Phsar Thmei (Central Market), Phnom Penh
The Phsar Thmei (Central Market) of Phnom Penh is both an interesting tourist sight and enjoyable place to shop while staying in the capital. As a sight the Phsar Thmei central market is housed within a beautiful, if slightly crumpling, art-deco building. The covered market consists of a massive domed central chamber with four radiating wings containing fine examples of French art-deco detailing. The stalls of the Phsar Thmei market make the area a fantastic place to shop with a huge variety of items for sale, some of which may be interesting to tourists or simple unique curiosities.
Tourist Guide to the Central Market, Phnom Penh
Inside the main Phsar Thmei market hall groups of stalls are clustered together in different sections of the building. The prime location below the domed roof is reserved for the more valuable items including jewellery and watches. The four wings of Phsar Thmei market contain; gents clothing, women clothing, domestic appliances and electronic goods. The exterior of the market is less well organised and this is where the curiosities of Phnom Penh can be found.
The art-deco Phsar Thmei central market
The chaotic market is a great place to wander to absorb the sights and smells of traditional daily life of Phnom Penh's residences. Try to avoid the market during the middle of the day when the heat combined with claustrophobic arrangement of the stalls can make the entire experience over powering and draining. Cambodia is possible one of the cheapest counties in South East Asia and gifts purchased here are a fraction of the cost as in Bangkok.
History of the Phsar Thmei Market, Phnom Penh
Phsar Thmei translated into English actually means “New Market” as this market replaced many of the smaller markets of the old city. The translated name has been slightly adapted to “Central Market” as in reference to its central positioning within Phnom Penh but the market was not always at the centre of the capital.
When constructed in 1935 it was on the westernmost side of the city and heralded the expansion of Phnom Penh into rice paddy fields that lied to the west of the city. The Phsar Thmei market was constructed upon land that used to act as a flood plain for the three rivers that flow into Phnom Penh (Tonlé Sap, Mekong and Bassac). The marsh lands were drained and levies were constructed. Frequently during the monsoon season the area surround the market is flooded as the poor infrastructure is unable to cope with the heavy rains.
The Phsar Thmei market when opened in 1937 was the largest enclosed market in Asia and the illusion was enhanced by the low rises buildings that surrounded the market. The dome stands at 26 meters high and has a diameter of 45 meters each of the four wings is 44 meters long.