Nitrous Oxide otherwise known as “hippy crack” has been around for a long time, like a very long time. Since back in the 1700s in Great Briton, where the upper class would host No2 fueled house parties.
Surely in Cambodia, where laws don’t seem to exist and you can buy cannabis-laced pizza, Happy Balloons would be available at most bars like neighboring Vietnam?
A quick Google search returned results from a 2014 article which stated that only two bars in Phnom Penh sold the infamous Happy Balloons:
We weren’t sure if the article was still relevant – 2014 was a long time ago.
tl;dr: it's true, they're still the only places in Phnom Penh with No2 balloons in 2019.
In the name of research we jumped into a taxi and went on a fact finding mission to those two bars. Thankfully they’re just around the corner from each other.
Option #1 - Bluedog
The first thing we noticed after walking into Blue Dog was how dodgy it seemed. It's a nightclub for Cambodians – as two white westerners, we stuck out.
Things were about to get dodgier.
After we sat down a waitress came over and asked what we'd like. Thinking we were about to get knocked back and thought of as fools, we ask very quietly "do you have balloons?".
She started talking into a mic and sent us upstairs.
We waited here for what felt like eternity.
We weren't sure what the laws were in Phnom Penh when it came to Happy Balloons. We were starting to question our choices. Were we about to be arrested? Sold into sex slavery?
Seeing this sign certainly didn't help.
Finally an older lady appeared and lead us into a bedroom. We still had no idea what the fuck was happening.
The only thing missing was the sign saying "Welcome hostages and sex slaves".
Not all hope was lost. We spotted a massive No2 canister in the corner and our lovely hostess started filling up our balloons.
We receive our balloons and all of a sudden our hostess leaves the room. It's completely silent.
We aren't sure if were meant to make love on the bed or if were about to be raided. We sat there quietly trying to figure out what our next move should be when all of a sudden, the door opens and a VERY attractive young lady comes in.
We both look at each other and have the same thoughts:
- Is this a hooker for us? If so – nice!
- Do Happy Balloons come with a happy ending in Cambodia?
- Holy shit, this is going to be expensive.
Turns out she was just bringing in some Korean homies who also liked to party. Major disappointment.
Option #2 - Top Banana Guesthouse & Rooftop Bar
Just around the corner from Blue Dog is Top Banana.
After taking the couple flights of stairs, we reached the rooftop. There was a live band playing and lots of white people sitting around huffing on balloons. It feels like we just stepped into a new country. Everything is out in the open.
There's a sign for them on the wall!?
The canister is just behind the bar in plain sight with a bucket of rainbow balloons sitting next to it.
They have comfy lounges, loud music and flashing lights. This place knows what the people need.
How could it be that one place is so discrete/secret and the other is so open? Ahh Cambodia, never change.
The two options are polar opposites. I suggest checking out both it's a very quick walk. Start with Blue Dog – it requires more mental alertness.
Blue Dog: Check this place out if you want a memorable experience. You'll probably meet a few locals in the dodgy balloon room (you have huffing No2 in common, so that's a great conversation starter).
Top Banana: Check this place out if you're after live music and white people. The vibe here is less intense and closer to every other bar in Phnom Penh.