Lose a morning at the sprawling Psar Leu market in Siem Reap – an exciting spot for a truly authentic look at local daily life.
A visit to local markets when travelling is one of the best ways to gain insight to everyday life, and nothing is more lively and vibrant than Asian markets. While in Siem Reap I spent a morning at Psar Leu market, the city’s largest.
Siem Reap is dotted with markets and most visitors would be familiar with the Old Market, in the centre of town, but the sprawling Psar Leu market, on Road 6, is the the place I’d recommend for a truly authentic local experience.
Asian markets can be confronting places for some of us (vegan readers might prefer to go and make a cup of tea), but I find the sights, sounds and smells utterly fascinating.
Psar Leu market doesn’t attract many tourists and you won’t be hassled by touts here, but it is a vast place, with narrow lanes full of foot traffic as well as bikes and scooters, so visitors need to take care not to get run down – or lost.
You can buy absolutely anything you might need here – fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, the funky local staple condiment called prahok which is used in many dishes, fantastic street food, kitchen ware, clothing and accessories. You can get your hair done, have your teeth attended to and it you happen to need a pigs head, well …
I was fortunate enough to visit Psar Leu market with Khmer-speakers and a local chef, which made the experience much more accessible, but don’t let the language bar put you off. The vendors, like every Cambodian I came across, are helpful, friendly and charming. Try your luck asking questions and sample some of the ready to eat treats.
Just be polite and respectful of them and their other customers. Remember, this is a functioning market, not a tourist site, and the hard-working locals have things to do and places to be.