Shoppers who are in search of genuine antiques would be better off looking in other countries in South East Asia, as the purchase and export of antiques in Cambodia is prohibited by law. This is due to the large number of priceless artefacts that have been stolen from Angkor and over ancient temples over the years.
However, a large number of convincing replicas are available at markets and specialist shops throughout Cambodia and those who are happy to settle for fakes rather than the real thing will find a large selection of Buddha statues, trinkets, amulets and other items.
Tips for buying antiques in Cambodia
Replica antiques are created by a number of talented craftsmen in Cambodia and are virtually indistinguishable from the genuine article for laymen.
However, it is important to make sure that these are copies rather than the real deal as visitors who try to take antiques out of Cambodia will find themselves hit with a strict penalty. Sculptures come in all shapes and sizes in Cambodia and are often created using the stones that were used to build the country’s ancient temples. The statues that are created in places such as Siem Reap are incredibly detailed and even experts have been known to mistake these for the real thing in the past, so they would serve as good substitutes for actual antiques.
Travellers can also purchase bronze copies of miniature statues as well as apsara and Buddha figures. Because these copies are so convincing, it would be wise to obtain a statement from the seller explaining that they are copies in order to avoid problems when leaving Cambodia.
Rice paper rubbings of bas-relief carvings from the temples of Angkor also make great souvenirs to take back home, and these look particularly striking when framed and lit from behind. Cambodia’s artists have been passing down special techniques from generation to generation for several centuries and paintings sold by artists in art shops and even along the side of the road strongly echo to style adopted by their ancestors.
Those who prefer to stick to genuine antiques will find an excellent selection in the neighbouring country of Thailand. Chatuchak Market, also known as the weekend market, is a great place to pick up antiques of all descriptions, from beautifully carved furniture to vases and paintings. There are also special antiques shops in cities such as Chiang Mai and Bangkok.