The Old Market of Siem Reap is a treasure trove for tourists and locals alike.
Located in the Old French Quarter, it is split roughly into two parts. The northern end of the market, furthest from the river, is where the locals go to buy fresh produce and clothing. It is also an excellent place to marvel at the numerous food stalls, where traditional, local dishes are imaginatively cooked in cramped, difficult conditions.
The southern part of the market, bordering on the river bank, has evolved into a shopping haven for tourists.
Silks and Handicrafts
Traders offer every type of Cambodian handicraft, from bolts of silk to handmade garments, from statues, wood carvings and religious artefacts to postcards, t-shirts and souvenirs. Musical instruments, basketwork and semi-precious stones jostle for space alongside prints, paintings and silverwork.
The traditional, Cambodian scarf and the red gingham krama are found on every other stall. A cheap and portable souvenir, it can also be useful to keep the sun off your neck while you wander round the market, absorbed, for hours on end.
Many bargains are to be had and prices can be further driven down by bartering as they are almost always inflated for the tourist trade. Items by apprentices are often displayed alongside work by master and the price and quality will reflect this difference.
Wander around at leisure and soak up the atmosphere. The streets around the Old Market offer similar but slightly more sophisticated wares. Choose your own locally produced silk and have clothes or soft furnishings made to measure on the spot.
While many galleries offer traditional craftsmanship there are a growing number of artists exhibiting contemporary pieces. Some galleries will arrange shipping so there are no worries about getting your newly acquired treasures.
To see crafts being created, or to follow the process from start to finish, it is worth taking a trip to the outskirts of Siem Reap to the Artisans d'Angkor complex where the emphasis is on traditional techniques and an extremely high quality finish.
You can also visit a silk farm and witness the entire procedure, from growing the mulberry bushes and breeding the silkworms through to harvesting the cocoons, spinning the silk and finally making the garments.