In Cambodia the checkered scarf or krama is the ‘first
souvenir’, that one local item that every visitor
seems to acquire almost instantly. It is a cheap, very Khmer and
very useful way to keep the tropical sun off the back of your neck.
Other popular souvenirs:
Boxes come in many different shapes and sizes and are often
animal shaped. These pounded silver souvenir containers were once
used in religious ceremonies and daily life to keep betel leafs.
Betel is a mild stimulant and it is chewed. In rural areas you may
see people with teeth stained deep red from years of chewing betel
leafs. Today the boxes are made as souvenirs and are still hand
crafted by local artisans.
Cambodian Silk is still handmade by using traditional
ikat methods and styles. The patterns are dyed into the threads
before the silk is woven. This process of dying and weaving a single
piece can take several weeks. There is still no automated silk weaving
in Cambodia, so it is all hand woven. Older silk weaves (pre-1970)
are prized for their detail and quality but newer silks apparently
match that quality. The boutiques and curio shops around the Russian
and Central Markets sell new silks and several stalls inside the
Russian Market have a good selection of new and old silks.
Gems. Western Cambodia is a good source of colored
stones, particularly emeralds, rubies
and sapphires, and there are dozens of gem dealers
in Phnom Penh. The Central Market has an amazing supply and Russian
Market has its share of dealers as well. But be careful, knowing
something about gems and/or the seller before spending much is wise
Statues and carvings are popular,
distinctively Cambodian, but a bit to heavy for souvenirs. The bronze
busts of ‘The Leper King’ and carved
wood apsaras are some of the more popular items.
The quality of wood carvings varies greatly so shop around before
buying. Higher quality carved furniture, antique Chinese
furniture and art deco furniture can be found at some boutiques.
Newer furniture can also be found in shops along Monivong Boulevard
south of Street 466.
The selection of souvenirs in the markets in Phnom Penh and Siem
Reap town offer a very similar choice of souvenirs. The markets
are much bigger and there is a greater array of boutiques and specialty
shops in the capital. Phnom Penh's Russian Market
is the best traditional market for souvenirs but Central
Market has a wider range of items such as temple guide
books, postcards andT-shirts.
shops can also be found at the main hotels such
as the InterContinental, Le Royal,
Cambodiana and Sunway.
Several local shops sell wood
carvings, silks, silver, and curios. These usually focus more on
traditional souvenirs. There are a few shops along Street
178 and Sothearos near the National Museum,
and on Monivong near Phsar Thmei. More contemporary
as well as traditional items can be found at specialty boutiques
and art galleries. They often have higher quality items and a more
specialized, sometimes interesting selection. A number of boutiques
and galleries are dotted along Street 178
and 240, selling fine silks, modern
and Euro-Asian designed creations.
Central Market or Psah Thmei
This unique Phnom Penh art deco style building
was completed in 1937 and is a landmark. The entrance is filled
with merchants hawking everything from postcards and T-shirts to
krama's and silver curios. Inside you can find displays of jewels
and gold. You can also purchase everything from electronic goods,
stationery, 2nd-hand clothes and flowers. (The proper name is Psah
Thmei which means ‘New Market’, but it is widely known
as the ‘Central Market’.)
Market or Psah Toul Tom Poung
For a more interesting and varied
selection of souvenirs such as curios and silks,
then a visit here is a must. It also carries a wide selection of
CDs, videos, fabric, electronic goods, etc. Most visitors tend to
stick to the south end but the rest of the market is well worth