Friday, January 18, 2008

Russian Market: A treasure-trove for tourists

We were off to visit Toul Sleng (S-21) but on our way was the Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tom Poung) so we opted to stay for awhile to look around and do some shopping. This is the second traditional market we’ve visited since we arrived in Phnom Penh and it was on our list to visit. The Russian Market is smaller than the Central Market (Phsar Thmei) and is less interesting when it comes to the architectural design.

I got curious by the name. I thought, why call it the “Russian” market? Do all the items here come from Russia? Silly questions really so I made my own research. It turned out that it was called the “Russian Market” due to the prevalence of items from the Soviet Bloc during the early years.

Today, the Russian Market is considered a treasure-trove for tourists.

blouses and shawls

Colorful blouses and shawls made from traditional Cambodian fabrics.

tourists buying

Tourists buying some shawls.

table runners

Beautifully handwoven table runners with traditional Khmer designs.

Of all the traditional markets in Phnom Penh, this has the most varied selection of items from souvenirs, jewelries (silver and gold), carved handicrafts and ceramics to all kinds of colorful silk, fabrics, textiles and brand clothing for bargain prices.

It’s also a good place to buy fabrics for business or casual cloths to take to the tailor. There are huge number of clothing outlets and adjustments can be done readily via the tailors and seamstresses who are there in the store.

textile store

This is the stall where we bought mostly our stuff. We took sometime looking for the table runners and wall decor.


Most of the stalls here sell almost all kinds of fabrics. They also sell the famous krama, traditional Cambodian garment which can be used as a scarf, a bandana and other decorative purposes. Khmer women even find functional use to it, to carry their baby or to protect their face from too much sun.

Oki bought some nice-looking table runners and wall décor. I bought a wall décor with the great Angkor Wat as a design. I was hoping I could display it in my room to serve as a good souvenir for this great Cambodian adventure.

Oki was really strategic when it comes to haggling for a cheaper price. We met this young lady at the fabric store who gave us a relatively expensive price for the table runners. Oki acted to move away from the store but the young lady called her back and made some attempts to lower the price. Oki announced her price but the young lady insisted that we consider the "quality" of the fabrics. But Oki has her way of talking to the young lady, telling her stories and why she should give it at this particular price. She even told the young lady that since we come from the Philippines, which is also a poor country like Cambodia, she should give it to us at a much cheaper price. Then the young lady gave us a smile and say something like, “Ah, you very smart girl!” Eventually, she gave in.

Persistence has always been the name of the game. She got the table runners for $3 (135 pesos) and the beautiful Angkor Wat wall décor for $5 (225 pesos). Beat that!

We also bought some beautifully carved handicrafts, bags and other souvenir items for friends.


Going further inside the market, you'll find a wide-array of souvenir items.

more souvenirs

These carved handicrafts come in different shapes, sizes, material used, and even the shades.

paintings and pic frames

They also sell paintings, frames, and just about anything you could think of...they have it.


Ah, this is my favorite part! Mugs and teapots made from ceramics. I wanted to buy some but they will not fit into my small luggage. I am also quite sure that they will break even before I could sip my coffee from it.

young vendor

She's the young lady from the textile store which Oki has been talking to for the last few hours that we were there. She knows when to give in and what price to settle with. But with Oki's great haggling ability and communication skills. She was greatly beaten. Hahaha!

bootleg cds

A prevalent site of store selling pirated copies of VCDs, DVDs, CDs, and computer softwares and games.

We found some stallholders who do a roaring trade of bootleg CDs, VCDs, DVDs and computer software at $2/disc. Most of the vendors are located on the south side near the southeast corner of the market and around the vicinity.

For the hygienically adventurous visitors, there are some nasty looking market restaurants but prepare (really) excellent Khmer food at the cheapest $1 for a plate. Food and drink stands in the middle of the market

Cambodian traffic

After we came out from the market, we were stuck in this traffic jam. A combination of rickshaw drivers, motorcycles, pedestrians and vendors.

By the time we finished shopping, I received Toe's text message saying: "Easy lang sa shopping sa Russian Market, hehe. I can pick you up wherever you are and whatever time you like in the afternoon. Everything here is malapit naman e. So relax lang don't know where the wind will take you later." :-D

The text message was related to my prior text message to her (the night before) regarding our upcoming EB (eyeball) in Cambodia. I think that message woke her up, early in the morning.



kyels said...

I can never haggle because I don't know how to. I always succumb when it comes to haggling. Haha! But it's good to learn though because you don't know when you'd need to haggle for prices.


Anyway, I love the fabrics. Really beautiful; especially the colours.

pieterbie said...

Wow, a market they call that, djeezes, ok, it is good for photos.
I should go to one of the special markets here in Brussels one of these days.
They seem to be very colourful as well.
I'd like to try my hand at an good haggle.

haggis basher said...

Glad to see you back on your travels. Amazing photos.

Ferdz said...

Ang galing galing naman ni Oki. Sanay na sanay talaga mag haggle.

And shopping galore dyan ah. Treasure trove talaga from what I'm seeing here. And that's a very big bootleg store. hehe.

And hey, pumasok na si Toe sa scene :D

Anonymous said...

This is the very epitome of a good travelogue. I love the colour, in great splashes, always very symptomatic of the far East to me.

I like the narrative the tales of what you got up to married with your eye for detail to illustrate it. It is very personal which is as it should be.

To my mind the beauty of a travelogue is whether upon reading it you have been given enough of a taste to find something that you'd like to explore more and I think you have succeeded very much in that endeavour.

ndiginiz said...

Tena koe ehoa
red baron hit it on the head Rayts. This is great work but more importantly is the narrative that accompanies the great images. What really catches my attention is the sheer quantity of products available at these market stalls. Four or five times that of the quantity at market stalls here in Aotearoa.

I love to visit markets and if the chances arises I like to haggle. I'm a "fish bum" when it comes to money.

Tien said...

Ooh, lots of shops! I love those cloths. And ceramic and I don't really go along well. I am always afraid that I would break them. Them and glasses. And anything that breaks easily. I'm quite a clumsy person. lol.

And as usual, those are some amazing photos I have seen. :D

Rey said...

I like the table runners and the paintings! Love the colours too.

my gulch said...

we belong on the same end, hehe. I don't know how to haggle for a cheap price. well i could haggle but if the vendor says no, i would usually give in.

i have always considered the market as one of the most interesting places to take photos. you'll see all sorts of people coming together in one point. afterall, going to the market is a human essential. i don't think Europeans are very good at haggling. i am not generalizing but i noticed it everytime i go to the market (Asian neighbors). the vendors usually give them a relatively expensive rate and would usually give in. some would try to haggle but considering the orig rate, there has not been pretty much 'haggling' that went on. if you know what i mean. there are a lot of factors to consider too.


hehe. pumasok na si Toe. Ambagal ko mag-post no? paano kase dami kong ginagawa lately. saka dami din talaga kaming nagalugad doon eh. yung EB namin ni Toe will come during our last night in Phnom Penh so siguro mga 2 posts pa bago yun. ;-)

those are really nice words. and i really apprecite them. thanks mate!

thanks. i noticed that too. the Russian market is very colorful and very diverse. one just need to know his/her way out. the place is like a maze and i don't feel we've searched hard enough to know its essentials. but at least we get to see the a portion of the good stuff.

yea, ceramics are hard to take home. they might not survive the long travels. the carved handicraft I bought didn't survive. it was broken so it was useless.

salamat. makulay ang mundo sa Russian Market.

Toe said...

So ayan ang Megamall namin dito. :) Those are some of the best photos inside Toul Tompong that I've seen... promise! :)

Oo nga... ginising mo ko... you broke my weekend beauty sleep... hahaha! :) Hey, favorite ko din yang mga mugs and teapots... I want to buy before I go home.

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