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Last updated : Oct 2007
Phnom Penh Shopping
Phnom Penh Shopping Guide - TravelPuppy.com
What to Buy

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:

Silver 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 advice.

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.

Where to Buy

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.

Souvenir 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 Cambodian art,sculptures 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’.)

Russian 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 exploring.
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