A wholesaler’s dream
Published/Last edited or updated: 15th January, 2019
Phnom Penh’s primary downtown wholesale market, Phsar Orussey is a one stop shop for just about anything—especially if you want that anything in bulk.
Orussey offers a broader slice of “Cambodiana” than you’ll find in the Russian market or Phsar Thmei; and who knows what you might pick up in the huge, two-storey hall that’s packed with everything from stationary and plastic pigs to dried fish and padding to make your bum look bigger. Oh and shoes ... lots of shoes.
No matter which country you’re in, its markets are always an interesting expression of the culture. From the sly argy-bargy of a British stall-holder flogging flaky jeans, to the almost oppressive insistence of an Indian fabric seller or the soft-spoken confidence with which French market vendors offer up the most perfectly imperfect foods, there are always hints to be gleaned of the national character. In Cambodia’s markets you’ll find crush, a little ordered chaos, a peculiarly coy approach to selling, and all-too-frequent clashes with the whiff of prahok.
A little over halfway between Phsar Thmei and Olympic Stadium, Orussey Market is very much more local than the former, which makes it much more fun in our view. Outside is chaos as delivery vans vie for space in which to offload in among the locals zipping up on motor scooters to pick up dinner, a television, flowers, clothes, or just a plastic pig. However, even with all the people that you’ll cross paths with here, the aisles are wide enough to keep the inside a reasonably comfortable, mannered experience. Until you get upstairs.
One of the great draws of Orussey Market is the huge clothing and fabrics space on the first floor, and it is choked. On the clothing front, it should be noted that, unlike the Russian Market, anyone over a UK size 10 is likely to come away disappointed (and hot and sweaty and flustered).
The primary market is local, and that means small. On the other hand, there is a row of tailors and reams and reams of fabric on one side—we got a little disoriented it has to be said, but they’re easy to find. If you want things made, this is a fun stop off.
Downstairs, you’ll find everything from dried fish to dishwashers, fake flowers to flaky pastry desserts—try them, they’re delicious. It’s all run with good humour, gentle banter and that peculiar one-step forward, two-step back smiling, pushful reticence with which Cambodians seem to bargain. Don’t forget to do some snacking while you are there as there is no shortage of grazing material on hand.
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.
Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Phnom Penh