You can be forgiven for thinking that Siem Reap already has a surfeit of markets, although you might be hard pushed to distinguish one from the other. However the Made in Cambodia Market is absolutely worth your time. Aside from the colourful, original array of food, art, clothing, homewares, cosmetics, toys, jewellery and more, its chief defining characteristic is, as the name suggests, that everything sold here is made in Cambodia. This is in stark contrast to every other market in town, where the majority of the wares sold are generic junk made in China, Vietnam or Thailand.
During the high season, the market is open Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursdays from 16:00 till 21:00. It will likely go back to two nights a week during the low season. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details.
With the friendly ambiance of an urban farmers’ market, complete with traditional live music, upmarket street food stalls, and a rooftop acrobatic circus act no less, Made in Cambodia is now a firm favourite for visitors in the know.
Its central location on leafy Oum Khun Street – home of the Shinta Mani hotels, and only a 10-minute walk from the Old Market area – makes it easily accessible for most visitors. Wander along for a spot of browsing and shopping before your evening meal, or take a leisurely stroll among the stalls after dinner when temperatures are more likely to be cooler.
While “locally made” can sometimes be a euphemism for “justifiably more expensive”, with more than 40 stalls offering a broad range of products there is probably something to suit every budget and most tastes. And the number keeps growing.
At the lower end you could bag yourself a knitted sugar-banana key-ring for just $1, a small painted bottle of worryingly more-ish Sombai infused rice liqueur for $6, or a quirky costume-ring made from natural seeds for $5.
If you want to invest a little more into your Cambodian mementos, you might fall for a carved rosewood elephant for $39, or a fabulously extravagant seed necklace from Graines de Cambodge for $50. World renowned designer Eric Raisina also has a stall where you can pick up Cambodian silk scarves from $19, a cheeky half-moon shaped clutch bag for $65, or a large brightly coloured silk organza shawl for $199.
Social enterprises and NGOs are also well represented so you can double your dose of feel-good by buying for a good cause as well as supporting Cambodian artisans. Friends International offers some original purses, wallets, bags and document cases all made from recycled newspapers and packaging, and priced from around $5. And Japanese anti-trafficking NGO, The Kamonoheshi Project, has a range of woven goods all priced between $1 and $7. At $7 the wine bottle holder is almost irresistible.
The Silk Screen Printing Lab — where Angelina Jolie really did take her kids to spend the day creating their personally designed T-shirts — is a social enterprise that sells a humorous range of T-shirts from $5.75 with their own (mostly) Cambodia-inspired and utterly irreverent takes on some popular global brand logos. Their London Underground-style maps of Cambodia and the Angkor Temples also make a witty gift, priced from $9.75.
If all that retail therapy gives you an appetite there are a couple of food stalls run by reputable Siem Reap restaurants where you can satisfy your hunger. One is run by social enterprise Green Star, which trains and employs former street kids, specialises in traditional Khmer cuisine and also has a popular and informal restaurant in the Wat Damnak area of town. A second stall is run by The Sugar Palm which is reputed to serve the best amok in town. If liquid refreshment is more your thing, there is an attractive drinks pavilion with sunshades and wooden furniture alongside the Bay Inn Hotel.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.