Shopping in Phnom Penh is a must indulge in activity as you get to interact with loads of locals (despite not being able to communicate with many of them it’s still fun to interact with them), shop for some innovative local stuff and get to experience another aspect of this gorgeous and vibrant city. Though there are no malls here, there are still loads of small stores, chic boutiques and in some instances loads of shops aggregated in a building. However there are some ground rules to be followed here, else you will be in danger of loosing an arm and a leg (in terms of price paid for the stuff bought) –
- First, never believe the first price quoted by the shop keeper. It will always be an inflated price.
- Second, never buy jewelry or any jewels from here (unless you recognize originals from fake) no matter how big a steal it seems. 99 out of 100 times you will be fleeced.
- And most importantly, Bargaining is a must (it happens even in supermarkets and shops). Practice bargaining before you set foot into these shops as at times the prices are inflated as much as double the original price.
We spent a good half a day shopping and learning more in this city. The top 5 places that are worth a visit here are –
- Psar Tuol Tom Pong or The Russian Market – This is one big covered market with numerous shops selling everything – clothes, shoes, souvenirs, lamps, candles, food stuff, cooked food, cycle repair parts, kitchen ware, gas stoves, jewelry etc etc. This place has everything that anyone may ever need in their lives and all available under one roof. There are small areas for everything and numerous gates to enter and exit. When you get tired with the wandering then you can just head to the centre of the market, eat and restart exploring this place. We spent a nice afternoon here and shopped for loads of gifts for friends and family back at home.
- Psar Thmei or The Central Market – This building is a large yellow dome with a unique architecture and is often claimed to be one of the largest domes in the world. There is a round hall in the centre of the dome and 4 side rectangular halls in all 4 directions. The central hall has a collection of jewelry, watches, antique coins etc whereas the rectangular halls have a large collection of clothes, shoes, cosmetics, food, toys etc. In fact there are even people sitting down on the floor in various corners and you can even get nail art done from them.
- NGO Stores – Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have numerous NGO stores that support a cause and raise money by selling the stuff made by the disadvantaged or disabled artists. It also helps you shop “guilt free” as it’s after all for a cause. A lot of these products are at par with international quality and make excellent souvenirs and gift. While we liked and shopped in quite a few of such shops here, we particularly loved one of them called – Friends & Stuff. It is near the National museum and has innovative products made from recycled paper, plastics etc. You can also check them out at – Friends & Stuff.
- Streets No. 178 & 240 – An absolutely must visit for all the chic boutiques selling beautiful designer dresses in silk, T-shirts, bags, shoes, jewelry, home furnishings etc etc. These designs are quite stylish and glamorous and the quality of silk is amazing. All the shops on these streets have also been built-in old French style houses so its like shopping in any foreign destination. We also came across an amazing store called “Water Lily” and everything here was made from “buttons”. It was mind-boggling to see jewelry, miniature furniture, dolls etc made from buttons of all shapes and sizes.
- Art on Street No 178 – One entire side of this lane is filled with shops where artists create beautiful masterpieces on canvas depicting all kinds of local village scenes, temples, buildings etc. The work of these artists is beautiful and it makes for an ideal decoration and vacation remembrance once you are back at home. There are numerous art galleries here too, but somehow I always have a softer corner for street art. 🙂
So, whenever you find yourself in Phnom Penh, take the time and indulge in some retail therapy and practice that art of bargaining… 🙂