Phsar Chas is a great little Phnom Penh market conveniently located for travellers to check out but targeting locals — head here instead of striking out to distant suburbs to experience a genuine Cambodian market.
You visit Phsar Thmei as much as to see the iconic exterior as for the goods on offer and if you want tourist tat you head out of the centre to the Russian Market. If you want to stock up on fruit or veg, invest in a few gold bangles or do an incense stick stock fill for your house shrine then head down to Phsar Chas. It is, needless to say, a fascinating spot for a stroll as well.
The name translates as Old Market and situated as it is near the old French Quarter and waterfront, it is a safe bet that the market is indeed Phnom Penh’s oldest. It’s a small, compact site, with Phsar Chas covering a city block between bustling Street 110 to the south and elegant, tree-lined 108 to the north. Street 13, leading from Phsar Kandal and placed one block back from the riverside, forms the eastern edge, with Street 15 completing the perimeter.
Street 108 is home to the adjacent Night Market while the open park area affords views across to Wat Phnom. To the south though the activity overflows from the covered market, with numerous lively pavement cafes and food vendors. Street 13 is one of the most interesting downtown routes for a stroll leading from the old French post office square past the Old Market and Kandal Market to the National Museum and Royal Palace, right through the heart of the city with non-stop activity, views, sites and eating and drinking spots.
Back to the market itself and the covered central area covers dried goods, household items, clothes and… yes, hairdressing salons and gold shops. A bewildering array of fruit and vegetables skirt the market edges, while there’s a small but interesting fresh fish section in the southeast corner.
There are rumours of plans to redevelop this area, so check it out while it’s still there!
By Mark Ord.
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