IF you haven’t visited Cambodia, shopping may not be one of the first things that spring to mind about this fascinating southeast Asian destination.
However, Cambodian silk is stunning, high-quality and often quite affordable, as is the silver jewelry. There’s a burgeoning fashion scene with both locals and expats producing innovative designs, a flourishing art scene and gorgeous home wares abound.
Phnom Penh’s premier shopping destination for fashionistas, Ambre, features stunning, colorful clothing by Cambodia’s best known fashion designer, Romyda Keth. Situated in a French colonial era building, the shop is divided into color-coded rooms over two levels. In addition to evening dresses and stylish separates, there’s a selection of menswear, children’s wear and more formal offerings for weddings and events. Romyda’s designs sell for much more in her overseas stores, so shopping for her designs on her home turf is a treat.
Casual cotton clothing can be found at beautiful Bliss, a pit stop on Street 240 for stylish locals, expats and travelers. Think floaty kaftans, breezy tops and light cotton sundresses with a focus on eclectic patterns, funky fabric bags, tropical chic quilts and cushions. If the gorgeous goods on offer weren’t enough, there’s an on-site day spa for a post-shopping massage.
Jasmine is another must-stop shop on Street 240’s strip of gorgeous boutiques. It features Cambodian silk and organza creations of the dressier variety, with beautiful silk shirt dresses in block colors a standout. It is highly priced for Cambodia with pieces in the US$100-$200 range, but for the workmanship and quality of materials used, it offers good value by western standards.
An obligatory stop on any Phnom Penh sightseeing circuit, the Russian Market is a shopping stalwart for several good reasons. It is cheap as chips (even before bargaining), it features brand-name clothing that has found its way to the market from the city’s many garment factories, it’s full of local character and color, and sells all manner of Cambodian trinkets, home décor, accessories and potential gifts. Look for local NGO Mith Samlanh’s ‘Too-It Too-it’ stall which sells funky objects made from things like newspapers and recycled rice bags.
A one-stop shop for Cambodian made souvenirs, Kravan House has a little bit of everything stashed inside an ubiquitous narrow shophouse. There’s a cabinet of covetable silver jewelry, silk bedspreads, handbags, carvings, and a rainbow of silk, cotton and organza scarves woven in the Cambodian countryside. The staff are friendly and prices here are cheap compared to some of the surrounding shops hawking similar wares.
Chocolate by the Shop
Belgian chocolate made in Cambodia has to be the ultimate east-west fusion dessert, especially if it’s their delicious Kampot pepper variety. The pepper used is from the Kampot province in Cambodia’s south, and is highly regarded for its fragrant, full flavor. In French colonial times, it was coveted by Parisian chefs and is now being rediscovered by a new generation of traveling gourmands. Stop by this cute chocolate café to try some enveloped in dark chocolate, and be tempted by their other sweet offerings too.