I personally feel that the best souvenir from Cambodia is a traditional photoshoot in their Khmer Boran or traditional attire. Though this might set you back 15USD, it is worth the experience!
My friends Sophea and Khema took me to this photo studio in Phnom Penh. We came in late, around 5 pm but the owner still accommodated us.
On the walls are beautiful portraits of Khmer (Cambodians) in their traditional attires. You can choose a costume from these pictures or from an album. There are a lot of beautiful costumes to choose from and it is so confusing because you only need to choose one. If you want a picture taken in an another costume, you have to pay extra.
Khmers would usually get their portraits taken this way during weddings and kids on their birthdays. However, because tourism is their country's main source of income, traditional photos such as these are increasingly becoming popular with the tourists.
I chose the princess attire. I thought everything was going to be quick and snappy but I was wrong. I did not expect that I would be treated like I am joining a beauty pageant when I paid the 15 USD and the entire process taking to about one hour and a half.
One girl was assigned to me by the owner and she started putting on heavy foundation on my face, 3 layers of fake eyelashes and a really long wig on my hair. When I looked at myself at the mirror I was laughing hard because my face was white while the rest of my body was dark. However, I just left the lady to her own device. I think it took around 30 minutes to just get my hair and make up done.
Waiting for us made our host, Kuya Raul and his wife Ate Gladys hungry. Khema and Sophea (the girl at my back) on the other hand, waited patiently and rallied us with their support.
The girl who worked on me (I know her name but I do not know how to spell it) had to pin my costume on a couple of places as they were too small for me. These clothes were made for Cambodians and I'm on the heavier side when compared to them.
A crown was placed on my head and faux gold accessories were put on my ears and snapped on my both of my wrists. Then a gold chain was carefully placed on top of my left shoulder and made to fall gently on my sides. Meanwhile, my feet were shot by over sized shoes.Yards of fabric had to be wrapped around me for a couple of times then carefully pleated and pinned on my waste. This is called the sampot.
Blind as a mouse (I am nearsighted), I managed to find my way to the photographer who expertly tilted my head, bent my arms, moved my legs and orchestrated my body movements in a way he deemed fit. Sophea, my Khmer friend was at his back telling me not to control my smile whenever I begin to show my teeth.
Surprisingly, despite my initial apprehensions on the uneven skin tone, my glam team managed to pull off this result.. Special shout out to Marlon from WASH for shaping my bushy eyebrows while in the Philippines.
|Ok so I showed my teeth in this one. Not Khmer!|
I got these photos three days after the photoshoot. Perhaps because they had to photo shop the background.
Don't you think this is the best use of your 15USD? This is youth captured for posterity!