Shopping in Phnom Penh is a unique experience, different from the Malls of Asia. So there is one Mall, Aeon, and it is decent. And if you want to buy products unique to Cambodia, you will not find them in a Mall patterned after downtown Bangkok.
So, where do you go if you want to find a piece of one of the world's great cultures in a city that begs you to explore? Hit the streets and some of these top places to shop:
The Markets in Phnom Penh
1. The Russian Market
If you only have time for one shopping experience, go straight to the Russian market. There, you will find a chaos of stalls selling souvenirs and Cambodiana.
The alleys are narrow, the noise is all around you, and it is hot, but it is a great experience and a real piece of Asia that tourism has not ruined yet. Several NGOs sell their products there, from bags to scarves to accessories, especially those made of silver.
Aside from the local products, many of the overruns or rejects from the garment factories and even the fabrics they have not used find their way to the market, so branded products are everywhere though you have to be careful as many of these are fakes. A brand-new Rolex for $12 is not a bad deal.
2. Central Market
Foreigners love this market better. The aisles are more significant than the ones in the Russian Market so you can rummage around here for clothes, shoes (lots of these in the shoe alleys), souvenirs, food, and houseware.
Inside the Art Deco Rotunda, you can find watches, speakers, phones, sunglasses, and jewelry, the provenance of which I cannot tell you.
For fabrics, they are often designer tagged, and if you like one, don't go any further. Many of these are ends of fabric rolls from factories.
Haggle and buy as, most likely, you will not find these when you get back there except, of course, for fabrics hand-woven in Cambodia, which range from cotton to silk or organza. The silk may not be the same quality as the Thais, but they have beauty and a unique weave.
You can explore several other markets, such as the Night Market, O'Russei, and Kandal. There are also smaller ones and for local color, much more interesting.
Shopping Streets in Phnom Penh
3. St. 240
If you have more time, hit Street 240. Lined up, some stores sell NGO products. There is evidence of more modern designs in clothing and accessories. Of course, it is more expensive than the Russian market, but worth it.
4. St. 178
This is often referred to as the Art Street. Lined up along each side are stores selling some really interesting paintings. In some of them, you will find the artist doing his work.
Aside from painting, several of the stores make and sell traditional sculptures. In fact, along the street, you will find some wood artists doing fine and beautiful work.
St. 178 also has many small boutiques that sell silk accessories. My two favorites are Happy Silk and Ta Phrom, and a big smile will greet you as you enter either.
Further on St. 178 is Ambre (House #37), the boutique of Romyda Keth, the famous Cambodian designer. Here you can find clothes and accessories for special occasions. The store also has a section for home decor.
There is, of course, the BKK1 area, the home of all the consulting community after the Pol Pot era. St. 63 has the Khmer Surin store with colorful cotton clothes and accessories for yourself and your home. Smateria has beautifully designed bags of netting material, old flour, and rice sacks.
In BKK is St. 278, and there are tiny boutiques like Luna where they display linen and cotton clothes at reasonable prices.
They can customize whatever designs attract you. You can also bring your fabric and design or choose from their materials stock, and they will make it for you. Bring one of your favorite dresses from your wardrobe and have them make you another in a local fabric.
Specialty Stores in Phnom Penh
6. Cambodia Knits
It is at House 52A, Street 464 in Toul Tom Poung neighborhood. It is a five-minute walk from the Russian market.
Here you can find the hand-knit and hand-crochet treasures of Beebee+Bongo and other products knitted in Cambodia, such as their Apsara or Hanuman dolls. They make products ethically and safety certified to global standards.
Cambodia Knits is a provisional World Fair Trade Organization member, and you can purchase their items on their global site.
7. Goel Community
For hand-woven fabric dyed naturally, visit the Goel Community display in #206. St. 12 BT, Sangkat Boeung Tompun, Khna Meanchey, Phnom Penh, where you can buy products made from these fabrics.
Products range from baby's clothes, sheets, and other home products, to men's and women's clothes, scarves, and slippers.
8. Artisans d'Angkor
In front of the National Post Office is Artisans d'Angkor, where you can get the highest quality silk and traditional Cambodian carvings. You may have to pay more, but the quality of the products is exceptional.
There are many more stores in Phnom Penh selling products worth bringing back. Here's a list for you to check out:
Silk Island Close to Phnom Penh
If you love silk and want to buy more silk fabrics, visit Silk Island. It is not far from Phnom Penh, and the tours are many, so you can see the ones who weave the fabrics. It is a beautiful experience and will build a story around your purchase.
You can go there on your own by taking the ferry. You will find the terminal at the back of the Himawari Hotel. Once you get to the island, you can rent a motorbike or tuk-tuk to take you to the weaving places. This part of Phnom Penh is still rural, and the ferry ride is quite an experience.
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