Cambodia has a strong tradition of craftsmanship due to economic rehabilitation programs that were initiated in the 1980s, which offered the population incentives for this type of authentic work. Although Cambodia does not have large shopping malls, the central alleys that cross through Phnom Penh offer lots of different markets where you can find unique and charming antiques, handcrafted gifts, silks and silverware, as well as imitation goods. The best-known markets tend to be open at night, such as Sisowath Quay, the Olympic market (located next to the stadium), the Russian market and the Central Market. Another option is Siem Reap, which has a variety of souvenir markets in its centre and many beautiful handcrafted products that are made by the Angkor Crafts Association.
A custom found here, as in the rest of Southeast Asia, is haggling, so the cost always declines from the initial price tag.
Around Cambodia you will also see markets that sell authentic ancient relics; find these in the Russian market in Phom Penh. Hidden Treasures Antique Shop in Siem Reap offers charming and unique antiques, as does the Antique Village, although the prices of the latter are somewhat higher. Furthermore, the Central Market in Siem Reap has a great variety of stalls that offer antique treasures.
In every Cambodian flea market, you will see stalls selling clothing, much of which are imitations of big brands, although some authentic and handmade Cambodian articles are also available. Central Market in Siem Reap has a large collection of textiles, from t-shirts to dresses, bags, shoes and silk items. Around Phnom Penh and in the main market clothes are often sold at wholesale prices, meaning you can get a great bargain. In all instances, you have the opportunity of securing a real bargain due to the culture of bargaining in Cambodia.
Cambodia is not the ideal place to buy electronics or technology, as many products such as cameras, computers and mobile devices have similar prices as in the West. However, specialised stores do exist, especially in larger shopping centres such as Sorya or Aeon Mall in Phnom Penh, where you can also buy local sim cards if you need to.
Handicrafts are one of Cambodia’s most widespread economic activities. Throughout Cambodia there are many workshops where works are made from wood or gold and fabrics are treated to create unique designs. Most of these products can be found in many of the markets throughout cities such as Phom Penh and Siem Reap. Siem Reap is likely to have some of the most special crafts due to its proximity to the Artisan Association of Angkor, where locals carve motifs and figures, related to the old Khmer Empire, out of wood. Cambodian style furniture is also available, alongside items made from bamboo, costume jewellery and clothing. Because the area is quite popular with tourists, the prices can sometimes be a little high, but rest assured that the wares stand out for their authenticity and variety.
Gemstones are seen on sale in many of the main shops and markets in the cities of Cambodia, but to ensure that the stones are precious, always ask for an authentication certificate. One of the best regions in the country to find these is in Ratanakiri, a rural area where blue zircon mines are located. In other parts of the country, such as the capital Phon Penh, you can find several jewellers and merchants who trade in these beautiful stones, but be wary of prices that seem too good to be true, as they probably are!
Silk is one of Cambodia’s most prized products and its production is a long-standing millennial tradition, which was revived in the 80s and 90s. The Silk Farm of Angkor is one of the best places to visit to understand the process behind the finished product, and here you will watch in awe as more than 300 Cambodians work and dye the fabrics in a plethora of colours. At the top of the factory a shop sells all kinds of silk products such as clothing and decorative pieces. This is the best place to get the most authentic silk to take home.