Siem Reap is the epicentre of the drive to revitalise Cambodian traditional culture, which was dealt a harsh blow by the Khmer Rouge and the years of instability that followed its rule. Les Chantiers Écoles teaches wood- and stone-carving techniques, traditional silk painting, lacquerware and other artisan skills to impoverished young Cambodians. Free guided tours explaining traditional techniques are available daily from 7.30am to 6.30pm. Tucked down a side road, the school is well signposted from Sivatha St.
On the premises the school runs a beautiful shop called Artisans Angkor, which sells everything from stone and wood reproductions of Angkorian-era statues to household furnishings. There’s also a second shop opposite Angkor Wat in the Angkor Cafe building, and outlets at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports. All the profits go back into funding the school and bringing more young Cambodians into the training program, which is 20% owned by the artisans themselves.
Les Chantiers Écoles also maintains Angkor Silk Farm, which produces some of the best work in the country, including clothing, interior-design products and accessories.