Shopping isn’t the first thing that springs to mind in connection with Cambodia’s capital, but Phnom Penh is fast becoming a retail hub with ultra modern malls, design emporiums and artisan boutiques!
Taking their lead from nature’s gifts since 2008, Bambou Indochine (St.178) products are made from, yep, you guessed it, bamboo! The boutique specialises in natural fibres, including 100% cotton and silk – a much welcome break from sweat-inducing synthetics – so pick your favourites and breath easy! The international-standard quality and head-turning designs will keep those souvenir togs and resortwear distinctly chic beyond Cambodia. Psst, they do international delivery!
For a glimpse of Cambodia’s lost heritage, save the trip to the Museum for another day, and instead raid the treasure trove of lacquer, wood and stone carvings, ceramics, silk works and garments, not to mention quality Cambodian silverwork, at Artisans Angkor (St.13). You’ll also be shopping in the name of a good cause: improving livelihoods by providing training and work for around 1,100 Cambodian men and women who are employed by the social enterprise.
At Bodia Cambodian Apothecary (St.178/St.278), you can treat yourself to a takeaway pampering with an all-natural range of products, including balms to soothe and invigorate heat parched and insect ravaged skins. Wash away the fatigue (or is that dust?) with rice scrubs good enough to eat, then discover the magic in traditional herbal compresses and lush massage oils. Unwind in the comfort of your own home away from home or head to Bodia Spa (Sothearos Blvd), a cocoon of calm in the city. And don’t forget to grab some natural mosquito repellent on your way out!
Want your goods to do good again? Distribute your dollar to craftswomen from disadvantaged backgrounds by buying some eco-friendly cottons, children’s toys and more at NGO Daughters of Cambodia along Sisowath Quay. It exists to empower those trapped in the sex industry in Cambodia to walk free and start a new life, with healing, dignity, and the means to prosper.
Phnom Penh may not be the best place to sniff around, but wandering down St.178 may have your nose drawn in to Senteurs d’Angkor. Their handmade soaps and scents are an affordable luxury – especially if the sun and soap at your hotel are making your skin see red! Let the senteur (that’s scent to non-Francophones) from their spice and aromatic section set you adrift in fields of fragrant jasmine, orchids or earthy bowers of cinnamon. Did we mention the tantalising local honey, coffee and rice brandy in their delicatessen? Another feast for the senses.
For those that are in need of some extra pep in their step, family-owned Starling Farm (St.172) are one of the top producers of the famous Kampot pepper, and carry other GI-protected products to tingle the taste buds when you get back home.
Singaporean retailers Pedro on Sihanouk Blvd sells smart shoes, belts, handbags, and wallets, although ties are their speciality.
Over on St.155 near Russian Market, WExport brings together brands like Dockers, Gap and Benetton across four floors at a fraction of the RRP – if you can’t get no (retail) satisfaction here, you’re beyond help.
If new-to-you is plenty new enough, they you should check out Lost’n’Found Vintage Store on St.63. Carrying a hand-picked selection of threads and accessories fresh from Italy, France and Hong Kong, with new items arriving quicker than bags on the priority baggage carousel and at a snip of what you’d pay back home, why not unearth some buried treasure today?
Fancy giving the kiss of life to once loved materials? Hit up Smateria, a social enterprise which produces and sells various kinds of bags and accessories made from common, upcycled and recycled materials such as fishing nets, recycled plastics, and recycled leather. Get all the elegance of Italian design, with the added durability and cool of Khmer craftsmanship reviving local fabrics, all without the hefty footprint.
Collect kudos at Tabitha on the corner of St.51 and St.360 for tracking down genuine Cambodian silk (precious little of all silk on sale is gathered and produced in the Kingdom). From bedding to tablecloths, bags to shawls, if its gorgeous silk you want, they’ve got it. Double kudos for contributing to Tabitha’s programme teaching artisans the fast disappearing craft of silkwork and other skills.
On St.63, Sorya Mall’s five floors are as jammed with genuine electronics, branded sportswear and entertainment outlets as they are with overzealous Khmer youths. Enough said, perhaps.
Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Then you simply must discover Couleurs d’Asie, a hidden gem of a design emporium on St.418. Once inside, marvel at the astounding range of custom-made home textiles in silk, organza and cotton, not to mention its suite of wellness products, jewellery, prêt-à-porter, bags… If you can’t find that perfect pressie here, give up and buy some rice brandy.
Japanese juggernaut Aeon Mall (Sothearos Blvd) has all the usual retail suspects from Asian and European brands. Should you feel a bit drained from all your frantic browsing, you can always stop by Aeon Mall’s supermarket on the ground floor and grab some delicious Salt ‘n Pepper Cookies to help raise your energy levels. Made with 100% Cambodian salt and pepper, the snacks are perfect gifts for yourself or for someone back home. You can also find them on sale at Green O Farm and Khmer Treasures stores.
If you’re really feeling famished, drop by the Hard Rock Cafe at the Exchange Square on St.106 for some authentic American cuisine, classy cocktails and live rock music at nighttime! Before you leave, make sure you check out the Rock Shop for men’s and women’s branded clothing and collectibles, including the classic Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts.
Natriya Home Silk (St.29) creates exquisite silk products to add beauty, color, and a touch of Cambodia to your home. The silk is 100% Mulberry silk, and hand woven here in the Kingdom, of which they are very proud of as they are passionate about promoting Cambodian made products. They produce home accessories including all bedding, sofa cushions, curtains, and other items, all in a variety of colourful designs.
Getting your shopping fix in Phnom Penh is not always a walk in the park. High temperatures can take their toll, so have refreshments handy and, unlike the traffic, take it slow and steady!
For more information on these and many more stores, go to www.pocketguide.asia.