Postcard from Phnom Penh #1

I’m going to try to write more often here, so in an attempt to make the blog post writing less arduous, I thought I would write some shorter, more focused posts about life here in Cambodia.

Psar Chhouk Meas

The market of the golden lotus: it sounds exotic and romantic. If it conjures up a sedate market, opposite a serene pool overlooking rice paddies where water buffalo majestically graze, then it’s very much a misnomer. It is a square, art deco building in the obligatory Cambodian jackfruit-yellow that spills its stalls onto the streets surrounding it. The south side is mainly fruit and vegetable stalls; the north appears to be clothes and homeware. There are long wooden tables, piled with mangosteen, rambutan, pale apples and green oranges, then various greens and herbs and aubergines and tomatoes. Some stalls are just trays on the ground, piled with piles of green and reds and purples.

At the meat stalls, the women, with long shirts and hats that protect them from the sun, occasionally whip their meat with what looks like a mop with extra-long strings, in an attempt to swat away the flies. The chicken stalls merely consist of bell-shaped cages with chopping boards on top. In the cages are the living chickens, on top are the plucked dead ones with their jackfruit-yellow feet sticking in the air. At least you can be assured the meat is the freshest you can get.

In the evenings, the main road is lined with food vendors and BBQ smoke, steam and the smell food fills the air. Nompang (baguettes), Cambodian sausages, beef and pork, rice cakes, steamed pork buns, snails. All you can hear is the low drone of motorbike engines as their riders pull up to grab a snack. There are people sitting on low plastic stools eating their meals.

Serene and sedate it is not; but rather Psar Chhouk Meas, like most Cambodian markets, is vibrant and bustling and charming.