Best Shopping in Siem Reap
Shopping in Siem Reap can be a delight—from watching artisans at work in ateliers before you purchase their crafts, to getting fitted for affordable couture fashion, to buying handcrafted gifts at the Made in Cambodia market. We even enjoy the guilty pleasure of bargaining for tacky tourist trinkets at the markets. Start in the morning at the Old Market for the people-watching as much as the shopping, spend the day browsing boutiques and galleries, then finish at the lively night markets.
Packed with over 240 vendors selling hand-made Cambodian crafts, the night market of Siem Reap is hands-down one of the best places to pick up unique souvenirs. Established in 2007, and running well into the nighttime hours, the market holds an array of items from handmade tapestries to paintings, to carvings made of wood or stone. Plus, buying local keeps all proceeds within the community. Two of my all-time favorite t-shirts were picked up at this very market, just after I took this photo. And as with most worldly markets, you can definitely barter with the venders over the price. Cost for my two t-shirts (which have stood up much better than anything purchased in the States): $2. The feeling I get when I wear them: priceless.
Pub Street Area , Mondol 1 Village 284, 2 Thnou St, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
While cute souvenir shops and even haute couture boutiques exemplify the changing face of the retail scene in Siem Reap, the city’s famous Old Market remains a heady hub of traditional trade and commerce. Located right in the heart of town, Psar Chas is amply stocked with lots of things that you might want to buy—as well as plenty of things you probably do not. That said, perusing the labyrinthine aisles full of silverware, silks, handicrafts, spices, stone carvings, and other assorted ephemera is worth a couple hours of anyone’s time. Stay calm and haggle politely with a smile on your face, and you’re sure to find a bargain or two.
Old Market Bridge, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Passage is a lively pedestrian street in the heart of the Old Market District of Siem Reap lined with restaurants, pubs, hotels and galleries. I highly recommend the restaurant Chamkar for its Cambodian-French style vegetarian dishes that omnivores will love as well.
7 Hap Guan Street
Louise Loubatieres’ gorgeous light-filled little concept store on increasingly hip Hap Guan Street is one of those stores you can easily lose hours in. The fascinating shop is located in self-styled Kandal Village, a compact neighborhood of three parallel streets wedged between the French Quarter and Old Market area that has become an emerging shopping, eating and drinking district. The lovely Louise, who can often be found out the back of the shop baking or making a pot of tea, is of Cambodian, French, British, and Vietnamese heritage, and her ancestry is reflected in her impeccable taste and passion for arts, crafts, textiles and design objects from Southeast Asia, and her carefully curated selection of beautiful things. Unlike some of my favorite shops, Louise doesn’t limit herself to ‘made in Cambodia’ products, and won’t hesitate to source pretty things from places like Chiang Mai or the Mekong Delta if she discovers something special. Louise largely stocks homewares, from colorful lacquer bowls to textiles that can serve as table runners.
11A Hap Guan St, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
This unique concept store is crammed with distinctively Cambodian objects, from vintage shop signs typically found in rural Cambodia to hand-crafted wooden ox and buffalo carved by a farmer discovered by the owners of trunkh, art director and designer Douglas Gordon and Marianne Waller. Expect kitschy tea-towels featuring iconic symbols and sights, such as Angkor Wat, to quirky fish-printed travel pillows and Christmas stockings in the shape of elephant trunks. All the Cambodian made products are either found or designed by the owners or sourced locally. The shop is located on gritty albeit increasingly hip Hap Guan Street in an emerging shopping, drinking and eating area the local business owners have branded Kandal Village. It’s one of my favorite Siem Reap spots and despite its compact size you can while away hours here.
National Highway 6
A collaboration between two of Siem Reap‘s most stylish women, French-Cambodians Nathalie Saphon-Ridel and Sirivan Chak, Galerie Cambodge specializes in beautiful fair trade clothes and accessories made in Cambodia to the highest quality of workmanship. The women work closely with designers and artisans to source, design and produce natural, eco-friendly garments, accessories and gifts. Collections change regularly, however, you can expect to find anything from the lightest of cotton shirts and scarves that are ideal for Siem Reap’s sultry weather to sturdy handmade leather sandals that will survive years of temple scrambling. Not everything is made in Cambodia—the women have made a few exceptions, such as authentic Panama hats, direct from the source. Also handy for long days in Siem Reap’s blazing heat.
Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
The most quintessential Cambodian souvenir must be the checked cotton krama that you will see around the necks, heads or waists of every Cambodian you meet. Cambodians like to boast that the krama has a dozen different uses -- some clever, some cute, some cringe-worthy. The most popular way to wear the krama is as a handsome scarf and a symbol of national and cultural pride, hung loosely around the neck over a pressed dress shirt. However, head out to the villages and you’ll see local farmers wearing them wrapped around their forehead to soak up the sweat, while village women will wear them as a head-dress. I’ve used mine as a belt. They’re handy for wiping the perspiration from your brow while scrambling temples in the sticky humidity. You’ll see kramas sold everywhere and in the Old Market they start from as little as US$1, however, these are generally made from a polyester-cotton mix and don’t do the trick. I love the authentic, quality cotton kramas sold at boutiques like Wa Gallery, which is where the ones above are from.
Slip up the steep wooden stairs beside French expat favorite Laundry Bar and you’ll find a big, high-ceilinged, light-filled space that is home to Christine’s. A handful of airy rooms are home to racks of quirky clothes and tables and shelves displaying original bags, accessories, jewelry, and knick knacks that stylish Christine has sourced from accessories and clothing Christine has sourced from Cambodia, Southeast Asia and abroad. I’m a big fan of Waterlily, a fun range of jewelry by another Phnom Penh-based expat made from recycled buttons, cables and other bibs and bobs. I also like Mitsou’s line of striking French-designed Cambodian-made fashion.
Charles De Gaulle
Co-owned by French-Cambodians Nathalie Saphon-Ridel and Romyda Keth, the elegant Khmer Attitude was the first concept store in Siem Reap when it was opened way back in 2000 in Raffles Arcade. The women’s aim with Khmer Attitude (and Saphon-Ridel’s Galerie Cambodge in the same arcade) was to showcase quality Cambodian-made fashion, jewelry, accessories, silverware, silk, gifts, and objects that weren’t available anywhere else. The women work closely with Khmer designers, master craftsmen and artists to source and produce beautiful things that are luxurious in their materials used and excellent in their workmanship. Other than Romyda Keth’s Ambre, Eric Raisina, Garden of Desire, Jasmine, Theam’s House, and a handful of other boutiques, you won’t find exquisite things of this quality elsewhere in Siem Reap.
The racks at Jasmine Boutique hang with gorgeous handwoven Cambodian silk garments, including exquisitely tailored blouses and trousers, elegant cocktail dresses and gowns, and classic shirts and skirts that can be teamed with anything from crisp cottons for a smart-casual look to sequined tops for a glam night out. The boutique was started in 2001 by Australian Cassandra McMillan and New Zealander Kellianne Karatau, who are passionate about handwoven Cambodian silk, evident in the quality of the beautiful clothes and accessories, such as silk scarves and clutch-purses. They also support other local designers and you’ll find pretty handmade jewelry like the pieces above to team with their clothes. They also have boutiques in Phnom Penh. Jasmine is located in the stylish shopping arcade at the riverside Foreign Correspondents Club or FCC Angkor. Home to Wa Gallery, a branch of Eric Raisina, and the John McDermott photography gallery, it’s easy to spend a couple of hours here browsing these chic boutiques in between drinks and dinner.