You've already done your Christmas shopping, haven't you? No? It's OK. We understand. We haven't either. But we have plenty of great gift ideas – 40 of them to be precise. From hipster antiques to books about Cambodian spirituality to strange fruit jam, our annual Christmas Gift Guide has something for all tastes and budgets
Street-art style prints and T-Shirts
French graffiti artist Chifumi’s distinctive orientalist street art can be found on walls all around Phnom Penh – and now your loved one can have some in their home or on their chest as well. The Phnom Penh resident sells screen prints for about $100 from Couleur d’Asie on Street 240 and T-shirts for about $18 from Display on Street 63. Or you can order them from his website, chifumi.fr.
A Camboground tube map
Looking for a Cambodia memento to send home? The Camboground tube map is a quirky alternative to kramas and Angkor Wat paintings. Done in the style of the classic London Underground map of the Tube, it shows all the major cities, towns and routes throughout the Kingdom on the Temple, Eastern, City, Border and Sihanoukville lines. They come in two sizes ($18 or $12) and varieties featuring the Angkor temple complex, Laos and Thailand are also available. Order online at tubemapworld.com or buy from ephemera and collectables shop Trunkh.
Trunkh, #180 Street 13. Web: trunkh.com.
Described as “perfect” by one fan, Mama Heang’s delicious cookies are moist yet firm, with a crunchy base and just the right amount of sweetness. And the best bit is Mama Heang – a housekeeper and cook who was taught the recipe by one of her expat families – will deliver them to your door. They come in chocolate chip, walnut and almond flavours and cost $1 each for small or $1.50 for large.
Mama Heang’s Cookies. Web: facebook.com/mamaheangscookies. Tel: 092 958 395.
Silver Khmer script necklaces
For a personalised gift that’s uniquely Cambodian, Mrs Channa’s Silver Jewelry Shop in Russian Market makes custom charm bracelets and necklaces featuring the recipient’s name in Khmer script. Necklaces are $25 and bracelets $22. The silversmiths need a day or two to deliver orders.
Silver Jewelry Shop, Shop #419, Russian Market. Tel: 016 271 078 or 017 271 078.
Fair trade kimono
A.N.D is a fairtrade brand that does a range of men’s and women’s clothing and employs home-based workers in Takeo. Our pick is the kimono/bathrobe ($40 long, $35 short). Made from 100 per cent cotton fairtrade ikat (a traditional pre-dyed hand-woven textile), the material feels good against the skin and looks trendy to boot.
A.N.D, 52C E0 Street 240. Tel: 023 224 713.
Indonesian ceremonial necklace
One of the most striking pieces at newish oddities and curiosities shop Bobo are the Indonesian ceremonial necklaces. You can pick up a big one for $165 or a small one for $120. Owners Frank Weber and Jacqueline Beaty travel around the region bringing back all sorts of interesting treasures sell. One Cambodia-specific item is the Bier de Cambodia soap ($6.50), handmade in Thailand incorporating Angkor Beer. Apparently it “picks up the aromas of hops, grains, malt and extracts [used] in making beer but without smelling like like beer”. It’s said to be good for calming irritated skin, softening skin and to have natural antibacterial properties.
Bobo, #202 Street 19. Web: bobo-lifestyle.com.
Opened just a week ago, home decor shop Pastel sticks out like a sore thumb among the function centres, construction sites, imitation baroque landmarks and suki soup joints on Koh Pich. Positioned as a slightly more upmarket – and much, much smaller – take on Ikea, the place sells a range of designer homewares from stylish coffee cups ($3) to sofa beds ($220+) and has a coffee shop on the ground floor.
Pastel, #36 La Seine Koh Pich. Web: facebook.com/pastelphnompenh.
A book about Cambodian spiritualityPhilip Coggan’s Spirit Worlds: Cambodia, The Buddha and the Naga is a great primer on Cambodian spirituality that provides a solid introduction to Cambodian Buddhism and a rundown of the country’s many and varied spiritual entities and concepts. The book is available from Monument Books for $19.50.
Gift shopping (with booze)
Fancy a bite to eat and maybe some sparkling wine while you shop for Christmas gifts and baubles? The 240 has you covered. With a cafe and “bubbles bar” to get you in the giving mood, potential presents include leather bags and wallets from French Ateliers Auguste, men’s soaps from Le Baigneur, dolls by Pigmée for kids and a diverse Asian designer collection.
The 240, #83 Street 240. Web: facebook.com/The240.
vintage odditiesAmong the odd and old items at Sovannet Ly Ung’s furniture and antiques shop are cracked pottery of dubious provenance (around $15) and disturbing Sihanouk-era wooden reindeer heads with real antlers (small $175 and large $250). Or you could get a nice table instead.
Sovannet Ly Ung, Sothearos Boulevard.
A Christmas staycation
This one is just for the ballers. Raffles Hotel Le Royal is offering a Christmas package including a two-night stay in a State Room, daily breakfast, a Christmas Eve Dinner plus a limo ride to and from the hotel. The damage? A cool $720. If you just want to go for the dinner, the price is $125 per person.
Raffles Hotel Le Royal, #92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh. Tel: 023 981 888.
Reclaimed fabric goodies
Best-known for their colourful clothes made in ethically sound workshops, Tonle also sells a range of potential gifts that don’t require you to know the recipient's dress size. They include journals handmade with printed remnant fabric covers and recycled paper ($14 each), hand-printed remnant-fabric tea towels ($8.50) and handwoven rugs made from remnant jersey strips (large $60, small $30).
Tonle, corner of Street 110 and Sisowath Quay and #59C Street 155. Tel: 023 210 945. Web: tonle-au.com.
A guidebook to Phnom Penh’s quirky history
Steven Boswell’s meticulously researched city guide King Norodom’s Head ($29.50) unearths the unusual back stories behind Phnom Penh’s landmarks, and sets the record straight on some popular myths, including the titular tale of whether the Royal Palace’s statue of King Norodom Sihanouk really was a recycled Napoleon.
Monument Books, various locations. Tel: 023 217 617.
Carve your own puppet
If you’re keen on the idea of homemade gifts but shaky on the execution, the Sovanna Phum Arts Association has you covered. Their bespoke workshops – best attended with friends – will guide you through the process of cutting and carving your own shadow puppet from high quality leather, using paper templates and chisels. Prices range from $10 to $50 depending on whether you’re after a pocket-sized elephant or an elaborate apsara dancer.
Sovanna Phum Arts Association, #166 Street 99. Tel: 012 846 020.
Strange fruit jam
Some of the best jam in the city can be found at L’Irresistible, a social enterprise run by Action Cambodge Handicap. All jams are free from artificial flavourings and made from fruits you’re unlikely to find served up with your croissants in a Parisian cafe, including mango, watermelon and green tomato. Prices range from $0.90 for a 30g jar to $4.50 for a 450g jar. If you’re looking for some jam-based inspiration before you buy, head to House Boutique Hotel (#76 Street 57). Their custom cocktail range is infused with L’Irresistible’s spreads.
L’Irresistible Coffee, #174 Street 454. Tel: 092 906 097.
The cosy Bassac Lane bar Harry’s doubles as an antiques shop selling everything from art-deco fittings to satchels and a wide range of well-worn leather boots. With prices frequently running to several hundred dollars for the imported homewares, you’d be wise to consult the recipient before making a rash decision. Better still, make the trip together, then toast your new acquisition with a martini on the upstairs terrace.
Harry’s, Bassac Lane off Street 308. Tel: 077 555 447.
Handcarved chess set
The best place to pick up a chess set in Phnom Penh is from the cluster of woodwork shops in Russian Market. They’re rough hewn with chunky boards and simple pieces, but compensate in character for anything they lack in style – and a board and pieces should only set you back between $10 and $15.
Southwest corner of Russian Market.
Malaysian musician Lewis Pragasam is a global “guru” of drumming, and a pioneer of world fusion through his collective AsiaBeat. An exuberant teacher with a stellar drum kit set up, he offers classes costing $15 for 30 minutes or $25 per hour at his Starworks Academy.
Starworks Academy, #36 Street 508. Tel: 077 684 438.
International designs made by local silversmiths
For Artisans of Silver’s Christmas collection, a host of international designers submitted Cambodia-themed ideas to the students and teachers at Il Nodo School of Social Design – an Italian-run training school where vulnerable Cambodians learn to become silversmiths. The resulting jewellery includes hanging necklaces that resemble the Mekong, abstract apsara hand pendants and cute Angkor-inspired earrings.
Artisans of Silver jewellery is sold at outlets including Villa Langka (#14 Street 282) and The Plantation (#28 Street 184). For information on which Christmas fairs they’ll be attending, call 023 660 4747. Web: facebook.com/artisans-of-silver.
Coffee table book on Cambodia’s transformation
Nicolas Axelrod and Denise Hruby’s Transitioning Cambodia ($32.50) is a Cambodia coffee-table book with a difference. Rather than monks, palm-dotted countrysides or Angkor Wat sunsets, it’s packed with stunning photos and stories focusing on the growing pains caused by the Kingdom’s rapid development.
Monument Books, various locations. Tel: 023 217 617.
Truffles, caraques, pralines, ganache and chocolate can’t be beaten as a stocking stuffer. Cambodia’s first chocolatier offers a variety of white, dark and milk chocolate creations. Recommended are Cambodia specialities: Mondulkiri honey pralines and Kampot pepper chocolate. Collection boxes come with six pieces for $6, nine for $8, and 16 for $13. There are also giant chocolate Santas for $28, and smaller snowmen for $4.
The Chocolate Shop, #35 Street 240. Tel: 023 998 638 or 012 872 840.
What could be more valuable than the gift of knowledge? For $23 for six months or $45 a year, you can have the Post Weekend delivered to your loved one’s door every Saturday.
To set up a subscription, call 017 799 942 or 017 666 223, or fill out the subscription on page 6.
Premium Cambodia-made rum
Samai Distillery’s rum is double-distilled in 19th-century copper stills using local sugarcane grown on family-owned farms, aged in beautiful wooden barrels and comes in beautiful thick, glass bottles. A bottle costs $25.
Samai Distillery, open 9am-6pm, Monday-Saturday (half-day hours on Sat.) #96 Street 830.
Bespoke designer furniture
All of Alchemy Design Co’s handsome products, from their tables to their stools to their coat racks, are made with locally sourced reclaimed wood and other repurposed materials. Their bigger items, which price into the hundreds, might be too expensive for gift-giving, but their smaller bits make for perfect presents, such as the wooden cutting board ($40) or iPod dock ($15).
Alchemy Design Co, #61 Street 57. Tel: 012 437 910.
Kombucha starter kit
With one of the Kombucha Brewing Company’s kombucha starter kits – which include a one-gallon glass jar, an assortment of teas, three kinds of sugar, an instruction and recipe book and, most importantly, a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria known as a scoby – your gift recipient can have their first batch of fermented tea within a couple of weeks. The company’s founder Lance Thomas says the kits can be used over and over again to make “infinite kombucha”.
Kombucha Brewing Company. Tel: 088 380 8304. Email: [email protected].
Kirel Palm Wine
Once you see the process by which palm frond sap is collected – a vertigo-inducing climb up slippery palm trees on skimpy ladders – you develop a newfound respect for the brew. These wines are a slightly refined version and come in ginger and pineapple variations.
Kirel Palm Wine, #57 Street 178. Tel: 012 981 724 .
Unique Indochinese art pieces
For one-of-a-kind art pieces and random eccentricities from Vietnam and Cambodia, look no further than fictional character Jean-Pierre Klondike’s art sale on now at The Plantation, which includes pieces with price tags as low as $33 (though most are much more). Find originals from artists including Svay Ken (Cambodia), Bui Xuan Phi (Vietnam), Nic Grey (UK) and dozens more, as well as lots of genuine vintage items from the French colonial period.
The Plantation, #28 Street 184. Email: [email protected].
After the holiday binge of socialising, gift-buying and eggnogging, what better way is there to find balance again than through yoga? A $150 package includes as many classes as your body can take, within 30 days.
Yoga Phnom Penh, # 39 Street 21. Tel: 012 739 419.
Natural bath sets
Bodia Nature’s gift sets come with all of the essentials for the “longest bath ever” including soy wax candles and honey and lime soap. They range in size and price, from turmeric gift sets for $18 to Green Peace gift sets for $25.50.
Bodia Nature, various locations. Email: [email protected]. Tel: 012 450 227.
Phnom Climb Community Gym, the new bouldering gym opened in Russian Market by American-Swiss couple Mary and Christoph Luthy, is a serious place to get your sweat on. Dozens of designated climbing routes (known as “problems” in the sport) make this gym suitable for beginners and experts alike. And for the newbies, there are helpful trainers to guide you up – and down – the wall. Memberships can be gifted, with $35 for a month and $90 for three months, and start on the day of the gift receiver’s first visit.
Phnom Climb Community Gym, #345 Street 460. Tel: 017897105.
Live Khmer and orchestral fusionNorwegian composer Ingolv Haaland spent four years meticulously composing the nine songs that appear on new album Live in Concert released earlier this month, a process – combining Arabic instrumentation, Western arrangements and Cambodian singing – that was all-consuming. The album, recorded in Norway, is a beautifully strange fusion of sounds and is an ideal gift for your more eccentric musically minded pals with an interest in the Kingdom. It’s available at Monument Books or on iTunes and Amazon for $7.
Custom handmade gifts
Officially opened just last weekend in the Tonle Bassac neighbourhood, Nowhere is a small studio and gallery peddling a range of handmade gifts: rubber-stamped pillow covers ($15-$40) with customised designs; post and greeting cards (around $2); and artworks from Malaysia and Korea, to name a few. Stop by to peruse yourself or pick up a designer’s notebook ($4) and come up with your own idea: Nowhere will begin offering creative workshops in rubber stamping, bookbinding, calligraphy and much more in the new year.
Nowhere, #3EO Street 312. Tel: 017 891 772.
Colourful, Cambodia-inspired art
David Holliday’s artwork is popular around Street 240 for a reason: the British photographer’s canvases make a perfect Phnom Penh souvenir, all street life and bright colours. His work looks more like a painting than anything, but it’s mixed-media “photo montage”, compiled from hundreds of shots, pastels and paper scraps. A selection is on exhibition — and for sale — at the FCC meeting room through December 31.
FCC Hotel and Restaurant, 363 Sisowath Quay. Tel: 078 637 116.
Indulgent nut butter
For a (last-minute) classic chocolate treat with a twist, the locally made dark-chocolate cashew butter from year-old Phnom Penh Nut Butters won’t disappoint. Each jar contains 130 hand-roasted cashews, along with plenty of sweeter ingredients. You can find it at Natural Garden, Sunshine Mini Mart and Digby’s. The chocolate variety sells for about $10, while the original is about $8.50.
Aalternative candles If you can’t come up with anything better than a candle for a hard-to-buy-for recipient, make sure it’s one made from soy wax — it’s slow-burning and doesn’t emit harmful toxins. Candle Up are the only pure soy-wax candlemakers in Phnom Penh. Theirs take a variety of sizes, shapes and scents (lavender, lemongrass and jasmine, to name a few). One of the most popular wards off mosquitoes and comes in a coconut shell for $9.50. Others range in price from $5 to $15. Check out facebook.com/candleup to order.
Tel: 092 993 278.
Weekly veggie delivery
Discovery Farms puts together weekly baskets of local, organic fruits and vegetables for doorstep delivery in three varieties. For the healthy — and generous — chef, this could be the gift that keeps giving. Options range from eye-catching tropical fruits to the seasonal cold-climate veggies you’ve been missing. One month’s subscription for a 4kg basket will set you back between $36 and $56. Gift cards are available for purchase at Artillery Cafe.
Artillery Cafe, #82E0 Street 244. Tel: 078 985 530.
Not Kampot pepper
Looking for something spicy? Kampot may have the edge in production and reputation, but peppercorns sourced from a small farm in Ratanakkiri are cheaper and are said to be the coastal product’s equal in taste. In fact, the team at cafe and bar Tini feature them in one of their cocktails and even an ice cream flavour. They sell bags for between $2 and $6.50 depending on size (80g, 120g, 220g).
Tini, #57 Street 450. Tel: 017 555 450.
One of Phnom Penh’s many retailers committed to social impact, the shop at Friends International has a new screen-printed T-shirt collection featuring designs from eight artists in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Each shirt bears a message "for future generations". And true to the organisation’s style, the tees are sewn in an in-house workshop and sourced from factory offcuts and waste fabric. Kids’ sizes sell for $13.50, and adults’ for $14.50.
Friends ’N’ Stuff, #215 Street 13. Tel: 023 555 2391.
If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery then perhaps a personalised figurine is the best present you can give this year. Bring in a photo of yourself or a friend, and MemoryLand, located in Aeon Mall, can convert them into clay. Make sure you plan in advance: designs are sent to an artist in Malaysia, and it takes a few days before you can pick up your gift back at the mall. It will set you back $109 for a single figurine and $199 for a pair, but they're 20 per cent off through the end of the month.
MemoryLand, second floor, Aeon Mall. Tel: 081 372 840.
A smarter camera
Smartphones may have the edge in instant shareable photography, but Fujifilm's Instax camera can automatically print any photo you take. Keeping photos in hand – rather than online – could be a boon for any holiday gathering. Amateur photographers can edit, crop and add designs before they print, and the camera comes in plenty of fun colours. You can pick one up on the second floor of Aeon Mall for between $99 and $238, depending on the model.
Aeon Mall, second floor. Tel: 096 705 8914.