A great local market
Published/Last edited or updated: 21st January, 2019
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 of towm 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 your two best options in the downtown area are Phsar Chas and nearby (and larger) Phsar Kandal. Both are, needless to say, fascinating spots for a stroll and a bite to eat.
The name translates as Old Market and situated as it is near the old French Quarter and waterfront, it was originally Phnom Penh’s “Central Market” but when Phsar Thmei opened as the true central market for the city, this became “Old market”. It’s a small, compact site, 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 diagonally across to Wat Phnom in the distance. To the south though the activity overflows from the covered market, with numerous lively pavement cafes and food vendors—especially in the early evening.
Street 13 is one of the most interesting downtown routes for a stroll leading from the old French period 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, the covered central area covers dried goods, household items, clothes and… yes, hairdressing salons and gold shops—including an entire section doing facials in the centre of the market! 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.
If you’re Up for a filling meal after your wander through the market, exit onto the south side (Street 110) and walk to the southeast corner and start south on Street 13. Almost immediately on your left you’ll see a bustling noodle shop—there is no English sign, just look for Pratna Guesthouse. Almost no English is spoken and there was no English menu, but we had a 5,000 riel bowl here which kept us going half the day.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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