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A first-hand look at second-hand shopping

Having a good old rummage in a charity shop, vintage store or car boot sale is a popular weekend activity back home, and so it’s pleasing to report that those with scavenging impulses can indulge themselves here in Temple Town too. Such purchases can add a unique touch to the home or outfit for little more than a few dollars and an afternoon of patience.

First mention has to go to Sakura, the largest second-hand chain in Cambodia with five stores in Phnom Penh, one in Battambang and one in Siem Reap. All goods are imported from Japan and the stores sell glassware, clothing, accessories, furniture and assorted ‘what-the-hell-is-this’ items.

The quality is variable and a keen eye is necessary, but it’s possible to pick up some excellent bargains. For this reporter, these include a limited edition Andy Warhol Guinness pint glass for $1, and a $10 tan leather handbag in top notch condition and big enough to hold a laptop.

Leather handbags in near-pristine condition can be found for as little as $5, and gorgeous designer silk ties go for just 75 cents apiece. Sakura recently began to stock furniture, such as a beautiful wooden dressing table in excellent condition, on sale for a steal at $110.

The clothes and shoes in Sakura tend to be a bit on the small size for your average westerner, but it’s the perfect place to kit out a new home with gorgeous Japanese sake cups and china dishes.

Women keen to find an alternative to the ubiquitous Angkor beer t-shirts, elephant-print trousers and batik-print kaftans should try Vintage, near Central Market, which is packed with second-hand dresses, accessories and separates from Taiwan.

Although little here could be accurately described as ‘vintage’, all items are in good nick and they specialise in 60s-esque shift dresses in light fabrics and floral prints, priced between $4 and $8. Vintage replenishes its stock monthly so it’s worth stopping by fairly regularly.

Three Seasons, a spacious store on The Lane, has a rail dedicated to quirky vintage clothing sourced from local and international markets and customised by Phnom Penh fair-trade label KeoK’jay. Prices range from $12-$14 for unique dresses in a range of sizes.

Coffee, cake and shopping have long formed a supreme triumvirate, so what could be better than finding all three under one roof? Sister Srey stocks a modest selection of trendy second-hand clothing in the boutique area above the cafe, and Upstairs Cafe on Wat Bo Road usually has a small selection of cool clothes, home wares and furniture on sale.

With second-hand clothes, it’s worth bearing in mind that any of the numerous tailors in town can adjust seams and hemlines for the perfect fit for just a couple of dollars.

Not everyone can handle the idea of second-hand bedding, but those that can should consider a trip to the sensory picnic of the Route 60 evening market for beautiful bedspreads at a low price. Again, patience is required, but there are real gems to be found amongst the tat, of a quality superior to that found in the markets. A thorough deep clean at any of the bigger laundries will get rid of nasties and leave good condition items looking like new.

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