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From the Ground: Phnom Penh’s New Night Market

Photo Courtesy of Jet’s Container Night Market

By Jay Austin

Jet’s Container Night Market opened in March 2017, showcasing an array of restaurants, shops and bars all housed in shipping containers. The market kicks off, 7 nights a week, at 4pm and goes until midnight.  Although crowded, this is one of Phnom Penh’s newest evening hot spots. We recommend guests to try at least one drink at one of the rooftop container bars which offer a great view of the surroundings.  You can see a short video of market here.

Photo Courtesy of Jet’s Container Night Market

From the Ground: The Siem Reap, Cambodia Boutique Shopping Tour

By Jay Austin

We always provide our guests with ‘Cheat Sheets’ that list our favorite shopping and restaurant suggestions.  However, we’re taking it to the next level!  Our new Siem Reap Shopping Tour is a great way for guests to experience the boutique side of Siem Reap.  This tour provides the perfect ‘girls’ day out’ which begins with cocktails before stepping out for some serious shopping, and is led by either Jay or Naida – Siem Reap’s shopping experts!

Here’s what the new Shopping Tour looks like:

Your driver will collect you from your hotel at 2pm to begin your boutique shopping experience.  This afternoon you will have the opportunity to visit some of Siem Reap’s finest boutique stores and experience creativity inspired from across the globe. You will begin your afternoon with a visit to the trendy Kandal Village, a street lined with boutique stores of all types and tastes from clothing to homewares.

From here you will move on to visit the Eric Raisina Couture House where you will find some of Asia’s finest textiles.  Eric Raisina is a world renowned textile designer born in Madagascar whose career has included highlights such as producing textiles for Yves Saint- Laurent and Christian Lacroix.

From here you will return to the center of Siem Reap city to visit the well populated Alley West, a small laneway in the center of town offering a diverse range of boutique stores from fashion, to ceramics, to swimwear.

Your final stop on this boutique exploration is the Kings Road complex, a newly developed shopping area housing photography galleries, vintage stores and in the center of it all lies the Made in Cambodia Market offering a range of individually styled souvenirs to suit all tastes. The Kings Road complex is home to some of the restaurants on our cheat sheet if you would like to stay for dinner or you can have your driver take you back to the hotel with all of your purchases.

Snake Wine – Is it legal to bring back as a souvenir?

By Courtney Ridgel, Junior Tour Consultant

One thing we love about traveling is getting to shop for unique items in local markets.  Throughout the region there are many wonderful things to buy, like curios from a market stall or furniture from a factory.  Southeast Asia boasts some of the best shopping in the world, between designer shops in Bangkok to night markets in Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang, and from boutique stores to Hilltribe markets in Vietnam and Myanmar.   This wide variety of options also means that consumers are responsible for selecting their purchases wisely.

Environmental protection in Southeast Asia is in its infancy.  Be mindful when purchasing items from local markets or food from restaurants that are made from threatened and endangered species.  Many struggling families make ends meet by catching endangered creatures to eat or sell.   Additionally, many of these items are illegal to bring back to the US.

Snake Wine, a commonly sold souvenir in Southeast Asia.
Snake Wine, a commonly sold souvenir in Southeast Asia.

One popular souvenir that we frequently see in markets is snake (or scorpion) wine, so we decided to do a little research on whether it is legal to bring snake wine back to the US.  It seems that as far as US Customs are concerned with snake wine, the type of snake contained in the bottle is what matters.  Importing cobras, which are the snake most commonly used in wine, is illegal because they are an endangered species.  Bringing back items made of endangered species is illegal in the United States, as these species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which applies to live and dead animals.  However, it seems that snake wine made using non-endangered snake species is acceptable as long as you declare it and the proper officials inspect it in the airport.  (You can find more information on the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

Palm Wine, a legal alternative souvenir to Snake Wine.
Palm Wine, a legal alternative souvenir to Snake Wine.

That said, we always encourage travelers to support sustainably-sourced items, particularly where animal products are concerned.  Although items like snake wine are traditional to the region, there is some debate about the how the snakes are acquired – some are farmed but many others are captured from the wild and demand from tourists has drastically increased how many snakes are used.  Be wary of purchasing other products or food made from other animals such as turtles, sea horses, sharks, tigers, rhinos, and elephants.

For alternative souvenirs to snake wine, we suggest items such as palm wine, woven textiles (which are much lighter and easier to pack), locally-made artwork, jewelry or handmade clothing, among many other unique options.

Other Shopping Tips:

  • Try your hand at bargaining!
  • Shop Locally – Just like at home, one of the biggest ways that you can make a difference in communities is to use your consumer dollars wisely.
  • When looking for gifts to take home, keep your eyes open — there are plenty of shops around Southeast Asia that sell cheap goods made in China, but instead, why not look for locally produced, hand-made versions of the souvenirs you want. The price difference is usually very little and by purchasing products made in the communities you visit, you help support long-term job creation and the local economy.
  • Shop Environmentally-Friendly – Consider the amount of litter that comes with your purchases — if you don’t need a plastic bag, ask them not to use one.
  • If you are shipping goods home, be aware that the final price can end up much higher than they quote you so we recommend that, if you can, you carry the articles with you, even if this means paying excess luggage. If you do ship anything home, please make sure you get and keep complete documentation of the sale, the shipping quote and arrangement and be prepared to pay import duty at the other end.

Places we love to shop:

Kandal Village, Siem Reap

Shinta Mani “Made in Cambodia” Market, Siem Reap

Angkor Night Market, Siem Reap

Lalai Sap Market, Siem Reap

Central Market, Phnom Penh

Wulai Walking Street or the Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai

Scott’s Market (Bogyoke Market), Yangon

Any of the local markets in Myanmar

And many more!  Be sure to ask your guides for suggestions and when you travel with Journeys Within, you’ll receive a Cheat Sheet with our favorite shopping and dining options in each location.

The Andreas Find Treasures in Myanmar

By: Andrea Ross

Visiting local markets can be one of the highlights of travel and I love searching for that hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Today Andrea 2 and I visited Scott’s Market, locally known as Bogyoke Market, in Yangon. Once there we explored through local and souvenir stores looking for the perfect gift for ourselves or someone at home. After climbing to the second floor of the market we found a wonderful hidden store called Yo Ya May Ethnographic Textile Gallery which was filled with modern and antique textiles and jewelry.

We found a wonderful hidden store.

The shop’s friendly proprietor, Daw Khun Shwe, brought out books highlighting different Burmese tribes, introduced us to fabrics and weaves from different groups throughout the country, and let us wander and browse to our hearts content. I love textiles and fabric and hearing the stories of the various ethnic tribes. Ms Shwe, herself, is from the Chin tribe so she showed us the traditional skirts, shirts and jewelry worn by her people.

The friendly proprieter- Ms. Daw Khun Shwe

Andrea 2 and I both found necklaces, not antiques (just about 50 years old), but they are beautiful and unique pieces that cost only $20 each!  It was a lovely surprise and I highly recommend anyone coming to Yangon to visit the Yo Ya May shop to find your hidden treasure!

The Andreas with their found treasure!

Crafty

I have always wished that I could have a job that involved shopping. I have taken it as far as applying to be one of those mystery shoppers, I know nothing about it, but it sounds so cool and you get to shop, but not lose money! This week my dream came to reality, no, I didn’t get to go to Target and buy detergent, I didn’t even have to keep the fact I was a buyer a secret! Nikaya, our new craft project sent me on a shopping spree! Alex, our Nikaya director, had made contact with a variety of different fair trade companies in Phnom Penh and I flew down Wednesday morning to start shopping. We went to many different stores seeing all the different things being made here in Cambodia. There is so much and a lot of it is incredibly beautiful. Many of the products aren’t just made here, but are being designed by Cambodian designers so they have a new and unique style to them. We looked at purses and jewelry and home décor, enough to make your head spin (with delight!). Alex has designed some beautiful scarves, table runners and pillow cases that are going into production this week so we got to sit down with the designs and pick the silk for each. It’s incredibly scary…what if no one lies what we make!?!? But also incredibly exciting to be taking advantage of the beautiful fabric and talented craftsmen we have here. I am now in the airport on my way home, carrying a couple of bags worth of samples we picked up. Though it will be a few months for everything to come to fruition we have definitely made a big step and I could get used to this professional shopper gig!

Here are some photos of my favorite finds, though you’ll have to wait until August to have them for yourself at www.nikayahandcrafted.com.