Lively, dusty and fun, the markets in Phnom Penh offer up a kaleidoscope of local life.
Better known as the Russian Market due to the Soviet expats who shopped here in the 1980s, Phsar Toul Tom Poung is an easy first choice for visitors, but they should be prepared to haggle. Close to the cafes and art galleries along Street 155 and surrounded by shops selling local arts and crafts, like most of the city’s markets, this all-day bazaar is stuffy inside, but it’s worth braving the heat and flies to find brand name clothing at low prices, alongside cleverly rendered fake antiques, local craftwork, jewelry and more.
Set in a tatty but spectacular French-designed, dome-shaped Art Deco building, which has featured in just about every movie made about Cambodia, the far larger Phsar Thmei (Central Market) is much cooler. Open from early morning until around 5pm, high ceilings allow air to circulate freely and make browsing over several floors of goods — ranging from clothes, jewelry and textiles, to flowers and food — much more pleasant.
Food stands on the western side serve sugar cane juice, nom pao steamed pork buns, deep-fried crickets and other tidbits to snack on while browsing. Phsar Themi is on the intersection of several incredibly busy streets, and visitors will have to take special care when crossing here.
When the sun goes down and the sidewalks cool off, the best place to chill on weekends is Phsar Rea Try Night Market (Night Market) down by the Tonle Sap River. Although souvenirs are not such a bargain here as in the city’s other markets, for atmosphere Rea Try can’t be beaten.
People-watchers will love the crowds of Cambodians doing their evening aerobic exercises to blaring music, next to stands vending local drinks and snacks, while families picnic on blankets on the banks of the river, or play badminton with improvised shuttlecocks on the banks of the fast-flowing river.
Since the riverfront is one of Phnom Penh’s best areas for nightlife, there’s plenty of live music and other after-hours entertainment on offer here, too. tourismcambodia.com