Whether Christmas shopping is one of the highlights of your year or you dread it more than a visit to the dentist, it’s always useful to have a couple of gifts in mind before you begin. So here are 20 ideas for presents you can pick up around Phnom Penh. Will Jackson scoured the city.
Curios and vintage oddities
The stock at “fashion, homewares, art and ephemera” shop Trunkh is eclectic to say the least. You may not find what you wanted to here, but you might well end up wanting what you find. Offerings include brightly coloured printed cotton shorts ($15), Cambodia destination-themed printed tea towels ($15), handpainted Chinese horoscope signs ($45), battered old vintage merry-go- round animals ($725) and heaps more. You can even get extra-large, elephant Christmas stockings ready to be stuffed by Santa ($5).
Trunkh, corner of Sothearos Boulevard and Street 294
Garden of Desire’s (gardenofdesire-asia.com) shiny pretty things are marketed as wearable art rather than simply jewellery. Mostly made from fine and sterling silver, gold and natural stones, designer Ly Piseth says the handcrafted bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings are inspired by natural shapes and textures along with traditional Cambodian culture. Pieces include a rhodium plated wire pendant modelled on Angkor Wat’s floorplan ($80), a pair of penrite stone earrings in an elegant curved sterling silver setting ($68) and a 100cm necklace made up of oval sterling silver wire cages ($580).
Garden of Desire, #33 Street 178
Cutting-edge digital gizmos
Need a Christmas present for the nerd in your life? Look no further than Monivong Boulevard’s Sweet Memory Store (sweetmemorystore.com) which stocks the latest Amazon Kindles, Google Nexus phones and tablets and digital storage devices, all with a local warranty. Hot off the assembly line are Amazon’s high resolution, high contrast Paperwhite Kindle e-reader with built-in illumination ($179) and Google’s latest and greatest Nexus phone, the Nexus 5 (from $499 for the 16GB model). The shop also has a range of genuine-brand memory cards for all your other Christmas gift gadgets.
Sweet Memory Store, #689 Monivong Boulevard (near Street 360)
There’s one simple reason that physical books always have been and always will be a staple Christmas gift: they’re easy to wrap. Ever tried to Christmas wrap a puppy? Bloody difficult. How about an e-book? This Christmas, Monument Books has a stack of new real paper and ink titles with nice straight sides and right-angled corners such as Cambodia primer Presenting Cambodia by Mick Shippen, Phnom Penh-based mystery thriller Shiny Objects of Desire by Philip Coggan and A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia by Chris and Loretta Ann Shepherd.
Monument Books, #111 Norodom Boulevard
Want a guaranteed squeal of delight from someone young (or just immature) on Christmas Day? Get ‘em a remote- control helicopter. Kim Chou’s Hobbies Shop is the place to pick up toy choppers in Phnom Penh from as little as $30 for a 25cm-long double rotor Volitation mini. They also have a range of RC cars, planes, boats, tanks and drones (hellfire missiles not included).
Kim Chou Hobbies Shop #35 Street 105
Justees sell T-shirts emblazoned with social justice messages made by fairly paid young recovering drug addicts on the edge of Phnom Penh. Designs include quotes from Martin Luther King and Ghandi and graphics comparing the major Western powers’ aid and defense budgets. They’re pretty stylish if not subtle. The perfect gift for both idealistic human rights types and less-than-ethical friends.
Available from various outlets around Phnom Penh or www.justees.org
An aerial adventure
Flyboarding – a crazy new watersport which involves soaring around Iron Man-style with water jets strapped to your feet – is a pretty amazing experience. Treat a pal to a session at Sihanoukville’s Otres Beach, or just spoil yourself. They start at $50 for 15 minutes.
Check out flyboardcambodia.com for more details and videos
This one’s not actually in Phnom Penh, but it’s pretty cool. Phare’s circus performers run workshops every weekend in Siem Reap running for 90 minutes teaching basic juggling and acrobatics and costing $6 per person. This isn’t just kids. As well as the sessions for six- to 14-year-olds there are separate sessions for adults.
Contact 015 499 480 or email [email protected]
Kampot pepper-infused vodka
A little bag of Kampot pepper makes a nice gift with local flavour. But for something a little different, how about a bottle of organic Kampot pepper-infused Absolut vodka from Starling Farm ($30 for 750ml or $13 for 200ml). They also have appealingly packaged bottles of pepper (starting from $12.87 for 150g) or pepper in grinders ($16.95 for 100g) in black, red, white and mixed varieties.
Starling Farm outlet, #3 Street 178
The Brave Collection
Why not shop with a conscience this year? The Brave Collection is teaming up with Cambodian Living Arts for their Living Arts Scholarships. Donate on CLA’s Global Giving page and CLA will give handmade jewellery from the Brave Collection to the first donor to help them reach $3,000, $4,000 and $5,000. The 40th donor will also receive a gift. The Brave Collection includes jewellery handmade in Cambodia by artisans from underprivileged backgrounds.
Sticky Fingers prints
Having just returned from touring Australia, Cambodian Space Project is only getting bigger – and the band’s retro- style imagery is integral to the brand. Get the look with prints from Sticky Fingers, the designers behind the band’s image.
Sticky Fingers, #29, Golden Sorya Mall
Eats and treats
If you can’t indulge at this time of year, when can you? Java’s iced Christmas biscuits, at just 1000 riel a pop, are ideal for givers on a budget and come in the form of Christmas trees, snowmen – the closest you’ll get to one here – and love hearts. For more serious foodies, the cafe can rustle up Christmas cake ($25 per kg), pumpkin pie, apple pie and pecan-espresso pie (all $15), but you need to order one day in advance.
Java Cafe, #56 Sihanouk Boulevard
Chocoholics can find what they’re looking for at The Chocolate Shop. As well as chocolate Santas of varying sizes (from $2.50 to $24), you can also treat yourself and your friends to a chocolate snowman ($4), a chocolate tree ($8) or gift boxes containing a mix of chocolates and truffles. The shop also sells mince pies ($1.25).
The Chocolate Shop, #38 Street 337
Ta Prohm Souvenir Shop has a range of funky wallets made out of salvaged rice bags (starting from $2). The shop was founded by a landmine survivor and employs women with disabilities. They also sell a variety of other practical gifts like Cambodian-made silk purses ($5 and up), silk scarves ($8 and up) and cute stuffed elephant keyrings ($0.50).
Ta Promh Souvenir Shop, #49Beo Street 178 and #168A Street 155
Artist-designer Lim Muy Theam’s lacquered clay animals – especially the elephants – make for striking and elegant gifts. The elephants come in a variety of colours and sizes costing $29 and up. Theam’s Phnom Penh outlet Reyum Gallery also has a range of other potential gifts including small carved wooden utensils ($3 each) and paintings by Theam himself.
Reyum Gallery, #47 Street 178
You might want to stop and think before buying CambOpoly as a Christmas present. While Cambodia-themed Monopoly is, by definition, awesome, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed from the original: the board game is still unmatched in its potential to destroy friendships, marriages – even whole families. If you decide to go ahead and buy it, CambOpoly is available for $55 from recycled materials shop Smateria with proceeds going to a project supporting children of incarcerated parents.
Smateria, #8E0 Street 57, #7 Street 178 and #249 Sisowath Boulevard
While trying to find wine in Phnom Penh can be hit and miss, some of the more serious wine shops provide a decent range of vintages. Red Apron Wine Boutique and Restaurant features around 350 different wines in its store, with bottles from Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, California, France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere. Prices suit a wide range of wallet sizes, with the least expensive at about $10 and the most expensive more than $1,000. For the ultra-extravagant, a $1,400 bottle of Grand Vin de Chateau Latour is also available.
Red Apron Wine Boutique and Restaurant, #15-17 Street 240
Buy a Cambodia Center for Human Rights Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity project rainbow krama and show your support for Cambodia’s lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender community. Proceeds from the sale of the fetching multi-coloured scarves fund legal support to LGBT victims of discrimination. They’re available from Krama Yoga (phone 012 584 930).
Krama Yoga, #52 Street 302
Comfy stylish clothing
Tonle Designs – formerly known as KeoK’jay – has a whole new range of comfortable and stylish women’s and girl’s clothing made locally by fairly treated workers from mostly recycled or salvaged materials. Items include the simple yet elegant bassac necklace made from remnant jersey and handmade ceramic beads ($18) and small clutches made from hand-printed remnant fabrics and reclaimed leather strap ($18).
Tonle Designs, Corner Street 110 and Sisowath Quay
Professional photographer Michael Klinkhamer leads daily photography workshops visiting sites around Phnom Penh and on Silk Island. The tours are designed to help participants get the most out of their cameras and discover more of the city. Cost is $35 per person with a minimum of four people. Book in advance. Find more details: www.klinkphoto.com.