Scotsabroad's Weblog

February 21, 2015

Ethical Memories

Filed under: Merchandise — scotsabroad @ 2:55 pm

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We have picked up our fair share of souvenirs during our travels. We have probably lined the pockets of some unscrupulous people in many of the countries we have visited. But we like to think we try to buy ethically from local artisans and bazaars. 

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/25/i-love-buying-souvenirs-abroad-but-are-they-ethical

However, everything became a bit confusing recently when we visited the centre of the Angkor Arts and Crafts in Siem Reap.

http://www.artisansdangkor.com

They say that impoverished youngsters are trained in the arts of their ancestors.

Bus-loads of tourists were weaving through the workshops taking photographs of the artisan workforce carving beautiful heads of Buddha or Jayavarman. The workforce was silent and did not entertain any requests for dialogue or posing for a photograph. Each worker wore a paper hat, or had a paper message sellotaped to their shirts – both declaring that they needed more money and a pay-rise of 8%. They must be desperate to go to such undignified lengths to be heard. But, none of the tourists seemed remotely interested as they got their shot and headed for the shop. We managed to speak to a worker discreetly about what was going on. Basically, they couldn’t sustain themselves or their families on their present wages and were asking the private owners for an 8% rise in wages. To date, the owners had refused to even enter into negotiations. Very wealthy owners – judging by the cost (and the amount) of goods leaving the factory shop in the bags of tourists – just in the time that we were there. They have outlets at the Blue Pumpkin restaurant in town and out at Angkor Wat too.

There was no way we could bring ourselves to buy from the company.

Were we supporting the artisans or making their plight worse by not purchasing their products?

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But, we did find Mekong Quilts on Sivatha Street. Cotton, linen and silk items made by women from rural areas. Beautiful things. And, selling these cool bamboo-frame bikes.

We stayed at a great wee hotel out of town towards Angkor Wat called, Cyclo d’Angkor Boutique Hotel. We hired good quality bikes from them for $7 a day. This would make a great base if running the marathon.

http://thecyclodangkor.com

It was pleasant to be able to cycle down into the town and the market area and then escape along Charles de Gaulle. 

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Finally, having tried a multitude of fine (and rank) beers over the last eight years such as Stella, Sakara and Bintang – I think the Cambodian beer, Angkor is my favorite. Delicious, if I remember correctly.

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