…

Hey, Boston!” he replied.  Awesome.

I’m looking for work,” I told him.  “I’d like to work here.  What’s the deal?

Within five minutes, I was offered the job.

Working at JJ’s is like working at many bars in Southeast Asia party destinations. You pass out fliers for half an hour during the afternoon and two hours or so in the evening, then either work behind the bar or just hang out all night.  Your job is to mingle and make sure everyone’s having a great time.

As for compensation, you don’t get paid – but you get free lodging, free food, and free drinks. Throw in JJ’s free WiFi and you have everything you could possibly need.

You can start today if you’d like,” Jason told me.

And I froze.

I, um, it’s my last few days with my friends.  Could I maybe start in a few days?

Sure.  Just come on by, Boston.

Great.  Thanks.

It was perfect.  So why couldn’t I bring myself to accept the job right then and there?

You realize that taking a job means you actually have to do work, right, Kate?” I whispered to myself sarcastically.  But it wasn’t that.

After thinking about it for awhile, it hit me –

I didn’t want to sleep on top of a bar that regularly goes until 5:00 AM or even later. I didn’t want to share a bed with another girl (though, to be fair, they said they would be fixing the bed situation soon).

But most of all, I didn’t want to be obligated to hang out in the same bar all night, every night.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love JJ’s. It’s one of my favorite bars in all of Southeast Asia.

But as much of a party girl as I am, this was too much – even for me.

And that was hard to admit.


Well, I was lucky – some freelance opportunities had just come in. As all freelancers know, the dry spells are awful, but when it rains, it pours.  And thankfully, it was currently pouring – a few site ads and a big writing project had just fallen into my lap.

I would work in Sihanoukville – just as a hobo professional blogger.

I used my second stint in Sihanoukville to hole up at my beloved Monkey Republic, live on $15 per day, and write my brains out.  I’d regularly work from the morning until late in the night.  I wouldn’t even go to JJ’s.  And I got SO much done.

I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to work in a bar on this trip, either in Sihanoukville or Vang Vieng.  It would have been fun, and there definitely would have been some interesting moments.  Like the one below:

“IT’S A SATCHEL!”

(Winning caption for this picture in the contest on my Facebook Page.  Congrats, David.  ;-))

So I didn’t get to be a bartender…but to be a professional blogger has been my dream since I was 18.  And this isn’t a bad gig, either.

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25 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Get a Bar Job in Sihanoukville”

  1. Congrats on pursuing your dream as a writer, Kate. Tough gig, but patience pays off….truly. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures. (BTW, LOVE the caption idea).

  2. That MonkeyRepublic link really caught my eye. What a great looking hostel and so cheap! The wife and I just added Cambodia to our list of must see destinations based partly off just this… And being able to write instead of bartend sounds like a much better “job.”

  3. We can totally understand why you didn’t take the job at JJ’s. Sleeping at a place where the party keeps going until 5am every single night just makes you crazy after a while. I worked as a bartender in a party place for one summer, but hell, I wouldn’t have wanted to sleep there – I was happy to fall in my own bed every night 🙂

    Glad you picked up some writing gigs, hope they keep coming your way!

  4. Such a good choice! Even if it makes your budget a little tighter, this is your time to do your thing, and it would be a shame to let bartending stand in the way of the things you REALLY want to do, like be with your friends or be free to explore.

    Keep on rocking it!
    🙂 Kate

  5. congrats Kate! that would be my dream too! i hope to do something special as you are doing now! i’m so happy for you and your good choice 🙂

  6. JJ’s “unpretentious” overloaded, unsafe booze cruise boat sank yesterday, 3km out to sea, dumping almost 100 tourists in the ocean. There was not enough safety equipment on board, not even enough life jackets. Thankfully it appears at this point that there were no deaths, though there were injuries and everybody lost everything they had. Hopefully, when everybody is accounted for, nobody is still missing. This is third-world folks, where wanton disregard for life and safety is something of the norm. THINK before you act. You are not in Kansas anymore.

    I think I’m going to go do some beachcombing for iPhones today.

    1. Hey Jason! Am in Vietnam, mui ne currently been here running the promotions and events for the past 7weeks…. my time hereEis done and wanna see Cambodia!

      … is there a job for me ?! 🙂 xxx

  7. HEY just wondering if you could help out with some other places around S.E. Asia that a re good for backpackers to work in. I worked on Koh Phi Phi for a year, it was a blast! Now after 6 months off, i’m ready to do it all again.

  8. Hey…ran across your post while looking for contact details for JJ’s. Agree with you in everything on this post as I was doing the same. I shoot for Lonely Planet and some travel companies and holed up in the Monkey Republic for months editing photo’s and living on $20-$25 per day.
    Was awesome and they are my favorite bars as well (although I preferred Dolphin Shack over JJ’s but they both were awesome).
    I so wanted to bartend as well but it was so cheap I opted to do the whole time on my own schedule instead as well.
    Thanks for sharing and great to find somebody who was pretty much thinking the same thing as I was!

  9. Katie, I am moving to Sihanoukille this january and am looking to work at a bar. any other spots besides JJ’s youd recommend?

  10. Hey 🙂

    I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, and you’ve definitely inspired me to step off the beaten path a little when I go to Southeast Asia in the New Year, so thanks for that… Now I’m going to be really cheeky… I am planning on stopping in Sihanoukville for about a month at the end of March, and I was wondering if you could possibly put me in touch with your Jason who offered you the job? I have worked on bars before and absolutely love it, plus it will really help me to be able to spend my pennies elsewhere… I know it is really cheeky as you don’t really know me AT ALL, but if you don’t ask you don’t get so I thought I’d go for it 🙂 Hoping to hear back from you soon.

    GabriellaSofia x

  11. What was the salary, a dirty mattress on top of the bar, free booze and a few lines of ketamine?
    I saw so many young people fall in to addictions down there, but hey shit happens doesn´t it?

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