Siem Reap’s Psa Chas, or Old Market, with its souvenir stalls, packaged herbs and spices and tourist-friendly cafes is well known amongst visitors to Cambodia yet the similarly named Psa Chas Phnom Penh is rarely included on anyone’s city itineraries even though it’s centrally and conveniently located on 13th Street close to both the riverfront and Wat Phnom.
There are no pirate DVD and CD’s for sale, hardly any carvings of Buddhas or Jayavarman VII and an almost complete absence of t-shirts with Angkor Beer or Danger Mines ‘slogans’. It’s just a colourful, bustling and fascinating local market for local people.
The Russian Market’s the popular one on the visitor’s itineraries – and a lot of fun it is too, selling as it does a bit of everything from pirate DVDs to 2nd hand motorbike parts whilst Psa Thmei – or the ‘New Market’ in its bright primrose art nouveau building is certainly the iconic one, but Psa Chas, along with nearby Psa Kandal (Central Market), are where most of downtown Phnom Penh’s inhabitants do their everyday shopping.
Psa Thmei looks good but it is surrounded by 3 or 4, (or even 5 – difficult to tell), lanes of some of Phnom Penh’s most hectic traffic – so if you do make it across to the central, market area you may be stuck there for days – which is why we prefer visiting other markets.
As we implied, as a tourist, you might not visit Psa Chas to actually make purchases but you’d visit to soak up the atmosphere – check out the weird and wonderful items on sale and perhaps take a few photos of local life.