Friday, December 23, 2011

Shopping at the Local Market

Today was one of those days I decided to continue my adventure of entering into a predominantly Khmer environment by visiting the local market known in Khmer as (psah twah madah). This morning I had talked to my language tutor about whether he thought I should drive to the local market or take a tuk tuk. His suggestion was to take a tuk tuk but I chose not to listen to him only because I wanted to go to two different markets and also now that I am borrowing my friend's car, I wanted to explore the city a bit more. So off I went, the driving in Phnom Penh while chaotic at times is actually quite a lot of fun. Its a bit of a puzzle driving through the roads but the advantage of driving a small SUV is that the motos and tuk tuks give way to you. I am discovering that the city is not that big and is like a grid so for the most part, one can't really get lost. The challenge at times is identifying what street you are on since the street numbers are not clearly marked. This probably explains why tuk tuk drivers or motodop drivers use landmarks. It makes sense to do this when you don't know the street numbers.
Psah Orissey
At any rate, my little adventure to Psah Orissey---this is the local market ---found me driving through some really neat streets surrounded with little stalls selling different type of fruits. It was total chaos but you feel like you are in the center of a beehive of activity and you are! Anyway, after getting lost initially, I found the market and the next challenge was to find a parking spot. In this part of Phnom Penh, you don't have regular parking spots and the place was crowded. Now I know why my language instructor said take a tuk tuk. The market is in the center and there is one large road that goes around the market. All the cars park in that vicinity and so I started to pray asking the Lord to open a spot for me....and He did. Over here, you have these young guys who direct the cars and tell them where to park and how to park...I don't know who they are working for but at times like this one is grateful for them as they at least attempt to stop the traffic if you are parking or leaving. Of course you have to tip them when you leave but its worth the 25 cents or 50 cents. You have to put your car in neutral and no hand brake as these 'parking attendants' will move your car forward and backward so that other cars can park.

So off I went into the market to buy my Christmas paper and bags and some gifts from some of my Khmer friends. Because this is the local market, people usually only speak Khmer so one is forced to use the language. This is one of the reasons I went. One of the interesting things about the markets here is that you find the exact same product being sold by several buyers all in the same location. Here people don't quite understand that it is better to not be too close to your competitor. So if you are a shopper, it can be quite overwhelming trying to figure out which store to buy your item especially when 10 or 20 of them sell the exact same item in the same area. You basically dive in and start negotiating hoping that you get a good deal but even if you are not happy with your price, at least you don't have too far to go to bargain with someone else.

One of the advantages of shopping at a local market is things are so much cheaper because this is where the average Khmer shops. As well, one is not harassed as much ie: since I look like a foreigner, they all assume I only speak English and so the sellers are not always bugging you to buy something from them because they are not sure how to respond to you. Of course, one of the challenges for foreigners is that people in the local market tend to use more slang so that is a whole other language. Thankfully, today the Lord connected me with sellers who understand my Khmer.

Well it was noon time and I was getting a tad hungry and broke my cardinal rule of not buying food when I am hungry. I had just loaded all my goodies into the car and across the street my eyes caught the food stalls that sell crispy roast pork. I haven't had this since I've been here so took the opportunity to buy half a kilo.
The Food stall I bought my Crispy Roast Pork from

The photo above is quite interesting---depending on how ravenous you are you can have a piglet or you can have a much bigger size pig. All this to say, it was well worth the $4.00 I paid and I was happy to hear from Bunthan that I got a good deal as typically a full kilo is about $11.00! Next up, I also saw one of my favorite fruits. Over here in South East Asia it is known as the queen of the fruit---in English it is called Mangosteen but in Khmer it is known as Mankut. The king of the fruit is Durian---which smells like a dirty sock but taste creamy ---many missionaries like Durian but it is an acquired taste---a taste that I have not quite acquired :-)
Anyway, Mangosteens are one of the most exotic fruits. Their exterior is not exactly pretty but when you cut it open you encounter a pearl of white figs that has the most unusual but special taste. I'm always so amazed at the variety of fruits that God has created for us.

So my adventure to the local market turned out to be a whole lot of fun. While it took a couple hours to navigate in and out of the market, it is a place I hope to go to regularly as like any good Asian, I can't resist a good deal and look forward to the bargaining process.

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