For art, silverwork, statues, carvings to fine textiles and silks, Cambodia is a perfect place to explore for its treasure trove of gift and souvenir ideas. A visit to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh is great for the Buddhism-themed items with a variety of large markets, street stalls and small boutiques to visit on the Cambodia holiday. The large markets are the best for prices when there is more chance of being able to bargain prices down.
The trade for locally produced handicrafts have seen a major growth in recent years with a lot of NGO and local schemes organised to help the large number of disabled members of society. These organisations make it possible for the disadvantaged people to learn a trade and create the various traditional crafts.
Here are a few of the popular gifts or souvenirs to be found throughout Cambodia:
One of the most popular gifts or souvenirs to pick up on the Cambodia tours is the krama, which is a chequered style of scarf and favoured by the locals. Most of the scarves are made from a combination of synthetic threads – but this type of material is quite hot to wear and isn’t that great at drying. The most desired kramas are available in Phnom Sarok and Kompong Cham and manufactured in a cotton material. A cotton scarf can feel thin and stiff at first, but soon has a more favourable texture and density after a little use. The cost is relatively cheap at a place like Kompong Cham with a hand-made scarf costing in the region of $3.
Silk weaving in Cambodia is a popular pastime and dates to before the Angkor era with the local people starting to copy cloth imported from other countries, such as India. Most of the thread used for weaving is imported from neighbouring Vietnam, but, there are a growing number of villages that are building their own silkworm farms.
Most of the silk that is produced in the country is intended for the sellers in Phnom Penh. Also, it is possible to find places that trade in lengths of unpatented silk and mostly in pastel or dark colours; though the more modern designs are starting to become available.
The cost of clothes made in silk is relatively inexpensive with a sampot costing in the region of $15 to $20, but price will increase with higher-quality items. A silk scarf makes a great gift and costs about $5 to $6. Pre-washed items are preferred because they are softer in relation to both hue and texture.
Stone and wood carvings
Stone and wood carvings are sold in plenty of sizes and styles; from the large dancing apsaras that costs $100’s to the more compact heads depicting Jayavarman VII that cost $5 to $10. A great place to visit on the Cambodia travel packages for the carvings is Street 178 (close to the National Museum) in Phnom Penh. Other choices include workshops in Siem Reap with the Artisans d’Angkor, while the really fine stuff can come from a traditional carving village like Santok.
Antiques and unique objects
For the antiques and other unique objects there are plenty of specialist stalls to be found at the Siem Reap Night Market and in Phnom Penh at Psar Toul Tom Poung. Popular items include elegant silver boxes or partitioned wooden boxes for storing small items. Religious artefacts are a favoured choice with wooden Buddhist images a common choice, as well as brass bowls and other carvings.
A unique gift idea includes the traditional musical instruments like the chhing that is quite similar in appearance to castanets, while a stringed instrument includes the chapei with its round sound-box and long neck.
A low-cost item includes the compasses that are used in Feng Shui which is an ancient Chinese art and available for $3-$4. This style of compass has directions that relate to the five elements: water, metal, earth, fire and wood. Other unique items include the opium weights that are given the shape of an animal or human figure.
In the event of coming across genuine antiques or artefacts it is not possible to remove these from the country without having the right paperwork. Make sure to check the dealer has the ability to issue any necessary documents before making a deal. Also, many items can be artificially aged so be careful of the wares that you are investing in.
Rattan and bamboo
Rattan is a very versatile fibre that makes it useful for creating a variety of furniture or household items like place mats, bowls and baskets. On a visit to Ratanakiri on the Cambodia travel it is possible to buy bamboo baskets that are designed to be placed on the back for easy carrying. Other items in rattan and bamboo include nested baskets and noodle ladles.
Gold and silver
For the tourist interested in silverware the best places to visit in Cambodia are in the capital city of Phnom Penh, with a lot of the pieces created in the nearby village of Kompong Luong. It is possible to tell the difference between the silver-plated copper and solid silver. A silver-plated copper is likely to be quoted a few dollars, while the solid silver is certain to quote double the price or more. Great gift ideas include the silver-plated or silver boxes that come in plenty of shapes and sizes, such as animals or fruits. Other items that are more expensive include offering bowls and ceremonial plates. Most of these items have decorated or intricate leaf motifs.
The tourist markets have a lot of trade with silver earrings, bracelets and necklaces with most of the items imported from Indonesia, with most items going for a few dollars. For the better quality items it is best to travel to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh on the Cambodia private tour and visit the boutiques and NGO-run shops. Also, the markets are a great place to visit for gold with the option in some areas like Ratanakiri and Pailin to have own jewelery designs created cheaply.