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Phsar Thmei

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The stunning butter-coloured art-deco ziggurat that is Phsar Thmei is the most unlikely of buildings in Phnom Penh, and within you’ll find everything from jewellery to avocados and deep fried crickets to white goods—just be prepared to negotiate hard as the prices are higher here than at any other market in the city.





Designed by Jean Desbois and completed in 1937 under the oversight of French architect Louis Chauchon and Russian-born engineer Wladimir Kandaouroff, at the time of completion the market was said to be the largest in Southeast Asia. Constructed on the site of what was originally a shallow lake, the area was drained and filled in to make way for the market—the market remains flood-prone to this day.

Within the dome. Photo taken in or around Phsar Thmei, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Stuart McDonald.

Within the dome. Photo: Stuart McDonald

From above, it like a squat four-legged octopus, but the four legs of Phsar Thmei are said to represent the four rivers which meet in front of Phnom Penh—the Tonle Sap, the Bassac and the Upper and Lower Mekong. We were also told they are in honour of the four faces you can see on the statues at the Bayon, but we like the river version better.

Bombed heavily during the Franco Thai War (1940–1941), the market was rebuilt after the end of World War Two and then underwent a vast multi--million dollar renovation between 2009 and 2011 funded by the French Development Agency.

You will get better prices at the Russian Market. Photo taken in or around Phsar Thmei, Phnom Penh, Cambodia by Stuart McDonald.

You will get better prices at the Russian Market. Photo: Stuart McDonald

A huge dome with four wings, it’s an amazingly cool place to seek refuge in the middle of the day and is also a fascinating market to wander through. The area of the market under the dome is given over to gold and watch merchants, while the wings hold consumer electronics—generally low quality—along with household goods and clothing.

Just outside the walls is a sprawling wet market which is a lot cleaner than the nearby Phsar Chas (Old Market). On the eastern side of the market a range of tourist stalls sell photocopied books, maps and kramas and further out still is the fresh flower section. Do watch out for wandering hands as pickpocketing remains a major ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Phsar Thmei
Intersection of Kampuchea Krom & Street 63, Phnom Penh
Admission: Free

Location map for Phsar Thmei

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