Toul Tom Poung, The Russian Market

I have a new addiction. In Kuwait, I satisfied my desire for adventure by scouring the dusty city for new restaurants on crumbling side streets. In Phnom Penh, I barely have to leave my neighborhood. I have the Russian Market.

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Here is the outside of the market from across the street.

The Russian Market has restaurants, mechanics, souvenirs , clothing, tailors, instruments, cafe, cleaning supplies, electronics, hair salons, I can’t even begin to fathom what the Russian Market DOESN’T have. It’s more than a “market”, it’s a maze of vendors, smells, sights; a feast for the senses. I am addicted to exploring every crevice!

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The Western name is the Russian Market due to the large numbers of Russian people who apparently shopped here in the 1980’s. In Khmer, it is called Toul Tom Puong. It’s such a great neighborhood to live in—the only Western thing surrounding the market is a  KFC. (We’ve never been, either, thank you very much!) The grey area of the map is a covered building, or series of buildings, I suppose, with mazes of vendors all throughout. Inside it’s hot and sticky, so tie your hair up in a ponytail, roll up your sleeves, and let’s go inside!

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As you can see, people are eating right next to the clothing vendors. Me? I’m obsessed with the Khmer coffee. I get them every weekend, sometimes twice a day if I’m feeling particularly thirsty (or drowsy). I should really do a separate post on Khmer coffee, because it is out of this world. For between 35 cents to $1, you can get the most delicious iced coffee with sweetened-condensed milk, fresh milk, or just black if that’s how you like it.

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A typical drink vendor—she is selling anything from avocado smoothies, soda, shave ice, and of course, iced coffee. You can see the guy eating on the left, which was something cool I found out yesterday while I was exploring. You can sit at any vendor you like, while having placed another order with a different vendor. They will bring you your food. Yesterday I had delicious stir-fried noodles with vegetable and egg while sitting next to a man who had food and drinks from three different vendors in front of him!

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You really can buy anything in the Russian Market….

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Some sections of the market can be pretty touristy, which is fun, too. After we get our first paycheck I think I’m going to check out the clothing and woven goods. This is also the bartering atmosphere, so you’ve got to have a price in mind and fight for it, while being willing to compromise. I kind of enjoy the bartering experience, to be honest! It’s a game, and I love practicing my Khmer!
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Another food vendor. This woman specializes in, well, I’m not too sure, but I think noodles with a variety of meats. You’d be surprised all the choices and options they have behind the glass cases—I even saw someone eating Spam on their noodles yesterday!

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We cracked up when we saw this shirt—it was something people in Kuwait often said, “Same same.” It generally means that both options are equally good, or that the difference between two things is insignificant. IMG_6492

But sometimes things aren’t truly “same same”. Same same can also mean “as you wish”, “ok”, “I heard you”, or ‘same same’ will be said when two things aren’t the same at all. It really depends on the context!

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I love to buy my produce at the Russian Market—it’s so much cheaper than the Western grocery store, and I’ve even found it to be fresher at times.

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You can buy Revlon make-up in florescent, fancy shops, or you can get your eggs and chicken feet alongside your Channel knock-off wardrobe. (Can you spy the Chicago Bulls shirt, too?)

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I have eaten inside the market quite a few times, but Sean is still warming up to the idea. We have yet to get sick, and you can have the most delicious, fresh, authentic Asian food for only $1!

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Like I said, I love the produce. I am taking Khmer lessons, so am able to complete transactions entirely in Khmer! I don’t know the names of all the vegetables, though, so pointing works just as well.

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We don’t buy the meat, though. Would you?

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The woman in the center is selling eggs! Once you become comfortable in the heat and the crowds, it becomes a real treat to do your shopping here. I much prefer it!



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Outside the market there are also a plethora of vendors. This picture is comically bad timing, but I wanted to show you this strange food that we tried once.

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It was like a crunchy crepe—almost like a waffle cone flavor and texture—filled with a sweet creme and MAYBE orange shavings. The orange stuff was either a flavored coconut, or a citrus fruit. We loved them!

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I had Sean hold my snack while I snapped a picture. You can see a guy selling grilled corn on the cob in the background.

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At night, the market shuts down and becomes a series of grill cafes. You can walk along and choose your restaurant based on what you see them grilling. We can’t wait to try the seafood—I am in love with their prawns here!

IMG_6608Here you go, my favorite picture. This picture is from last weekend. I went out to the market and purchased all this produce, the eggs, the rice, the tofu, the avocados, a half kilo of garlic, sliced ginger, precut veggies… all for under $7. We ate like kings! I can’t stress how excited I am to have visitors here to Cambodia so that I can treat them like royalty… not to mention guide them through the jungle that is the Russian Market.

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Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Toul Tom Poung, The Russian Market

  1. Kim and Sean, very jealous of your prose and journalistic style. Donna and I booked Cambodia over the Moon Festival. Just booked our second hotel in Sihanoukville before we leave Phnom Penh Airport Oct. 6. On Sept. 30, leaving Oct. 2nd from Siem Reap. Oct 3rd and 4th Donna and i would like to get into the jungle and ride an elephant or water buffalo. Lonely Planet suggests the jungle of Mondulkiri is a great place for ecotourism. Do you know if such a trip is doable from a perspective of travel time? Or is there another setting closer to Phnom Penh to see the wonders of nature?

  2. ElMo

    Sad to see you left Kuwait, I just fell upon your blog and saddens me to see you have moved on. It was enlightening seeing a outsiders perspective on my country. I would of loved to host you two, to show you an in-depth view on Kuwait and its people.

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