Over half a million foreigners arrive in Siem Reap every year but go to the biggest market in town, Psar Loeu, and you’d be convinced otherwise. When you arrive at daybreak for breakfast, any self-respecting tourist is sitting in front of Angkor Wat’s north reflecting pool, taking the same photo that every tourist takes with a vigour that suggests that their memories of Angkor Wat are worthless without it, instead of immersing themselves in the chaos of the market. With the average tourist stay in Siem Reap being 48 hours, it gives the traveller a scant few hours to capture the same scene that every one else captures.
While it is easy to get swept up by the madness of Psar Loeu and convinced that the founding theory behind the market is anarchy, order emerges. What on the outside looks like a random selection of vegetables is a tight selection of greens for a single Cambodian soup. Some vendors specialise in having all the ingredients for a single samlor, others for salad ingredients. It makes shopping for dinner as simple as finding the right stall. Inside, vendors arrange the semi-dried fish trei prama and the coconut husk smoked trei kes by size. The live snakehead fish is quickly subdued, skinned, and divided into regular pieces; or butterfly filleted for later drying.
What differentiates Psar Loeu from the other markets in town is both scale and target market. The two markets closer to the centre of town cater more to the tourist trade with many smaller vegetable vendors in the central Psar Chas currently being pushed out to Psar Loeu to make way for another Beerlao t-shirt stall. Psar Loeu receives scant mention in the guidebooks. The new émigrés to Psar Loeu have started setting up shop in the surrounding dirt alleyways and upon any spare patch of bitumen, both contributing to the mayhem and the size of the market. The food now occupies the entire streets surrounding the market building with the butcheries and fishmongers just inside the awnings, who in the mornings are barely finished butchering their respective meats.
Location: Psar Loeu is on Rd No. 6 to Phnom Penh, in Siem Reap