Great people watching and food spot
Published/Last edited or updated: 21st January, 2019
Phnom Penh’s only formal night market, Phsar Reatrey overlooks the riverside from the central reservation that separates downtown and northern Phnom Penh, and it is popular with foreigners and locals alike.
A quick stroll will find you a selection of Asian fashions, impossible designer brands with misspelled names, sparkly jewellery, cushions and beautiful paper flowers. Prices are often advertised but if you’re buying multiple items, you’ll probably get a discount.
The market also gives you an excellent chance to sample some live local pop music, and discover why most Cambodians are hearing impaired. In the centre of the market is a stage which hosts members of the Night Market band, who would probably do well in a wannabe K-pop star talent contest. They’re usually engaged in cutesy choreographed dances, belting out dance numbers and Khmer love songs. It is LOUD.
Behind the large central stage with its banks of monster speakers, there is an array of food stalls and a big space laid out with matting on which to tuck in to your nosh alongside dozens of local families and young couples. There is everything here from spring rolls to Cambodian sausages, grilled meats and more, and the lovely family atmosphere just makes everything seem even better than it already is on a balmy evening. It is still very loud though.
Once you’ve grabbed a plate and got a fruit shake, beer or sugarcane juice to wash it down, add your shoes to the pile at the edge of the expanse of floor mats. The trick is to find an empty spot to sit, negotiating the family groups and friends already chowing down. Each mat comes with communal tissues, chilli sauce and pepper and lime mix. If your knees aren’t what they used to be, there are some metal tables and plastic stools by the food stalls instead.
The Night Market is a fun introduction to retail therapy the Khmer way, avoiding the sweaty mazes and trip hazards of the day markets. Be careful not to relax so much that you stop being vigilant with your belongings—especially wallets and cameras—or you could end up funding someone’s Amanni belt or Guccy T-shirt habit.
Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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