Monday, June 27, 2005. Our Bar « Le Jovial Jaraï » was voted « Best Bar in the Middle of Nowhere » by Time Magazine in its Best of Asia edition 2005.
« Le Jovial Jarai would have few customers were it not for the Soviet-built, twin-propeller Antonovs that skid down the nearby gravel runway every other day, disgorging their payloads of aid workers, officials and the occasional tourist. The unpaved roads-which are nothing more than gullies of red dust in the dry season and rutted mud traps in the wet-certainly don’t bring in much business. Neither would you expect a lot of walk-in traffic here in sleepy Banlung, capital of Cambodia’s northeastern Ratanakiri province. But its up-country isolation is part of the beauty of this bar and restaurant-and getting here is not just a journey in space but time as well. Neither Conrad nor Coppola could have improved upon Le Jovial Jarai, part of the Terres Rouges Lodge owned by former French paratrooper Pierre-Yves Clais, and decorated with antiques. Sitting beneath the swaying lamps, it’s easy to imagine the phantoms of linen-suited planters flitting across the gardens. Or to reflect that while the French, like the other colonial powers, bequeathed many questionable legacies to Asia in the name of civilization, a restorative glass of Pastis is still a gift to be savored. »
by Kevin Doyle