Cambodia is called the Kingdom of Wonder… Phnom Penh, its Capital City, is bustling with new eateries, bars, fashion designers and exciting things to do. Where should you stay and how do you travel responsibly in one of the most underrated cities of Southeast Asia?
Well, We’ve got just the guide to travelling green in Phnom Penh for you. Cambodia is a country full of surprises, you will be swept away by the warmth of its inhabitants and the dynamism of its youth. Spending consciously will help you make sure that your visit is beneficial for the country and its development. Here’s what (and where) to do, eat, shop and see when you’re in Phnom Penh:
Being one of the smallest countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodian markets are flooded with products from Vietnam, Thailand or China. Spot locally grown produce such as Kampot Pepper or Khmer curry to bring back home! For your meals, you can support small business holders such as booth owners in wet markets, or businesses with environmental & social objectives.
Set-up in a beautifully renovated ancient house, this restaurant, and social business is part of the TREE Alliance. The restaurant trains young people, often former street youth, to become professionals of the hospitality industry. And it serves delicious traditional Khmer food!
Find them at #74 St. 174, Phnom Penh.
Tucked in a hidden alley covered with amazing street-art, this small cafe focuses on healthy food and offers numerous vegetarian, vegan, raw or gluten-free options. The restaurant works directly with local farmers to source chemical-free and organic ingredients and thrives to improve its impact on the environment by reducing plastic, increasing composting and recycling, and training its teams about what can be done to keep Cambodia clean.
Find them at St. 144 ½, between St. 240 and St. 244, Phnom Penh.
Bring Back Local Souvenirs
Thinking all souvenirs are local? Some are, but a lot of cheap items also come from neighbouring countries with a bigger industrial capacity. To make sure your purchase is beneficial to locals, spot the Cambodian initiatives.
This beautiful little shop has selected the best of Cambodian ethical brands, including fashion, children’s toys, scarves, and home decor.
Find them at St. 240 ½, between St. 240 and St. 244, Phnom Penh
Krama scarves from Silk Island
Just a short moto or tuk-tuk ride away from the center of Phnom Penh, ‘Koh Dach’, also called ‘Silk Island’ brings together the best of Cambodia’s countryside. It is traditionally where Cambodia’s most famous scarf, the krama, was weaved, and you can still find original hand-woven pieces sold directly by the craftswomen.
This Siem-Reap based organization have revived Cambodia’s traditional craftsmen know-how while helping young rural people finding work near their home village. They also sell beautifully woven silk apparel and scarves in their Phnom Penh boutique near the Post Office.
Find them at 12AEo, St. 13, Phnom Penh.
Minimize Your Disposable Plastic Use & Get Free Refills
There is no plastic recycling factory in Cambodia, which means that most disposable plastic ends up in landfills or, worse, in streets or fields. Initiatives like Refill, not landfill have set up water bottle filling stations all over the country, allowing travellers to fill up their reusable water bottle for free! The full list of stations is available right here.
Think Before You Volunteer
As generous as it can be to be willing to offer your time to help others, make sure your good intentions are not making any damages. UNICEF and other international organizations have spoken against volunteering in orphanages, where the constant change of volunteers can be harmful for the children. If you want to get involved, check reliable sources first, such as the Tourism Concern website to see where your skills would be the most useful.
Join the Fashion Revolution!
Cambodia’s history with Fashion started years ago, when some of the biggest international Fashion brands started opening garment factories in the country, contributing to its development but also sometimes offering questionable work conditions.
Fortunately, small ethical & local fashion brands have emerged in the past years, giving Cambodia a voice of its own in the world of fashion! Sourcing local materials, upcycling as much as possible remnant fabric, offering fair working conditions – these brands are slowly changing the way fashion is done.
Inspired by Cambodia’s most versatile textile – the krama – the brand offers an urban clothing collection, for men and women.
Find them at #5 St. 244, Phnom Penh
This original shoe brand has adapted the tradition French espadrille to the Cambodian lifestyle, mixing & matching the most beautiful local fabric, and creating shoes for the whole family.
Find them at #45 St. 21, Phnom Penh
Support the Revival of the Arts
In a post-conflict country like Cambodia, the existence of an artistic scene is not a given. Cambodian Living Arts was founded in 1998 by a Genocide survivor, whose dream was that one day, all children will carry musical instruments, not weapons. The NGO now train musicians, singers and dancers and give them the opportunity to perform every night as professional performers. You can show your support and discover the amazing diversity of Cambodian traditional dance by attending their daily show at 7PM at the National Musem in Phnom Penh.
Find them at the National Museum, St. 13, Phnom Penh.