It’s a bargain-hunter’s paradise.
If you like exercising your bargaining skills, you are going to love the markets of Cambodia! There are so many unique souvenirs you can buy that can only be found in this country. If you learn a few Khmer words, it may even help you get a discount as well. Here are some of the things I would recommend to buy for friends, family, significant others, or even yourself:
The krama is a traditional Cambodian scarf that comes in multiple colors, designs, and sizes. Small sizes can be used as a scarf, while the bigger ones may even be used as a towel. Every Cambodian local owns one of these, and it is a classic gift to give someone back home, especially if it gets cold where they are! For the tourists, some kramas even have the Cambodian flag sewn into them.
2. Cambodian Skirts or Tie-up Pants
These items of clothing are the perfect gifts unique specifically to Cambodia! The tie-up pants are a personal favorite, but initially a little difficult to put on! Be sure to have your seller teach you how to do it yourself. These come in all different colors, from vibrant pink to a breezy white. Best of all, these items are truly free size, so you can walk in the Cambodian humidity without the icky feeling of sweat and dirt clinging to your legs.
3. Soaps and Candles
It is easy to come across handmade soaps and candles. Not only this, but they can come in unique smells only found in Cambodia, such as Khmer curry and Kampot pepper. One place you can find these beautiful smells is Senteurs d’Ankor of Siem Reap. Another plus: the packaging they use is recyclable and sustainable, which is hard to come by in a developing nation like Cambodia!
4. Hand-carved Sculptures
Buying handcrafted sculptures is one of the best ways you can support the Cambodian economy. Businesses like Artisans Angkor of Siem Reap specifically hire young people in rural areas, and aim to give them fair wages and working conditions. They are also known to hire the disabled, including the blind, deaf, or mute, as it is very difficult for these people to find labor jobs. When I say hand-carved sculptures, I do not mean the $3 sculptures at the market that were definitely made by machine. What makes these so special is that it directly helps the Cambodian people and encourages fair treatment of employees. Heads up: because this provides adequate labor treatment and pay, bargaining does NOT apply here!
5. Silver Items
Cambodia sells silver everything: silver pendants, jewelry boxes, earrings, and silverware. My personal favorite is the decorated silver cups that serve as a mini-jewelry box, pounded by hand to have the lid line up exactly with the cup. You can find various local shops that sell silver in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and countryside villages.
Celine spent 6 weeks in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.