Phsar Tuol Tom Pong (Russian Market)
A must-shop spot
What we say:
Despite its English-language name, the one thing you can’t buy at Phnom Penh’s Phsar Toul Tom Poung is a Russian. But for almost everything else, this warren of stalls has it covered. The market became popular with foreigners in the 1980s when most of its visitors were Soviets, hence the name. Since then, it’s become a regular on the Phnom Penh to-do list. It may be busy, hot and impossibly difficult to navigate, but the selection of items on sale makes it the perfect one-stop for presents and souvenirs.
Located in the south of the city off Monivong Boulevard and Mao Tse Tung, the market is about a 15-minute tuk tuk ride from riverside. Before you dive in to the bustle of stalls, it’s worth noting which entrance you are using, especially if you hope to meet your driver again. Look for an easily recognisable landmark such as one of the big shops outside the market, or the fruit and vegetable stalls. That way, if you exit in a different direction, you can walk around the outside of the market until you get your bearings.
Inside the market, you are almost guaranteed to get lost, unless you have an uncanny sense of direction. Aisles piled high with clothes, shoes and handbags are distracting and disorientating. You may think you’ve seen that stall selling silk scarves before, but it’s difficult to be sure. As a general rule of thumb, the eastern side of the market is mostly clothing, while the northern side sells tools, household goods and indispensable items for motorcycle repair. The other two sides are a mixture of jewellery, watches, antiques, pseudo antiques, luggage, pirated DVDs and crafts. In the middle of the market is a central food area – if you can stand the heat, stay in this kitchen for super strong iced coffee, noodle soup, gloopy sweets and snacks.
To get the most out of your shopping experience, use the money change kiosks outside to convert big US dollar notes into riel — it’s easier to bargain when you’re not waving $50 notes around. Find a stall that has a few items you are interested in as it’s simpler to get a discount on multiple purchases.
Be suspicious of “genuine” antiques, gemstones and luxury watch brands — better to pay a price you are happy with because you like something rather than because of untested provenance. Clothing brands, however, may well be genuine, due to the large number of garment factories in Cambodia. Items which have small defects and are rejected for export often find their way onto market stalls, so it’s possible to pick up Gap, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein and Zara at knock down prices. We’re not sure about those Lexus boxer shorts, though …
For a marathon shopping trip, regular breaks are imperative to keep up your strength. If you can find an exit, the streets running away from the market square are bristling with coffee shops and bakeries serving weary shoppers, or you can pick up a sugar cane juice and relax under a streetside umbrella.
Opposite the market, larger shops sell similar goods at higher prices but with the benefit of air-con and changing rooms, a welcome respite from sweaty try-ons under a sarong. Once you are cooled and watered, you can dive back in for just one more necklace, notebook or, perhaps the best find of all, a watch featuring the portrait of Cambodia’s Prime Minister.
Phsar Toul Tom Poung (Russian Market)
Intersection of Streets 440 and 155
More detailsIntersection of Street 440 & Street 155
Read 1 opinions from Travelfish readers
Not a Russian in sight
28th August, 2012
With only one day in Phnom Penh and having been tasked by a friend with bringing back as many scarves as I could buy with $60, I was advised by my guesthouse that the Russian Market was the place to go. Chartered a tuktuk to take me there, wait for as long as it took and bring me back to the guesthouse - a cheap way to do it and it worked really well. I enjoyed getting lost and suddenly ending up in the food section, which was a bit squishy underfoot but okay as long as you stayed on the dodgy wooden boards. Lots of interesting sights and smells. After a deal of haggling, I staggered out of there with heaps of scarves, $1 DVDs and local fruits, to find my driver patiently waiting ... I found my way back to the same aisle I entered, more by accident than good mapping skills! I even found an honest DVD vendor who told me not to bother with a couple of newly-pirated copies, as they were poor quality!! A fun way to spend a few hours in PP if you've already 'done' the Palace & the Museum.
Phsar Tuol Tom Pong (Russian Market) reviewed by redape (1)
Written on 28th August, 2012, rated Visited here in July, 2012
Jump to a destination
- Hot spots
- Phnom Penh & surrounds
- Siem Reap, Angkor & West Cambodia
- Sihanoukville & Cambodia's islands
- Banlung, Kratie & the Northeast
What readers are saying
Not a Russian in sight
With only one day in Phnom Penh and having been tasked by a friend with bringing back as many scarve...