Central Market (Phsar Thmey) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
On our last day in Phnom Penh, we had a few hours to do some remaining exploration before hopping on a bus to the next city on our Cambodian tour to Kampot.
We headed out to the Central Market (also known as Phsar Thmey), which seemed catered to both tourists and locals alike. It’s a very large market that was once touted as the largest market in Asia back in the 1930s, with its French architecture style. It’s gone under restoration since then, but it’s still a very large market nonetheless.
There are endless stalls selling anything from clothing, toiletries, housewares, livestock, produce, electronics, jewelry, and pretty much anything in between.
Once you get past the center area of “shopping” that sells jewelry, watches, and clothing, you’ll see the vendors that are definitely more catered to locals. It’s always interesting to us to see markets like this, as it’s not something we regularly see back home. These open markets may not be as clean and pretty as a supermarket, but the food is undoubtedly fresh and affordable (and most likely organic!).
Another amazing thing to see is the “wet” market portion that you definitely don’t see back home on a regular basis. We’ve noticed people get scared off by these sections, but I think it’s mainly because people have become so separated/sheltered from where their food actually comes from, that they forget it doesn’t actually come from a nicely wrapped plastic package from the refrigerated section. We love going to markets like this and the most shocking part of these markets to us is seeing these women just sitting amongst all this raw food with their bare feet! lol.
While at the market, we saw an ice truck unloading all the large ice blocks these markets use to keep items cold. A majority of vendors in South East Asian countries don’t utilize freezers or refrigerators because 1) electricity is expensive and 2) there are usually power outages. So, many vendors will buy large ice blocks to keep what needs to be kept cold for the day.
This is a HUGE reason to be very cautious of consuming ice in your drinks. We’ve heard countless stories of people getting sick from adding ice to their beverages. Since tap water is usually not safe to be consumed in these countries (at least for foreigners who aren’t used to the water), people often forget about the ice cubes. For example, when ordering a soda can at a restaurant, you’ll sometimes receive a glass of ice to go with your soda. Don’t pour your soda into that glass of ice to drink it! Usually that ice will be chipped off from one of these large ice blocks. Ice blocks that have been made from tap water, that have probably been sliding across the floor picking up all kinds of bacteria and dirt at a wet market. If you want a cold beverage, get one that has been sitting in a cooler of fridge, so that your drink is chilled, but not that you are actually drinking the ice. Not all ice is off limits, but if it looks like it’s been chipped off from a large block and the ice doesn’t look like it’s come from a designated ice machine, I would avoid it!
When water is not safe to consume, remember to also be cautious of beverages with ice, to avoid getting sick!Two Peas Travel Tip
We walked around the market for about 30 mins before we needed to head back to our hotel to catch our bus to Kampot. All that walking had made us thirsty and we made sure to pick up a hydrating coconut drink before we left.
The vendor had some young coconut chilling in a cooler and we were able to get a refreshing cold coconut water (w/ no ice!) with the meat pieces scooped out too! I think it cost us about $0.75 for one. So much cheaper and better than anything we would be able to get back home. Love it.
We headed back to our hotel and waited for our bus to pick us up. Transport between major cities in Cambodia is relatively easy, as there are plenty of buses. We went with Giant Ibis, and it cost us about $10 USD one way per person to get to Kampot, which was 2.5 hours away. It was convenient, as the ticket also includes pickup from our hotel.
Visiting the Capital of Cambodia as our first stop was a good introduction to the country – filled with lots of people and history. I wouldn’t say it’s a big tourist destination must-see, but it was good to learn more about the tragic recent history to give us a greater appreciation of all the other places we were to visit during our time in Cambodia.