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Boutique hopping...

By: Expat Advisory Posted: July-16-2008 in
Expat Advisory

It has happened to all of us. You're on one of the city's more congested roads, trapped between a million modes of transport and, unable to do anything else, you find yourself staring at the surroundings of wherever the traffic has managed to cage you. In the process you discover buildings and shops you never noticed before...and just as you register this discovery the transport whirlpool is swept into movement again and that shop is relegated back to the blur that makes up the landscape of Phnom Penh traffic.

After repeating the process described above a number of times I decided to make a note of all these shops that go unnoticed until forces of transport conspire to give me no other choice but to notice them and to pay them a visit.

Monivong is notorious for traffic chaos, so I've had two shops on it in mind for this venture for a while now. The first one is the brightly coloured orange boutique called La Reine. The shoe selection is worth a browse with a few black ballet pump designs that are both practical and stylish up to size 40. At an average price of $35 for most pairs of shoes, the prices are on the steep side so don't expect to walk out feeling you've scored 'bargain of the decade' when you look down at your feet.

On the clothing hangers I was pleased to find the Bam Bam label, which I first discovered at Sorya Shopping Centre and have since bumped into in a few different locations. I'm a fan of their stylish designs and great prints. The one or two dresses by the label I found made up for the other less inspiring options on display. Given the quality and designs on offer I found the prices excessive, but the 'boutique on Monivong' equation is probably the reason.

Further along one of Phnom Penh's shopping high streets one can find City Block Fashion Shop which boasts $5-$12 signs in their shop window. And it delivers on its promises. This place validates my 'you never know what's in there' approach to shops because I would never have guessed they stock what they do...the prices are reasonable and when you find something good, you really find something good...

I'll use the $25 Marc Jacobs dress to illustrate my point. Size 4 means that most of us can only stand and stare, but at that price I was almost tempted to take it's creamy fabric with chocolate brown embroidery and hang it on my wall for decoration. But I resisted, so all size 4's out there take note!

The shop layout is divided according to price, so you know exactly what kind of deal you're in for as you move around. Pretty blouses and one or two fabulous evening dresses promise the right girl to the right garment and ensure smiles all round. The clothes come from Hong Kong and Shanghai and they receive new deliveries once a month, so I recommend adding it to your regular shopping circuit, should you have such a thing.

Leaving Monivong for Sihanouk I found my next port of call- Princess Room. The very pretty floral wallpaper means that you don't have to be stuck in traffic to notice this shop, yet for reasons unknown to me, this was my first visit. The tags with 'Mulberry' and 'Ferragamo' dividing the handbag shelves indicate an interest in Vogue on behalf of some member of management and this is also reflected in some of the clothing.

A lovely dark blue dress with a lime green belt really caught my eye, as did a pleated long black evening dress...when riffling through the shirts I came upon one by Dolce and Gabbana and marvelled at how designer labels just jump out of nowhere around here. At times it feels akin to finding a lost earring at the back of your sofa.

The next time I find myself wedged between a tuk tuk, cyclo, bus and a Camry I will be sure to pull out my notebook again and jot down the names of the shops around me. One really never knows 'what's in there'...

La Reine No. 177 Preah Monivong
City Block Fashion Shop Eo-201 Preah Monivong
Princess Room No. 91 EO Sihanouk (street 274)

Third Edition of The Advisor, 19th July, 2008

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