what to do in siem reap

Phsar Chaa or Phsar Leu? You call the shots.

After visiting Phsar Leu (the new/higher market), I have come to a conclusion that Phsar Chaa (the old market) is built solely to earn as much USD as they could from unknowing tourists. The old market is not only cramped and distressing to walk in, but it is also ruthless when it comes to pricing its goods.

While it is almost effortless to get to the Old Market (which is located just across Pub Street), travelers who are truly enthusiastic and keen on seeing the real Cambodian way of life should consider making their way to the lesser known market located just outside of Siem Reap.

The following are a few useful points of comparison between these two markets:

1. Crowd composition

Phsar Chaa: 60% tourists, or more
Phsar Leu: 5% tourists (When I was there, I only saw another foreigner!)

While the old market is always crowded (especially at the wet area), the Phsar Leu is surprisingly a joy to walk in without having to jostle your way through. Airy, and so much personal space!

things to do in siem reap

Old Market

what to see in siem reap

Higher market

2. Price

Phsar Chaa: Everything sold here is in USD (this is already a clear indication that you are paying more than you should. The starting price is $1, even for perishables like fruits and vegetables)

Phsar Leu: There are bound to be a few sellers who will try to rip you off. Put forward your best smile and ask politely if it is possible to get a discount, Most goods and foodstuffs here are dirt cheap and are sold in Riels. Whatever the circumstance is, just keep in mind that as long as you are a foreigner, you will always be subjected to some extra charges. Getting ripped off here is unfortunately inevitable.

3. Variety

I spent my first few days in Siem Reap walking all around town, frantically searching for the famous glazed donuts which I have jotted and highlighted in my priority list. After a few unfruitful days, I was on the verge of giving up. That was until I've decided to give Phsar Leu a visit on my last day in Siem Reap, and it sure felt like I have discovered treasures:

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I found my donuts, and many other different types of delectable street food! Needless to say, the variety here is impressive

4. Authenticity

It is pretty ironic how tourists are always trying to avoid tourist hotspots. When it comes to picking which market to go to, the less touristy is obviously the better.

best local food siem reap

You don't always bump into Cambodian Muslims

5. Ease to get to

While the old market is centrally located in the middle of the town, Phsar Leu, however, is a little further out. It is located along the national highway (not kidding) and can be reached using tuk-tuks ($6 return + waiting time) or you can just simply cycle there:

siem reap old market

It was really exciting to maneuver between trucks, jeeps, and endless chains of motorcycles. It can get a little dangerous so take a tuk-tuk if you are not comfortable cycling on the national highway!

Here's a video taken on a less busy part of the road: