I’ve never met a market I didn’t like. Even when there’s absolutely nothing I’m remotely interested in buying (which is quite often the case), markets are an amazing window into how shit gets done in a particular city; in Jodhpur, men are the principle salespeople, advertising their spices, tea, and in rhythmic, unceasingly calls. In Mandalay, locals – ignoring foreigners, for the most part – cluster on plastic stools around plastic covered tables, waiting for bowls of steaming noodles and plates of fresh, spicy tomato salad. Mmmm, tomato salad…
What was I saying? Oh yeah: markets. Like I said, they’re all good, but Phnom Penh’s Central Market wins the (highly coveted, you understand) award for Rachel’s Favorite Market in Asia (caps and underlining to indicate extreme importance).
Central Market has the perfect mix of strictly-for-tourists stuff (like elephant purses, bamboo balls, and silk everything) and mostly-for-locals stuff (produce, still-wriggling fish, and elaborate flower arrangements). The crowd, too, is mixed; fanny-pack sporting, wide-eyed tourists mingle with bustling, haggling locals.
The market is an easy 20 minute walk from the river and backpackers’ district, which centers around 172nd street. It’s covered – especially important during the frequent deluges of monsoon season – and houses enough food, clothes, souvenirs, and flowers to keep most people (well, me) happy for a couple of hours.
Directions: Head away from the river on Street 172. Turn right onto Preah Norodom Avenue, then take the third left onto Street 136. Hopefully, you’ll see a rather odd yellow dome looming in front of you — tada! Central Market!