Every big city in Asia has them; a large market where you’re able to buy anything and everything, from souvenirs to silver jewellery, fake designer bags to Chinese-style furniture, photocopied books to bootleg DVDs. Phnom Penh is not any different, and here you should go to Psar Toul Tom Poung, or the “Russian Market” as it’s probably more famously known as.
There are two stories going around why the market is called like this. The first one is that during the Vietnamese occupation all the market’s goods came from Russia, as this was one of the few countries that provided aid to Cambodia during this time. The other story is that the market became popular with foreigners in the 1980s when most of its visitors were Soviets who lived in the area. Whether it’s the one or the other, it really doesn’t matter, as it’s just a great place to wander around and get lost while finding some great gifts and seeing loads of different people.
The Russian market is probably the most popular market among tourists and expats. And we think it’s the best place to pick up souvenirs (make sure to bargain!). From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but when you’re inside you’ll find yourself surrounded by loads of stalls selling everything and anything. Like most markets in Asia, it doesn’t have air-conditioning, this combined with the small alleys inside the market, can make for a hot and humid afternoon.
But where to start? When you go into the market at the eastern side, you’ll find loads of stalls with clothes in bigger sizes than the standard XS sizes you’ll find around town, shoes, souvenirs and jewellery. When you make your way deeper into the market you’ll find household equipment, lamps, wood carvings, fabrics and kitchenware to name a few. Continue walking and you’ll find yourself in the wet market. Here is where you can sit back, take a breath and relax with a drink.
If you feel like an iced coffee, we recommend you to drop by The Best Iced Coffee in Phnom Penh (shop 547). The owner of this stall has been serving iced coffee for 30 years and pours a delicious cup every single time. Do make sure you sit at the correct shop, as next door is another coffee shop called The Best Iced Coffee in Cambodia. Even though the name is similar, the coffee is not!
So go ahead and immerse yourself in this amazing market. And if you want to combine this visit with some culture and history, we got the best tour for you – visiting the Killing fields and Tuol Sleng Museum in the morning and the Russian market in the afternoon!
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