The buzz and mayhem of the city’s covered markets are what makes Phnom Penh a mecca for shopaholics. No trip would be complete without hitting at least one of its “Psars”, so let’s check ‘em out.
Phnom Penh has for many years been a shopper’s paradise, where bargains have to be fought over and where, in the majority of cases, ‘locally made’ means put together round the corner,so beware of imitations.
The most prominent of the capital’s marketplaces is Psar Thmei, a unique Art Deco building also known as Central Market. The central area is a wonder of design and engineering, with its domed core and four wings radiating outwards. Under the cupola, watches, precious and semi-precious stones, gold and silver jewellery dominate, accompanied by lines of stall holders selling clothing for Khmer tots, teens and twenty-somethings to barangs looking for presents for themselves or loved ones. Outside stalls have been updated from a rag-tag collection of haphazard corridors, specialising in everything from clothing to cooking utensils, electrical goods to fresh fish and crustaceans, to a more ordered assemblage of product areas.
A slight oddity in the capital’s market scene is just a stone’s throw from the Sorya Shopping Centre, calling itself the Golden Sorya Mall. Originally focused on shoes and clothing for increasingly fashion-conscious Khmer youths, it has undergone a transformation over the years, and the majority of the space is now given over to bars and restaurants, many of which are open until very late at night. It is currently yet again closed for renovations but will open again soon.
There have been few changes at the famous Russian Market since the movement of the many scruffy outside stalls, except for several merchants who have adorned their premises with fancy signage. Famous for its Aladdin’s cave of bootleg software, CDs and DVDs, plus just about everything a budding hipster would want to be seen with, it’s a steamy, clammy rabbit warren of colours and noise reminiscent of an Arabian souk.
Orussey is another reliable standby with a vast selection of dry bulk foods, fruit, vegetables, fish and cut flowers in addition to kramas, t-shirts, sneakers, underwear and household goods.
Other local markets include Psar Chas, which offers a stellar range of fruit, and Olympic, a predominantly wholesale market which has, among other items, fabrics of all hues and designs by the mile.
Boeung Keng Kang market, at the southern end of St.57, where it intersects with St.380, is popular among young Cambodians looking for fashion items at affordable prices, especially secondhand.