When visiting Siem Reap, you won’t be short on places to buy souvenirs. The question is, where have those souvenirs been made? According to the Angkor Handicraft Association, around 80% of souvenirs sold in Siem Reap are imported from neighbouring countries. I, for one, prefer to buy local and support fair wages and working conditions. I know I am not the only one, so I have composed a list of where to shop ethically in Siem Reap so you can ensure you are not just taking home quality products, but also championing for ethical production of souvenirs.
Angkor Handicraft Association
Located on the road to the Angkor Archaeological Park ticket booth, Angkor Handicraft Association (AHA) is an open souvenir market that offers a place for local artisans and rural producers to showcase their handicraft and run workshops. The products here are the real deal; government registered labels distinguish locally made products from fake imported items. You will find handmade cotton, silk, silverware, statues made from stone, bronze and wood, hand-woven textiles and natural fibres, paintings, bags and ceramics at this grassroots market. When I visited on a rainy May day, I was the only customer. Unlike other local markets, you will not feel harassed by the stall holders, who leave you to browse yet are very accommodating should you need help. This should be the first stop on your ethical shopping trip; with very reasonable prices you will be sure to end up with a tuk-tuk full of goods!
Location: Road 60, Trang Village, Sangkat Slorkram Commune, Siem Reap
Opening times: Daily, 10 am – 7 pm
My purchases: Bayon vases, countryside engraved mugs, woven cotton blanket.
Very Berry Cambodia
Very Berry Cambodia is run by a sweet Japanese woman, Kiko, who cares deeply about Cambodia. Here you will find a large range of handicrafts made by various NGO’s and social enterprises in the Kingdom. Whether you purchase a hand-knitted toy from Cambodia Knits or some coconut oil from Coco Khmer, there are gifts here for everyone in your life, starting from as little as 50 cents.
Location: Psah Chas Alley 1, Siem Reap
Opening times: Daily, 10 am – 7:30 pm
My purchases: Cambodia Knits monkey magnets, Coco Khmer balm, soap
We all know that Phare, the Cambodian Circus is a must-see whilst in Siem Reap, but their boutique shouldn’t be overshadowed. Featuring ethically-made handicrafts from Human and Hope Association, Phare Ponleu Selpak (Phare’s sister NGO), Ammo and a whole range of social enterprises, this is a one-stop-shop, especially if you are only in Siem Reap for a short time. Not only are you supporting the artisans and NGO’s that make the products, Phare supports a performing arts school with their profits.
Location: Ring Road, south of the intersection with Sok San Road, Siem Reap
Opening times: Daily, 6 pm – 9:30 pm
My purchases: Hand-painted watercolour temples on A4 paper by students from Phare Ponleu Selpak
Founded in 1999, Senteurs d’Angkor offers safe working conditions and good terms of employment to their staff who make natural, handmade products. Their workshop on the road to Siem Reap Airport is definitely worth a visit, though the quality of tours is inconsistent, depending on the staff member who takes you around. It is easy to spend 30 minutes in their shop alone, as their range of candles, beauty products, spices, coffee and soaps is so diverse it can be difficult to choose what to take home!
Location: Workshop – Airport Road, National 6
Opening times: Daily, 7:30 am – 6 pm
My purchases: Amok powder, Kampot pepper, face scrub, foot cream, Angkor balm, candles, solid perfume, loofa, DIY face mask, soap and hand cream
Artisans d’Angkor has revised Cambodian craftmanship in silk fabrics, stone and wood carving, lacquerware, gilding, ceramics, silver plating, silk painting, and jewellery. They have 48 workshops operating in 12 sites located in Siem Reap province and provide employment to over 1100 people, including about 800 artisans.
Take a tour around their Siem Reap workshop, or if you are feeling up for it, venture to their silk farm in Pouk District. Similar to Senteurs d’Angkor, their tour guides are hit and miss, but you can’t go past a trip to their shop.
Location: Chantiers-Ecoles, Stung Thmey Street, Krong Siem Reap
Opening times: Daily, 7:30 am – 6:30 pm
My purchases: Silk cushion covers, Khmer books, beaded silk necklace, woven placemats and silk hairbands
Saarti is committed to using the highest quality natural, ethical products and empowering local communities through fair-trade employment. Their collection of pure essential oils, hand poured blessing bowl candles, body, skin & hair care products not only smell divine, they also come from sustainable sources. This shop is located in Kandal Village, where you can easily spend a couple of hours browsing the shops and stopping for a coffee or lunch at one of the numerous cafes. Afterwards, head for a massage at Frangipani Spa, Siem Reap.
Location: 18A Hap Guan St, Siem Reap
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday, 9 am – 5 pm
My purchases: Face mist, blessing bowl candles, thanaka face mask, travel shampoo and conditioner, face scrub