By Liz Ledden. Article first published on Travelwire Asia, 6 January 2012.
IF you haven’t visited Cambodia then 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 jewellery. There’s a burgeoning fashion scene with both locals and expats producing innovative designs, a flourishing art scene and gorgeous homewares abound.
Phnom Penh’s premier shopping destination for fashionistas, Ambre features stunning, colourful clothing by Cambodia’s best known fashion designer, Romyda Keth. Situated in a French colonial era building, the shop is divided into colour coded rooms over two levels. In addition to evening dresses and stylish separates there’s a selection of menswear, childrenswear 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.
37 Street 178, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (0)23 217 935, open 10am-7pm Tues-Sun
Casual, cotton, cool clothing can be found at beautiful Bliss, a pitstop on Street 240 for stylish locals, expats and travellers for over 15 years now. Think floaty kaftans, breezy tops and light cotton sundresses with a focus on eclectic patterns, plus funky fabric bags, tropical chic quilts and cushions. If the gorgeous goods on offer weren’t enough, there’s an idyllic day spa onsite for a post shopping massage.
29 Street 240, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (023) 215 754, open 9am-9pm Mon-Sun
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 colours 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.
73 Street 240, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (0)23 223 103
An obligatory stop on any Phnom Penh site-seeing 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 colour 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.
Corner Street 163 and 444, Phnom Penh, open sunset to sundown 7 days
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 jewellery, 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 super cheap compared to some of the surrounding shops hawking similar wares.
13 Street 178, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (0)23 990 195, open 8am-9pm 7 days
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 Kampot province in Cambodia’s south, and is highly regarded for its fragrant, full flavour. In French colonial times it was coveted by Parisian chefs and is now being rediscovered by a new generation of travelling gourmands. Stop by this cute chocolate café to try some enveloped in dark chocolate, and be tempted by their other sweet offerings too.
35 Street 240, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (0)23 998 638