Cambodia has a rich silk-weaving history, with evidence found on some of the etchings that adorn the walls of Angkor Wat. However, recent history led to the ancient art teetering on the brink of extinction. The past few decades have seen great efforts to revive the trade, with Artisans Angkor in Siem Reap retraining communities. The organisation offers free daily tours of its silk farm. When buying Cambodian silk, it often pays well to steer clear of the markets, where cheap fakes imported from Vietnam and China are often masquerading as Cambodian silk. Instead, head to one of the many boutiques that sell the real deal. Lotus Silk in Phnom Penh is bursting with silk scarves, clothes and accessories in a range of designs and colours.
The Cambodian countryside is studded with sugar palm trees. In fact, they’re so common that they are the country’s national tree. In order to collect the product, men climb up the trunk to cut the fruit from the treetops. The sap is then extracted and heated in a large metal pot until it turns into a thick paste, which is then left to solidify into blocks of palm sugar; this is then used as sugar, or transformed into a variety of other items. Confirel is one Cambodian company that has sweetened up the ingredient, also creating candles and wine.
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