Well, it’s our last and final day her in Cambodia and what an adventure it has been. However, being me, there’s still time yet to squeeze some things in before our afternoon departure. So, it’s up bright and early for Rebeca and I as we packed up and enjoyed a nice little “western” breakfast this morning before checking out and grabbing yet another tuck-tuck and head to the artisan’s workshop just a few minutes away from our hotel.
The Artisans of Cambodia is an offshoot of an educational project called Chantiers-Ecoles de Formation Professionnell, and originally created to help young rural people find work near their home village aiming at providing professional skills to communities with limited educational opportunities. After arriving you receive the brief tour of the history of the silk farms, wood carvings, paintings, and work behind the organization. You then have the opportunity to go through the facility and see the craftsmen themselves and the process behind each product.
The work and time that goes into each piece are, without a doubt, unbelievable. I enjoyed our little tour and appreciate the opportunity the center has given to many Cambodians to have a sustainable job. Personally artwork produced for the “masses” does not appeal to me, and being designed specifically for the tourist industry I find it lacking in individuality. However, they are exact replicas of the original Khmer art and is individually inspected for imperfections and design flaws. After the tour, we headed to the gift shop where you can see and purchase all of the handcrafted items. Ranging from beautiful ceramics, silk, and woodwork to local coffee, spices, and soaps.
Rebeca and I then chose to part ways, and she headed off the Siem Rep war museum after learning the landmine museum was about 2hrs. Away from where we were. The wartime museum has the same collection of information and war memorabilia and is the just short tuck-tuck drive away from the artisans in Krong Siem Reap. Rebecca thoroughly enjoyed the museum and especially liked the fact that you are given a personal guide at no extra cost which was connected to the war in some way. For example, her guide’s father was a veteran of the war himself and drafted into the Cambodians army as a very young man. I highly recommend checking it out if you are staying in Siem Rep if you are looking for something to do and do not have the time or money to get out to the landmine museum.
I, on the other hand, headed into city central since we really hadn’t had a chance to see it in action thus far. I ended up meandering around a bit and stumbling into a local bookstore, some art shops, and a girl about my age from NY who was traveling Southeast Asia while teaching. She actually knew about the small town I grew up in! Can you believe it?! Really makes you realize how small the world really is. I started chatting with her after trying to order a Cashew Nut shake Mr. Mony (our guide) had recommended. If you’re ever in Cambodia and have the chance to try one or have luck finding anyone who knows what the heck you’re talking about let me know :p I found every other shake imaginable but no cashew nut, so banana-coconut milkshakes it was! I was never so glad to get a refreshing drink to cool down. The man was it hot! I didn’t think it would be possible for me to find a place hotter than summertime in Singapore….I was wrong.
It was kind of fun to grab a fresh “street food” fruit shake and hit the local market where I ended up spending way too much time getting lost, purchasing traditional Cambodian fabric to take back to my mom, and bartering some bamboo flip flops ( because everyone needs a pair of these..seriously they are the most comfortable things ever!). I did manage to grab a spoon for myself ¹ and a patchwork monkey for my sister as well.² By the end of the end of the afternoon, and after all the running around trying to see as much as I could, I was ready for a nice refreshing shower but I was cutting it close and had just enough time to head back to the hotel for a quick change, grab my bag, meet Rebeca, and head to the airport.
¹ I can’t stop this crazy collection I have going now. I have no idea what the heck I’ll do with all these tacky tourist spoons, but it’s the one thing I always grab ever since I was given my first one from my aunt from Albuquerque way back when. Hey if we ever go into a spoon deficit I’ll be well-prepared :p I have changed to getting ones made from the local material, like my ox horn spoon from Vietnam.
² These crazy patchwork animals everywhere in Cambodia, which are actually something unique to their culture, and usually made by the less fortunate or orphaned children. My sister brought me back one during her travels to use as a pin cushion when I quilt, yes I’m an old lady sometimes ;p I thought it was funny when I stumbled upon a rare, never before seen, patchwork monkey adding to her collection consisting of a water buffalo and my elephant (she gifted back;p)
After bidding our goodbyes to our new friends at the hotel, we jumped in the back of one more tuck-tuck and prepared to leave this amazing experience behind us. At the airport, I picked up one last gift for myself, a ring made of an old brass bullet casing from the war that had been formed into the shape of the Khmer leaf. I was hesitant to buy it, but upon learning it was literally the only one ever made because the design didn’t work and it had yet to fit anyone who’s tried it on, I was sold. The factory designs ring manufactured from the old casings that are specially made for airport store, so I thought it was a good souvenir to take back to remember my time spent in Cambodia. They do have an online store with rings and other beautiful clothes, jewelry, etc. Made in the right in Siem Rep, and I highly recommend checking it at:
Phew, what an amazing experience! I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share it with you and my friend Rebeca. I would love to hear about your own experience if you do go or help you plan yours! I and can always offer suggestions based on my own experience. It’s definitely a trip worth taking!