One of the advantages of travelling with like-minded friends is the peer support for shopping. Siem Reap is a small town but thanks to the influx of tourists, it has its fare share of markets and shops. We had enough time to sweat through all the markets and I can conclude, not surprisingly, that they all sell the same stuff! Some of it very nice though, and since you need to haggle for every dollar, it’s no bad thing to have a good look first. And by dollar I mean US dollar – all prices for foreigners are in USD so stock up on small notes.
The cocktail of one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the most famous tourist attractions seems to have produced some dubious enterprises. Many craft shops claim to be supporting the disabled and providing livelihoods for the poor in the countryside but judging from their mass-produced merchandise and fluctuating prices I would not buy the story.
Artisans d’Angkor is another story: the most reputable social enterprise involved in reviving the artisan tradition by promoting local crafts and training craftsmen and women. You can visit the workshops for a small contribution to your guide and purchase the high-end products in their air-conditioned showroom. The silks and carvings are gorgeous – but it did puzzle me that I found identical items sold at the market for about a third of the price.
Similar setup is to be found at Theam’s house, a short tuk-tuk ride away from town. Art gallery cum shop is stylish and staff friendly, head here if you fancy pop art style elephants or Buddhas.
The different night markets and the Old Market have pretty much the same selection. The biggest craze at the moment seems to be the upcycled concrete bags, that see a new life as accessories.
In addition to the usual pashminas and elephant shaped coin purses the Old Market has a few stalls selling “antiques” and the natural soaps pictured below.
Right across the street is Senteurs d’Angkor, a scented heaven from the sticky heat and peddling of the Old Market. Be sure to check out Alley West and the Lane just next to the Pub Street for little shops and bars.
In between the temples and all this shopping one must eat and drink coffee: see our recommendations here.