Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tips for Ethical Shopping in Cambodia

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
Traveling to Cambodia anytime soon?
I've been to South and Southeast Asia five times, and traveled in Cambodia twice. Whenever my friends and colleagues ask me about which country to visit in Southeast Asia, I instinctively think about and answer - Cambodia.
Huge trees in Preah Khan in Angkor park, Cambodia
Huge trees in Preah Khan in Angkor park, Cambodia

When you're traveling around in the country, there's a different atmosphere here compared to Thailand and Laos.

Traveling in Cambodia can be a powerful experience for the conscious tourist/backpacker. Maybe it's because of its unique, but dark and grim history involving Pol Pot and the massacres of millions of Cambodians. And the humble smiles of the Cambodians you meet on the road.
Traveling in Cambodia, in Angkor Park
Me traveling around in Cambodia.
Here in Angkor Park. 

In 2012 the speed in the Cambodian economic development picked up and the poverty rate continued to reduce.

But still Cambodia remains as one of the poorest countries in Asia with a per capita income of $ 946 compared to $ 5,474 in Thailand (source: The World Bank, BBC News).

So, how can you support the local production/craftwork and be an ethical shopper in Cambodia?

"Well Made in Cambodia" Market in Siem Reap

On March 2, 2013 the Well Made in Cambodia Market was launched. Items sold at this market are made by Cambodian artisans, where the goal is to give Cambodians direct income and skills development. You'll find artist workshops, live entertainment and food at the market.
Well made in Cambodia market in Siem Reap
"Well Made in Cambodia" - photo courtesy of Shinta Mani 

Where: In front of Shinta Mani Hotel
Open: Every Saturday and Sunday at 16.00-21.00

Shopping in Cambodia - Colors of Cambodia in Siem Reap

Colors of Cambodia has a unique store/art gallery filled with paintings and drawings made by
Cambodian children and youth, from 5-16 years old.

It's a project for children attending the most under privileged schools in the Siem Reap area. The staff helps the children by teaching them the skills of drawing and painting, helping students with special talents pursue art as a career goal.
One of the paintings we bought at Colors of Cambodia in Siem Reap
Shopping in Cambodia: One of the paintings
we bought at Colors of 
Cambodia in Siem Reap

Me and my boyfriend bought two paintings for $ 24, and it felt good giving something back to the children :-) They're so talented!

Where: Not far from Red Piano, next to Murky Funky bar.

Sister Srey Café and Twiggy Boutique Shop

When you need a break from the shopping in Siem Reap, stop by Sister Srey Cafe and their boutique shop called Twiggy.

The Sister Srey Cafe employs young Cambodian students, who can work flexible shifts so they can work and study! The Australian sisters who run the cafe believe in fair pay.

They serve vegan and vegetarian dishes like detox salads and awesome sandwiches, and probably the best coffee in town.

Upstairs you'll find vintage clothes and accessories, and handmade products from local NGOs.

Where: Pokambor Avenue.

Peace Café and Fair Trade Gift Shop

At the Peace Cafe in Siem Reap, you should grab some veggie panini and salads! I tried the panini roast pepper with hummus, and the panini with mozarella and tomatoes, and they were delicious!
Panini at Peace cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Vegetarian food at Peace Cafe
in Siem Reap

We also tried the healthy vegetable drinks, like their detox drink. They're healthy that's for sure, but I've never been a fan of detox drinks, so I didn't find the taste particularly delicious. On the other hand, detox drinks aren't about the taste. It's about drinking to your health ;-)

Another great thing about the cafe is that they offer vegetarian cooking classes ($20 included lunch and recipes - booking is not necessary).

The place also houses a fair trade gift shop, where you can get nice souvenirs and presents for your family and friends ;-)

Read: When your better half eats meat and you don't.

Friends 'n' Stuff Shop in Phnom Penh

A couple of years ago we stopped by Friends 'n' Stuff shop in Cambodia's capital :-)

According to Friends International their program supports Cambodian street children and youth, their families and communities, to become productive and functional citizens. To me it sounds like the program helps them to gain some integrity in their lives. A purpose. You know the feeling of being useful to the society, and not a burden :-)
Friends 'n' Stuff shop in Phnom Penh
Shopping in Cambodia: Friends 'n' Stuff shop in Phnom Penh
Photo courtesy of Friends International / Friends 'n' Stuff

In their shop, you'll find plenty of gift ideas and also recycled items; wallets made from rugby balls, jewelry made from spoons and forks, purses made from old car tires, cups, silk scarves, krama scarves, t-shirts, shopping tote bags, toys and much more.

We got the hand massage, and I bought a turtle soft toy, a green paper bracelet and my boyfriend bought one of the infamous wallets :-)

Every purchase goes to a great cause, meaning supporting the people behind the products. And a great place for the ethical consumer!

Click here to read more about the programs of Friends International.

Where: Close to the National Museum #215, street 13

Open: Daily from 11.00-19.00

Continue to read:
Introduction to WWOOF - volunteering at organic farms.

  • BBC News: "Cambodia Economy defies global trend but challenges remain"

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