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It's all in the bag...

By: Expat Advisory Posted: January-01-2006 in
Expat Advisory

We spend more time with it than we do with friends and family. It speaks of our character. It houses both the practical and the treasured. It's a close bond. Tanja Wessels has respect for the handbag.

It's an age-old question. One we have all asked, or been asked at some point in time-if you are a woman that is. I'm sure men have their own version but that's another article altogether. The question proposed nestles neatly in the list that reads along the lines of: are you a dog or cat person? Shower or bath? Coffee or tea?

Sweet or savoury? Handbag or shoe- yes that is the question at hand. Are you a handbag woman or a shoe woman? I have always a known in which field I stand in relation the great handbag/shoe fence. I am very much in the handbag field. The reasons are numerous and the list extensive- this being a conversation I have had many times and in many corners of the world. I feel I have heard all the shoe defence there is out there: shoes and: sex, height, elegance, how they can compensate for what your legs are lacking in the genetic realm, how they can reduce men to dribbling boys- it's a wonder shoes don't have their own election campaigns.

Perhaps I should look at a childhood spent in countries where being barefoot all day long was de rigueur and the fact that I was a tomboy for longer than I should publicly admit to offer some way to explaining my preference for the art of the handbag over the art of the shoe.

Handbags perform the double function of being both practical and an emblem of your character. That's right, an emblem of your character. Exaggerated? Take a moment to ponder this: when you meet someone for the first time and they take their keys out of a big plastic handbag with Mickey Mouse's face on it, does it make an impression? (Nothing against Mickey or the owner of the handbag).

Shoes also reveal a lot about their owners but the truth is we change shoes much more often than handbags. We carry handbags about our person all day long, they are our private realms. It's a very close bond. In it we house both the practical and the treasured: from money and keys to photos of loved ones or small trinkets from friends. You can't put that in a shoe. Losing your handbag or losing a pair of shoes is not the same thing.

In Cambodia the list of demands on a handbag is pretty tall. It has to be: waterproof (make that shower-proof) and please-don't-pull-it off-my-shoulder-as-i-ride-a-moto proof, amongst other things. Tricky business.

For lovers of labels most fashion houses are misrepresented in the area of designer handbag rip-offs. For a label-fest head to the third floor of Sorya shopping centre where there are more logos per square metre than an MTV music awards ceremony. With prices to match.

If bling doesn't float your boat I suggest heading to what I consider by far the most interesting place for handbags in town. O'Russei market is a true treasure trove. On the second level, residing next to the great shoe section (yes the two can live in harmony) one can find stall upon stall of handbags in all shapes and sizes. Fancy a mockcroc electric blue Luella Bartley inspired design? Check. A Bottega Venetta inspired weave? Check. Soft slouchy, butter coloured and oversized? Check. Little beaded clutch bags...

There are hundreds upon hundreds of different designs and although the quality is not going to make this a piece to hand down to future generations, the prices mean that you can satisfy every fashion whim that surfaces. This does create dangerous situations, it has to be said. I once thought it a good idea to buy a huge rectangular

bag, in gold. I don't even like gold but the price was so ridiculously low I couldn't resist. Needless to say, I looked like a cast member from Austin Powers on the few occasions I actually left the house with it.

O'Russei houses every type of bag one could ever need. I'm particularly pleased with a very chic weekend bag that I bought a while ago. Black and wheeled, it's perfect for short breaks away.

A word of warning. In the case of fabric handbags take care. An incident last year illustrates the point I'm making. I bought a canvas handbag and delighted with my purchase I went straight home and I skipped to the balcony where all my flatmates were seated. Many approving noises were made as I showed off my shopping trophy. Shortly after the jubilation was replaced with looks of disgust and someone asked, "Where is that smell of dry fish coming from?" Shopping at markets is not without its perils.

Sorya Shopping Centre
N0. 13-61, Trasak Paem (St. 63)
Psar O'Russei
Street 182 2 Blocks East of Monivong

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