Phsar Kandal – Center Market in Siem Reap

As I was exploring Siem Reap on foot, I spent most of my time battling off ever aggressive Tuk Tuk drivers who kept approaching me on every step. It was early morning yet and my first day in Cambodia so I have immersed myself into the atmosphere and took on scorching rays of clouded sun. The rain has just stopped, but puddles have already been cleared off the roads and sidewalks by intense heat. The life around Siem Reap seemed to be in full swing despite early hour and all shops were open, inviting the visitors in. I figured it was time to confront the notorious Khmer cuisine which is said to be both delicious and inexpensive (translation: cheap). But first I wanted to pay a visit to Phsar Kandal (Center Market), an open market area which is said to be abundant with all sorts of trinkets I could care less for, but also fresh vegetables and fruit which is what I wanted to explore.

When you are traveling in countries with questionable health care, it is absolutely essential to ensure that you have proper intakes of vitamins and minerals to provide your body with means to battle potential issues before they develop into something more serious. Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables is often all it takes. It’s a delicious and inexpensive to not need a doctor. As a well aware tourist, heading to a closest market place (in this case Phsar Kandal aka Center Market) was a natural instinct which I have followed subconsciously.

I have crossed the bridge over Stung Siem Reap (Siem Reap River) which was labelled as Wat Bo Bridge by the Siem Reap Angkor Visitors Guide map I was following. The bridge was named after Wat Bo, a lovely pagoda bearing that same name. According to the map, Phsar Kandal (Center Market) was further up Samdech Tep Vong Street which is the street connected to the bridge I have just crossed. After the bridge, however I had faced a major challenge of crossing the road. It was suicidal to say the least and I have come to understand very quickly the very rule of driving in Cambodia – bigger has the right of way. No motor vehicle will attempt to stop, slow down or avoid you in any way if you are on the road. It’s your responsibility not to get killed. Cars and motorcycles will simply continue undeterred if there is someone hierarchically smaller in their way.

Despite slight difficulties, I have made it across the street without getting killed and paced forward to get to Center Market. It only takes a minute to get there as Siem Reap truly is a small town that can be easily done on foot but despite many stalls with fresh fruit, I felt discouraged and simply walked by without buying anything. Everyone seemed running towards me as soon as I have come to vicinity trying to force me into buying from them. Everyone at Phsar Kandal seems to keep approaching you, assuming that you are rich and can afford anything in the world. To top it up, there were no prices on anything displayed and having just lived my first minutes in Siem Reap, I knew I would get easily scammed if I were to buy anything at Phsar Kandal. I really wanted to, but not even slowing down seemed like an option as I would get swarmed by the vulture like people who would not let me go until they have squeezed the very last penny out of my pocket.

Despite true desire to bury my teeth into a juicy pineapple, I have simply walked by all the stalls and got nothing but a glace of luscious fruits laying on the tables. Had everyone left me alone and given me the room to breathe so I can take a closer look and decide unpressured, someone would have gotten business from me. But being jumped and repeatedly yelled at with offers of what I should buy from them and how they are gonna give me the best price ever and how I should buy after I come back from where I’m going if I’m not buying now, yadda yadda, I felt intimidated and pessimistic so ignoring entirely was the only option that lead to at least some sanity and peace of mind.

I continued on leaving Phsar Kandal behind me. The day was just dawning and I have just woke up to my first day in Cambodia. Surely there are safer places to buy fruit from. The ability to avoid hasty decision is one of the strongest assets a traveller to foreign countries can have. This time the prudence has prevailed. But Cambodia has introduced itself as pretty hostile country with extremely aggressive locals who stop at nothing to squeeze as much out of everyone who looks like a tourist as possible.