Location: West of Street 155, between Street 440 and Street 450
The name of this market came from the 1980s after the Vietnamese occupation when it was a market for foreigners, and most foreigners were Russian. The Russian Market has a large selection of souvenirs, curios, antiques, carvings, Buddha statues, handicrafts, silks, fabrics, DVDs, inexpensive electronic goods, and many other things of interest to visitors. It is also the place to buy clothes at big discount prices. Jewellery and gemstones are big here, but as always, you need to be careful, and be aware of scams and fakes.
Taking about 15 minutes by tuk tuk from riverside, Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tom Poung) is located in the south of the city off Monivong Boulevard and Mao Tse Tung. Russian Market is the most popular market among tourists and expats and probably the best place to pick up souvenirs. From the view of an outsider, you may feel it does not have many to visit. However, when you get in, you will find everything you need and you like as well, from beautifully hand carved images, handmade silk scarves and colorful lanterns to printed T-shirts, fake bags, and DVDs.
Obviously, Phnom Penh’s Phsar Toul Tom Poung offers visitors almost every item except only one thing, a Russian (despite its English-language name). The market became popular with foreigners in the 1980s when most of its visitors were Soviets, due to the name. Since then, it has become a regular on the Phnom Penh to-do list. People may find it busy, hot and hard to navigate, but with various choices for items, this market supports itself to be a perfect one-stop for presents and souvenirs.
Inside the market, with hundreds of distracting and disorientating clothes, shoes and handbags the market would possibly make you lost, unless you have an uncanny sense of direction. You may think you’ve seen that stall selling silk scarves before, but it’s difficult to be sure. Obviously, the eastern side of the market is mostly clothing, whereas the northern side sells tools, household amenities and indispensable items for motorcycle repair. In the middle of the market is a central food area – a great place for those who are dying of hunger, but if you can remain the heat, stay in this kitchen for super icy coffee, noodle soup, gloopy sweets and snacks. The other two sides are a mixture of jewelry, antiques, watches, luggage, pseudo antiques, pirated DVDs and crafts.
If you can find an exit, the streets running away from the market square are bristling with coffee shops and bakeries serving tired shoppers, or you can take a sugar cane juice and relax under a street side umbrella. Opposite the market, larger shops sell similar goods at higher prices but with the benefit of air-con and changing rooms, a welcome break from sweaty try-on under a sarong. Once you feel cooled and full of water, you can dive back in for just one more notebook, necklace, or perhaps the best of all, a watch characterizing the portrait of Cambodia’s Prime Minister.