Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cambodia : Phnom Penh Day 2 - 29th July 2012

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                  Footsteps - Jotaro's Travels                     
 Cambodia - Phnom Penh 28th & 29th July 2012

DAY 2 - 29th July 2012
The sun peeking through my window woke me up. In Cambodia, daylight always starts early, by five in the morning it is already dawn. So when the sunlight nudge me up, it was already eight in the morning; a bright and beautiful day for touring.
I had the complimentary breakfast at the hotel I was staying in, the  Asia Palace Hotel. It was nothing to shout about, but it was free and I needed to fill my stomach for the morning tour ahead.
Having finished that, I hailed one of the motor-dup (motror-cycle taxi) to start my tour. Fares for moto-dups are 2,000 reils one way, irrespective of the distance near or far. By far, I would assume a distance of 5km. max. I haven't tried riding further than that.
Anyways, today is going to be market day for me, I will be visiting two markets - the Russian Market and the Central Market. I will visit the Russian Market in the morning as it gets pretty hot there in the afternoon.


The Russian Market looks very makeshift, consisting of zinc-roofed stall somehow put together. The zinc roofing doesn't help, as it gets hot in the afternoon. Now you know why I am
here in the morning. The locals call this place Psar Tuol Tom Pong.

Front of Russian Market (note the make-shift look & zinc roofing)
Somnang, the moto-dup driver, dropped me off at the front entrance of the market, and I asked him to wait for me as it is my habit to familiarize myself with these people. This is the de-facto front, tourist wouldn't know as all four sides looks the same to me. It would be easier to tell the driver what you are looking for, the front is more for clothing while the back for for artwork and antiques. At the center, dividing the two is a wet market, and somewhere in between are hardware stalls. Can't say it is an organised market, but one gets used to it.

Second row of shops
The front row of shops basically sells clothing, and we walked into the second row, clothing is still there but the merchandise is slowly blending to bags and shoes. Most of the products sold here are either local or imported from China and Thailand. Sad to say, the imported products are of better quality. 

Part of the next row sells cloth, clothing, shoes, etc. but further along the row the vegetable stalls starts coming in. What a blend! The quieter clothing shops next to the cacophony of a market.

The row after that was selling meat, poultry and fish. This market basically occupy a square plot, with perimeter rows of back-to-back shops facing outwards and inwards. Then there are 10 to12 rows of back-to-back shops parallel to the front.

And after that vegetables, fish and fruits. This wet market mixed continued on for another 3 rows, with some cooked food stalls in between.

Beyond that the market slowly transform into a dry market, with a couple of rows selling plastic-ware, ladies accessories.

After that there are a couple of rows selling hardware and motorcycle parts. This market seems to have everything!

Just after the hardware section, the few rows of cook food section divides the market. The second half of the market interest the tourist more, it is the art section. Although not as artistic as the Balinese, the Cambodians do have their own art culture. These stalls above sells beautiful oil and water color painting of various sizes. There are even paintings on 1-foot square cotton cloth.

There are stalls selling granite & sand-stone carvings. Most of these are of Buddhist and Cambodian religious figurines and busts.

And then there are the wood carvings. Although heavy, these are worthwhile buying as they are made from local Cambodian wood that is seldom found out of this country. The wood are solid hardwood and very dense.

The lacquer-ware stalls are among the more popular stalls for the tourist. These goods are lighter &easier to pack into the luggage and the make good souvenir gifts. Available are lacquer fruit plates, coaster, chopsticks, etc.

I was feeling quite hot and stuffy inside the marke,t and went out for a breather. But outside, I found more stalls that captivated me.

Out here there are stalls selling antique Chinese guitars and the likes. These are another favorites for the tourists.
A note for the tourist, the shopkeeper will always quote a much higher price. In bargaining, cut down the quoted price by about 70% and work your way up to a middle-ground. The agreed price should be about 50% or less of the opening one. If you cannot agree on the price, just walk away; they will probably call you back for further negotiations!

Around the corner, the is a shop selling stuffed embroided animal. Simple but colorful and beautiful. The pretty lass manning the stall was taking an early siesta - what else can be said of the heat & humidity here.

Motor-trailer trucking
With this I completed my shopping here and hailed for Somnang, who was parked nearby on this left side of the market. By the local convention, the tuk-tuks will park at the front and the moto-dups at this side. I got on and asked him to send me to the Central Market.
En route, I saw this motor-cycle with a trailer hinged to it, transporting heavy tires. Seems like these mode of transportation is still active here.

Along the way, I also saw this Jeep, The driver happily smiling and waving at me. Surprisingly, for a poor country, Cambodia has a fair numbers of these gas-guzzling vehicles - Jeeps, Hummer, big Toyota pick-ups, etdc. What can be said, the rich gets richer whilst the poor, well, just remain poor. But things are changing, the poor don't seem as poor as they were five years back.

It was already afternoon, my shopping foray made me forget about the time. But my growling tummy didn't. So we made a short detour to Orussey Restaurant for a quick lunch.

I had these weird looking but YummY! noodles, which includes among other things pig's large intestines and coagulated pig's blood. For a detailed description of these noodles read my blog on ORRUSEY NOODLE RESTAURANT

Somnang dropped me off at the front entrance of the Central Market. I paid him USD2 and he was very happy as this was double the amount he normally gets and on top of that he had a free lunch on my account. We said "Sok Sabai" to each other.


Aerial View of the Central Market (Photo is from WikiPedia)
The Central Market or Psar Thom Thmey (meaning New Grand Market) is not that new but it is grand indeed. It was constructed in 1937, so is a grand old man of 65 years, and underwent some renovation in 2000-2011. This renovation was some basic repair & repainting of the main building and construction of permanent concrete stalls for the stores at the market's perimeter compound. Prior to this, the compound stalls were make-shift wooden structures.

It is a single-storey building with a central hub and four annexe radiating out. Constructed of masonry with high ceilings, shoppers will find the the internal relatively quite cooling 
At the central hub, most of the stalls sell jewelry and watches, with a few selling spectacle & sunglasses. Each of the four arms have stalls selling merchandise particular to that arm.

As I entered the compound of the Central Markets, there are already stalls lining the way to the building proper, on my left I see a couple of stalls selling silver-ware. Previously, these stalls were made-shift timber structures wtih zinc roofing. But after the latest renovations completed in 2011, they are now of masonry construction with proper roofs.

Further on, mostly on the left are several stall selling cloth bags, scarfs, table cloth, purses, veils, etc. The clothing used for these are mainly cotton with some of the veils & scarves made of local silk.

On the right are stall that sell mainly T-shirts, some local made and others from Thailand. The local ones are printed with local motifs and are suitable for souvenirs. Those from Thailand are more expensive but are of better quality and imitates designs of better brands.

As I get nearer to the entrance of the building, to the right are a couple of stalls selling lback-packs and luggage bags of various sizes. Their quality seems surprisingly good. They also sell computer bags, waist-pouches, etc.
Now standing right before the entrance of the market building, I looked up and realised what a fine piece of architecture the building is, with asymmetrical lines and well  balanced shapes. Neither  Western or Oriental in design, it makes a statement of it's own.

Just before entering, I peered to the left and right, there are varied stall to the right selling leather goods, belts, shoes, luggages.

To the left, shops offer mainly clothing, mostly female and some male.

Entering the building, I looked up, and awe-inspired by the internal. The ceiling is high and at the top are slotted openings allowing for good ventilation. No wonder the building is much, much cooler than the hot outside.

At the central hub are stalls selling jewellery, watches. A couple deal in spectacles and sun-glasses.

Stopping at one of the jewellery shops, I examined what they have to sell. Silver bangle and other ornaments were on display.

At another counter, bracelets, necklaces, rings, etc. were shown. Most were mounted with semi-precious stones - sapphires, opals, turquoises, aquamarines and even low-grade rubies. 

And at yet another counter, rings, ear-rings were sold. The quality of the stones are not high-grade, but at the price they were being sold, they are even cheaper than the artificial jewelry sold in the shopping malls in other countries. So no one complains.

The one that interest me most is the watch shop, I like watches. And they have a good range of different brands. Most were of fair quality, but the were a selected batch of good quality and of good designs.

The sun-glasses stall sells nothing fanciful, but something practical for tourists to wear while travelling in the bright, hot day.

I moved on to the arms of the building, this one sells Men's Wear; more proper attire than the shops at the entrance compound which selling T-shirts.

For the convenience of men, the adjacent annex sell electrical and electronic wares. These ranges from cameras, GPS equipment, gaming machines, walkman, etc.

The next arm sells Ladies' Wear, from blouses, skirts, dresses, evening gowns and even lingerie!

And the adjacent arm conveniently sell perfumes, facial care product, ladies' dressing accessories, hand-bags and even wigs! The Central Market is definitely more organized than the Russian Market.

Having well and truly explored the inside of the building, I went out to the compound again but at another section. The compound is separated into four sections also, each in between the four annex arms of the building. The main entrance occupy one of this section, while a wet market takes up the rear section. The section shown above sell, cooking utensils and other kitchenware.

Near here, one can see silver-smiths plying their trade.

Further on, the next section have stalls selling china-ware, glassware, crockery and table silverware.

Further down, nearer to the front entrance is the section selling shoes, textiles and more clothing.

Moving towards the rear of the building, one approaches an area selling Cambodian food. Here one should be able to find all sorts of local delicacies since this IS the Central Market AND in Phnom Penh.

And true enough, there were nice Cambodian desserts...

Barbecued large squids and prawns...

Noodles and deep-fried spring rolls...

The renown Cambodian Nom Pang (stuffed baguette)...

The infamous durian...

Appetizing local fruit salad...

And yucky fried bugs, and don't be fooled by the quail eggs next to the bugs. They contain embryonic quails inside, this is a version of the Cambodian delicacy that uses duck eggs.

The wet market proper looked like any in the East, here are similar fresh vegetables...

and fresh sea-food...

and dried sea-food...

and also dried meat.

It had been a long day at two markets, both almost similar but of contrasting characters. Tired, I walked back to my hotel and on the way passed by the Sorya Shopping Mall - the first one ever built in Cambodia.

After a short nap and a quick bath, I walked out to one of the street corners where there were several stall. One was a stall selling Nom Pang, I ordered a few and wolfed them down. They were delicious, with a crispy crust and delicious filling of meat and egg jam inside. (for more on this see my blog Nom Pang - Street Fare).

To go with the Nom Pang, I had a blended fruit mix of jack-fruit, yam and ciku.

The following day, I flew off from the Phnom Penh International Airport in Pohchengtong.
Goodbye Cambodia. Li Har!

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