Shop till you drop
What we say:
If you like to shop, you'll be totally in your element in Siem Reap. Be it a scarf for a dollar or a replica statue of Jayavarman VII for a couple of grand, you'll be able to find what you're after.
For down and dirty souvenirs, the Old Market in the heart of the tourist area is a good place to start. Surrounding it is a good selection of boutique and handicraft stores. Prices vary tremendously and while many places boast of all profits going to the artisans that manufacture the goods, sometimes it's a bit difficult to stomach when you see the mark-ups involved -- so shop around. Local pepper, coffee and tea are also very popular -- we're big advocates of Kampot pepper, but have found the coffee not nearly as satisfying. Other popular items include silk, wood, stoneware and clothing -- T-shirts with cute slogans and faux-vintage images abound. There's also a growing selection of rip-off brands.
Books are available at Blue Apsara (near Old Market), or D's Books (opposite the Provincial Hospital) for secondhand or photocopied stuff, or Monument Books (on Pokambor) for the real deal and an excellent selection of books on Cambodia and Angkor. Magazines can be found here too, as well as at Angkor Market.
For non-touristy stuff, the best shopping areas are Alley West and The Lane. Here you'll find a range of clothes, accessories and decor shops that offer excellent quality and value, with vibrant, creative designs. Mekong Quilts on Sivatha merits a mention for the high quality of their products and design values. It's pricey, but at least it's a non-profit, and you have to love the audacity of selling quilts in the tropics.
Cambodia is a photographer's paradise, and there is a range of outlets offering photographic works that make a perfect momento to take home. There are McDermott Galleries on The Passage and the FCC Complex, where the renowned photographer's works are available, as well as, at The Passage gallery, a range of works by other photographers. Other sources of photographic works include the ArtDeli on Alley West, Thierry Divo gallery beside Old Market, and loads of the bars and cafes in town as well.
If you've got money to spend, then the FCC Complex is definitely worth checking out for the high-end shops there. Jasmine Boutique sells impossibly romantic, silk dresses and outfits, Eric Raisina's colourful designs are a treat (and can be seen at the New York and Paris fashion shows), Wanderlust has a shop here that offers more upscale options than the Alley West store, and Wa is a design shop with an impressive range of items, from the kitsch to the stunning.
If you're in a hurry and don't object to the prospect of being swamped by the disgorged contents of 10 busloads of tourists, you could head to the Artisans d'Angkor. The prices here are high relative to the quality, but it does have convenience on its side which makes the experience about as pleasant as battling your way around a large supermarket on a Saturday morning during the holidays. But sometimes, convenience is what counts.
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