Angkor Night Market
While in Siem Reap, we headed over to their rendition of the “night market” after a late-night dinner on our first night in town. Sadly, most of the vendors had closed up shop by midnight so we made sure to save some time the following evening for return visit. We recommend that you do the same! Siem Reap’s high-end night bazaar is really quite special, standing out way in front of other similar shopping experiences we have had in other countries. And trust us, we have been to many a “village market.”
Most bazaars or markets feature similar characteristics: open-air warehouses that can be shuttered during rainstorms, oodles of stalls selling everything from antiques to fresh fruit, and merchandise that runs the gamut in terms of quality and price. The sheer multitude of vendors usually requires that you perform a short reconnaissance mission first before you can really start browsing, and then once you do, you realize that many of the vendors are shilling the exact same stuff! This is where the “Art of Haggling” comes in. Make sure to check out Doug's simple tips found here before heading to your next open air market experience!!
The Angkor Night Market was a different experience altogether, and it starts with the visual impact created by its clever physical layout, a seemingly haphazard collection of bamboo thatched huts fabricated in the traditional Khmer style. Many of these structures, including the charming “Island Bar” in the middle of the market, are circular and this allows for easier egress between the different vendors. The resulting experience is more pleasurable and laid back and ultimately feels more driven by the customer rather than the seller!
The respectful approach of the Angkor Night Market was quite typical of what we found all over Cambodia, a “tourist industry” that is not jaded in the least. It seems that whomever is “running the show” here actually cares about what they are doing, as well as the experience that their customers are having. This may be hard to believe, but here in Cambodia, it does not seem to be all about “making money!” It was a refreshing change of pace from Thailand, where although everyone was quite friendly and always had a smile on their face, we often wondered if the kindness extended to the general tourist was genuine.
So, now on to the shopping! Save for the ubiquitous screen-printed “Angkor Wat” T-shirts that come in a variety of jewel tone colors but are all mass-produced on “Old Navy” cast-offs, the merchandise from each of the vendors at Siem Reap’s night bazaar appears unique, and seems to pass some sort of invisible test when it comes to quality! We trust that, like us, you will find a multitude of groovy artifacts and clothing items. (These Cambodians are just plain chic I tell 'ya!) Hovering above us while we browsed was a large pink cloud that carried the most intense "heat lightening" we had every seen. It was the perfect twist to an already otherworldly shopping encounter.
Of course, if shopping is not really your thing, there are other ways to enjoy the Angkor Night Market. Two small cinemas on-site alternate between movies that showcase the history of Angkor and the harrowing effect of the Khmer Rouge’s dictatorship on the people of Cambodia. Too heavy for you? Well, no worries; the bazaar spills right into a couple of really cool bars and a food court in the back. Since there was so much to do, and so little time, we did not get a chance to indulge in the Island Bar’s tropical delights, nor in the notorious foot massage from Dr. Fish’s little friends (see below) nearby!
With over 100 vendors to choose from, the Angkor Night Market in Siem Reap seduces visitors daily from 4:00 PM to midnight. Trust us, this is one market you do not want to miss!
Angkor Night Market - Khum Svay Dangkum (just down Street 7 from the corner of Sivatha Street and Pub Street), Siem Reap, 011 (855) 92 654315 or 011 (855) 92 855855
Dr. Fish Massage Shop
One of the weirdest things we saw while in Cambodia (well, all of Southeast Asia actually) was occurring daily in the Angkor Night Market near our hotel. Positioned between the many upscale souvenir and artisan stalls was a small square pool filled with tiny fish! Several tourists sat on the ledge with their pants rolled up, dipping their feet into the water!
What the heck is going on here you ask? Well, the brave travelers were just soothing their weary feet with a massage... in the form of a natural pedicure performed by fish that love the taste of dead skin from your feet! We had not had enough beer to try this out so we can not really vouch for the procedure’s effectiveness, and yet, Dr. Fish’s Massage Shop was quite busy so he must be on to something... Who knows, you might end up seeing a chain of these hitting your local shopping mall soon!
Of course, there is no lack of more traditional massage parlors in Siem Reap. In fact, at times the amount of massage options in town along Sivatha Street can be downright overwhelming! Some of the best massage we had was available at the Angkor Night Market in Siem Reap (see above). Although not private, we loved the accessibility to just sit down and receive a neck or foot massage for very inexpensive prices. And believe us, after a few days of trekking through Angkor's temples, you are going to need something to relax your overworked soles. Perhaps those fish are on to something...
Prices for Dr. Fish’s foot and leg massages are $3 - $10 USD depending on the length of massage. (fee includes a free bottle of beer!) Dr. Fish's hours of operation are from 10:00 AM - late (as part of the Angkor Night Market in Siem Reap)
Dr. Fish Massage Shop - Pithnou Street (Psar Chaa Area), Siem Reap, 011 (855) 63 965034
Wanderlust (and other chic design shops on Pub Alley)
Reading from the airline magazine as we flew from Bangkok, we learned that Siem Reap is currently in the process of turning into a quasi-bohemian haven for designers and artists from all over the world! The price of living must certainly be one of the attractions, though we think the proximity of Angkor Wat, and what must be an intense center of inspiration, must have something to do with it as well.
While wandering the dirt road along "The Alley" on our first night in town, we passed by a number of cool boutiques that solidified what the magazine article had so boldly suggested. These shops, including a shoe store that featured iconic Pop Art mannequins, surprised us with their creativity and sense of humor. We would expect nothing less from a destination like Rio de Janeiro or Paris, but out here, where the surrounding neighborhoods are entrenched in either poverty, or at the very least a simpler way of life, fashion and design seems like it would be an afterthought. Whether in the form of higher quality souvenirs, or the interior design of a boutique, we truly were caught off guard to see that the people in Siem Reap actually "get it."
Perhaps one the most jaw-dropping, and thus successful, boutiques in town is Wanderlust. While you can buy home decor items and accessories like sunglasses and tote bags, the emphasis here is on jewelry and young women's designers. We loved their OpArt pillows and other home trinkets, but would recommend this store mostly to the young hipster lass in your circle of friends! Wanderlust has recently expanded to a second store in Siem Reap and another in the capital city of Phnom Penh! You can become their fan on Facebook! Wanderlust is open in Siem Reap Monday through Saturday from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM and on Sundays from 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
Wanderlust (Siem Reap Old Market) - The Alley West, Siem Reap, 011 (855) 63 965980
shopping for alligator along Sivatha Street
Hmmmm, looking for the “finer,” albeit less politically-correct, things in life? Then look no further than Sivatha Street in “downtown” Siem Reap.
Here, alligator skin products are sold in abundance, and we’re not talking about Lacoste polo shirts kids! Belts, wallets, purses, handbags and even stuffed baby alligators are all available for sale in a number of shops that attempt to lure you in with taxidermied gators standing on their hind legs!
Loving a bargain, we could not resist the temptation of checking out the croc shops. And while ultimately there was not much that float our boats, the prices were quite good, only slightly more expensive than leather, as alligators are fairly prevalent in this region of Southeast Asia.
So, if you are feeling the need to strut your stuff and show off upon returning home, you might not want to miss Sivatha Street. Just make sure to check with your own country’s policy on importing gator skin products!
Crocodile Collection - Nº 30, St.Street Sivatha, Siem Reap, 011 (855) 63 966161
We also recommend:
Artisans d’Angkor (at the Siem Reap Crafts Center) - Chantiers-Ecoles, Stung Thmey Street, PO Box 47, Siem Reap, (011) 855 63 963330, and in front of Angkor Wat, Angkor, (011) 855 97 949 8816, http://www.artisansdangkor.com