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Russian Market made easy

By: Tanja Wessels Posted: July-23-2008 in
Tanja Wessels

Anyone who has ever set foot within Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh will be familiar with the words 'Russian Market'. It has its own little box to tick on the city's must-see list. I'm even reminded of it when I'm shopping in London. All I need to do is pick up a t-shirt at H&M and read the Made In Cambodia label to be instantly transported to the smells and sounds that make up the tourists favourite market in Phnom Penh.

The popularity of this market does not rest solely at the feet of the strappy-sandaled tourists though. Its reputation as being the best place for clothes shopping rings true also for those who have decided to adopt this city as a hometown for an extended period of time. Phnom Penhhers drop in on a regular basis, as finding clothes that fit foreigners is no small feat around here. Yet size is not the only catnip-like powers this market wields over shoppers. The prices keep buyers shuffling past the stalls like some big garment-factory clothing safari.

Not a large market by any stretch of the word, it is worth knowing which bits not to miss when passing through. Saving time and ensuring the omissible are not missed is a clever approach when entering this labyrinth of garments. It quickly becomes apparent that the picking pool is no ocean and there is a limit to what is on offer when one sees the same designs in different stalls throughout. However, in the same way not all wines are alike, not all stalls are alike and it is worth knowing which ones are consistently good at receiving the best that the local garment factories have to offer. The tags on the items read like a roster in a classroom of labels: Tommy Hilfiger? 'Here miss' J.Crew? 'Present' Abercrombie? 'Here'...H&M, GAP, Old Navy, they all available at about 10% of the RRP anywhere else.

Stall 1118-1119 'PINK' is always busy and shouldn't be missed. They have a few knee length cotton dresses that are not widely available and denim hot pants- should one be that way inclined. Among the many known fashion tags that dangle off hangers in this stall, Apostrophe is a name to look out for as it has simple and chic designs that won't leave one feeling like a human billboard for big name brands, something that can be tricky to avoid when shopping at the market. Gigantic polo players on horses don't seduce their way into the wardrobes of all.

There is a row of stalls that runs from 1258 and ends up on a corner with an accumulated pile of stripes that is stall number 1245. The booths are small but form a great alley of t-shirts in cool shapes and colours. Another favourite market brand is Xhilaration, which I was never familiar with until moving to Cambodia. From blouses to t-shirts, they have great pieces. Always subject to change, the latest corner pile was an avalanche of striped long sleeved cotton cardigans that resembled a laundry pile in cartoon-land.

If long sleeved button-up shirts from The Gap tickle your fancy then head to stall 1319. There, on a shelf neatly folded one can find these shirts in every pattern imaginable. This place also has many trousers from big name brands, but in my experience the sizes go from tiny to gigantic with no option in the middle. However, they are all neatly displayed and the staff are both knowledgeable and helpful, so don't hesitate to ask for assistance.

My last tip pertains to the realm of bikinis. Wedged in the middle of a million other identical-looking stalls is one numbered 1204. Hanging unassumingly are a few attractive sets of bikinis that look worth exploring should one be hankering after new swimwear. Also worth mentioning are the dresses by label d'BY, their bold prints and wearable lengths may just be the answer to someone's dress prayers out there…and as with all good shopping trips, the final stop is an iced-coffee. Head to the food section and seat yourself at Phnom Penh's best iced coffee and indulge in bottomless glasses of caffeine delight.


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