Shopping in Phnom Penh can be an exciting exploration through the diverse markets, shops, and malls of all kinds. No matter whether you are looking for souvenirs or items of daily use, you will be able to find them without too much trouble.
The local currency is the Riel but most shops show prices in US dollars and will gladly accept them. Credit cards will work in many shops and almost all hotels, but make sure to hit the ATM before you wander through a market.
Phnom Penh has three major markets and is covered top to bottom in small shops. This article will narrow the choice to a few must-see stops to get your shopping adventure started.
Souvenirs and Handicrafts
The last 15 years has seen a boom in arts and handicraft production in Cambodia. Political stability and government programs have re-inspired the artists of the Khmer. Below are some items to look out for.
Statues and Carvings
Hand-carved statues and word carvings are becoming increasingly popular around Phnom Penh. These carvings range from trinkets to masterpieces, and the price tags will show a similar variance.
It is recommended that you do not start buying crafts the first moment you step off the plane. Spend some time shopping around so you can get a feel for which carvings are in the authentic Phnom Penh style and which might be imitations.
If an original is not something you are especially cherishing, you can pick up a cheap, molded statuette at any market around the city. For nicer pieces head to the Central Market or one of the shops mentioned below.
Silk and Textiles
One of the Cambodian government's first initiatives to support artists was to make a push to bring back weaving and textile production. The Krama is a Cambodian style scarf that is becoming popular all around the world thanks to these initiatives.
Today, Cambodian textiles like the Krama are becoming hot commodities and can range from next to free to quite expensive. Head to the Russian Market for some of the best Kramas in town.
Other than these scarf-like pieces, Cambodian silk is becoming more and more popular. You can purchase huge amounts of high quality silk for almost nothing, compared to western prices. Take it home by the bolt or head to a local tailor to make the most of your cloth purchases.
Wrought Silver and Jewelry
Not everyone would think of Cambodia when they think about shopping for silver and jewelry. However, the Cambodian government allows for the unregulated sale of precious metals. This means that prices of gold and silver can go lower than in most western countries, especially if you know how to bargain.
Most places that sell silver jewelry will accept credit cards and can offer certificates of authenticity. This is always recommended. This said, in many of the markets you will see craftsmen pounding and engraving silver earrings and bracelets, some of which can be purchased for next to nothing.
Shops in Phnom Penh
There are a number of fine shops around Phnom Penh that specialize in different arts, crafts, and merchandise. Asia Highlights have picked some artist collective shops for you, if you are looking for souvenirs to bring back home.
The Artisans D'Angkor is an artist collective with three locations and thousands of pieces from numerous artists on display. If you are passionate about buying (or just looking at) some of the finest crafts and Cambodian art in the country then you must make a stop here.
The collective was started in 1999 to help young artists receive payment for their work that they could use to support themselves and their families. This is still the main mission of the Artisans today, so you can feel good about a purchase here.
The staff is well trained and helpful and can explain the production methods used by the artists. The main gallery focuses on Cambodian crafts, so you can get a feel for what handicrafts are uniquely Cambodian and which ones are uniquely from Phnom Penh.
Location: Stung Thmey Street, Downtown Siem Reap, +855 (0) 89 624 686
Asasax Art Gallery
If Artisans D'Angkor is too heavy on the crafts and you prefer something flatter and more suited for wall hanging, then Asasax is your stop. This high-end, modern gallery reflects the artistic abilities of the locals in a genuinely western setting.
The staff is impressively well trained and the art both, heartwarming and breathtaking. If you are serious about Cambodian art and want an opportunity to meet or interact with the artist, then this is the gallery for you.
Location: N. 192, Preah Ang Makhak Vann (St. 178), opposite the north-east entrance of the National Museum, 12206 Phnom Penh
ASPARA is an all-round gallery that specializes in Cambodian art and textiles. ASPARA offers competitive pricing and has honest and fair practices, so you can rest assured that the artist is making their dues.
Much of the art in ASPARA showcases are scenes of daily life and traditional Cambodian culture. Their showroom feels like a stop in a museum of Cambodian history, as the walls seem to be alive with different pictures of local life.
Location: Directly across from Kapco Market on Street 9.
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