I have covered the hostess bars of Phnom Penh in some detail over the last few years but the growth in the scene can be difficult to keep up with. While my attentions were turned to other parts of the world over the last few years the number of bars in Phnom Penh doubled! For the most part I only review individual hostess bars if there is something interesting or peculiar about them as was the case with Moe’s. The similarly named Mao’s Club also fits that standard.
Mao’s Club was transformed from a disco style club into a hostess bar a few years ago. That can probably be deduced from the name or even the layout of the place. Speaking of the layout Mao’s Club has to be the biggest hostess bar in all of Phnom Penh. In fact it is one of the biggest bars of any kind in the city. It is surely the only Mao Tse-tung themed hostess bar in the country and probably the world though that seems to have simply been carried over from the old business despite the new ownership. Mao’s Club is the only bar in Phnom Penh with its own specialized set of dancers. Plus it has table football!
Located one floor up off the street and overlooking both the riverside and the nearby Night Market through large windows the bar takes up quite a lot of room. Still the management did manage to fill it all up. There is an upper level with a mini and full sized pool table. Along one wall is a row of darts machines. In another corner is a worn down but usable pool table. Then there is a long bar, a premium whiskey display, cushioned booths, and lots and lots of tables and chairs.
All of that alone would hardly be enough to lure in a lot of customers though. Just ask whoever was trying to run the place as a club. That’s where the hostesses come in. At Mao’s Club there are many on staff. Mao’s is also one of the last hostess bars in the city to have a sizeable percentage of Vietnamese women working. With the current climate I don’t know how long that will last but for the last several years gals with Vietnamese heritage have been in the bar work alongside their Khmer coworkers so superficially at least everything seems to be A okay.
I don’t know how many women actually work at Mao’s Club but I would have to guess the number approaches thirty. The bar officially opens at 5:00 pm but the ladies don’t seem to show up in real numbers until around seven. Once they are there however the space quickly fills up with the buzzing of dozens of women who range in age from early twenties to early thirties. Looks of the ladies range from average to quite beautiful though even the less attractive ladies really seem to know how to dress and apply cosmetics for the ultimate effect.
Drinks at Mao’s are only slightly more expensive than those at some of the other bars around town but at $3.75 a glass for a lady drink the difference is almost inconsequential. The atmosphere is fun and lively when things start going with all kinds of games being played and people having a good time. There is also a kitchen with a rather full menu on premises and another restaurant downstairs that delivers right inside the bar.
On top of that the bar is surrounded on all sides by screens that play various sports from around the world. In that way it is something like a sports bar too though I don’t know many local sport pubs with movie projectors installed on premises.
There is even a team of four ladies who dance on a schedule that I haven’t quite figured out. It seems that they get on the small stage or break into their routine in the middle of the floor every thirty minutes or so but I can’t be sure.
While these good looking gals aren’t naked Thai go go dancers they aren’t much different from the pretty and popular coyote dancers that seem to have taken over some bars in Bangkok’s Soi Cowboy. In reality they are the same kinds of dancers sometimes called into Ho Chi Minh City hostess bars to help drum up business but the gals at Mao’s Club seem to be a lot more friendly. Either that or they just enjoy making money off of lady drinks.
The bar fine at Mao’s Club is $10 USD which is standard for the city. Some of the women are more eager than others to leave the bar with customers though others don’t leave at all with anyone. That is more or less the name of the game in these kinds of bars though so that part of Mao’s at least isn’t out of the ordinary.
Mao’s Club, Corner Street 106 & Sisowath Quay (riverside), Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Open every day from 5:00 pm to 1:00 AM.