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Day 1 (Part 2 of 3): A Surprise Cambodian Arts & Crafts Walking Tour

I had actually intended to spend day 1 finishing Breaking Bad’s 4th season, but I was itching to walk around and explore aimlessly. So I left the confines of my comfy room in search for nothing in particular (except lunch, maybe).

Little did I know that my purposeless wandering would lead me to a guidebook-less “Nomad Manager Cambodian Arts & Crafts Walking Tour”. Come, let me walk you through it as well. 🙂

The free map I got from Victory Guest House lacked street names, but I could follow the map anyway. So I walked towards Sivutha Rd. (I think) then took 2 Thnou Street to the Old Market. I didn’t really time myself but I probably walked some 20 minutes until I stumbled upon Le Lezard Bleu, an art & design gallery.

My favorite piece was this painting, which was really just gold paint on a textured black background. I love the simplicity and “rough” look of it (though I’m sure a lot of skill goes into it), and how the gold strokes effectively create an impression of a figure in traditional garbs.

I continued walking further down and then saw this sign “SWEATSHOP FREE ZONE” followed by a wide array of bags made from sacks. @_@ I had actually pitched a similar idea to my Punchdrunk Panda colleagues a couple of months back and was happy/sad to know that someone had already been doing it.

I’m happy to know that Diana Saw has taken it upon herself to create her business BLOOM, that practices fair trade and uses materials that might otherwise have been turned into trash. I’m only sad I didn’t think of it and execute it first, but I’m mostly happy that someone has actually put the idea to action.

I was eyeing these bags, but my better judgment told me to put off the purchase in favor of other experiences and less things to add to what I’m carrying.

These go for $25, if I remember correctly, and the reason it’s priced high is because their workers are paid better. 🙂

I continued down 2 Thnou Street until I finally hit Old Market. You’ll know because it’s a complex of Cambodian garments and souvenirs. I had to beware of saliva dribble because if you know me, you’ll know I love tunics, skirts, and all these delightful summery Southeast Asian garments.

If you know me, you know that beautiful handwoven textiles with pretty indigenous patterns also make me weak. I spent a lot of time in the first stall I found that had these incredible scarves:

My head was exploding. They were SO pretty. I absolutely love the patterns they have on them, and it really reminded me of the visual feast I had in Easter Weaving in Baguio as well.

I was set on buying a scarf because I intentionally didn’t bring one so I could buy one I could keep as a souvenir too. At $10 a scarf, it was a far cry from the $2-$4 scarves I could also get from the same place. The cheaper scarves were softer and less flashy, more suitable for travel really, but these ones were just… ahhh.

Anyway, being the canvaser that I am, I decided to check out more goods (and prices) in the other parts of the market. So canvas I did. Other salesladies were quoting me $20 on the same scarf and bringing them down to only $15 or $13 at most, so I went back to the first store.

I had REALLY been chatting up the saleslady Zam Rah when I initially stopped at her store, and again when I went back. I asked her about herself, and she too asked about me, and I tried my best to explain the “travel blogger” scenario in simple English, but I’m not sure she understood why I do this even if I don’t necessarily earn from it (yet). We must have chatted for 30 minutes to an hour.

She offered the scarf to me at $9 now, and while ultimately, it wasn’t neither the most practical nor economical, it was the prettiest souvenir-worthy one. And I loved chatting with Zam Rah so I felt compelled to help her out with a purchase.

Check us out…don’t we look cute together? Haha. She was hugging me really tight! 🙂
[See Zam Rah’s contact details at the end of this post.] 

It was almost 2pm at this point, and having been distracted by all the pretty things, I forgot to eat lunch. So I asked Zam where I could get cheap local food. Yup, not the tourist stuff. So she gave me directions to a “turo-turo” (this is a Filipino term for street food you point at :P) where I got a meal for 5000 Riel or $1.25, which sort of made up for my relatively pricey scarf.

It started to rain real hard, and being umbrella-less, I decided to kill more time by browsing the Old Market again with no more intention to buy. I later found a seller who was offering the same scarf for as low as $8, but I was happy with giving Zam the extra dollar. 🙂

I also stumbled upon this beautiful bag, which again, if you know me, is EXACTLY my type of bag: massive, sack-like, amorphous, with a pretty textile pattern. The seller had quoted me $25 for it, but when I showed disinterest / unwillingness to buy, she brought it down to $16, then even lower to $12, which honestly, I think was a steal.

You don’t realize how much it pained me to have to let it go because I had to keep in mind that I would have to bring this unnecessary extra (but pretty) bag with me for the rest of my trip. If I didn’t have that to think about, I probably would have gotten it. Still thinking about getting it actually. I have a couple of weeks to decide.

Man, I’m in trouble with all these pretty textile products.

See Part 2 of the “Nomad Manager Cambodian Arts & Crafts Walking Tour” here! 🙂
See Part 1 here for my accommodations and first meal in Siem Reap. 🙂 

Weak for weaving,
Jen

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Old Market Souvenir (scarves and garments) — look for Zam Rah
East Side of Old Market, Siem Reap
(855) 92-30-77-20
camjoomla@yahoo.com

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