new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Dried Fish I Have Known at O'Russei Market

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Dried Fish I Have Known at O'Russei Market

O'Russei has a dried fish theme. Dried fish with ambient lighting.

O'Russei Market is probably Phnom Penh's largest local market. Unlike the Central and Russian markets, tourists are generally an unknown quantity here and no one's selling souvenirs. The patrons are pretty much all Khmers and the occasional expat in need of some practical junk for the home. That's exactly what Phill and I use it for. It's like Home Depot, Circuit City circa-1997, a really convoluted Asian food market, a stationary store, and a twisted variant on Macy's in one convenient location.

O'Russei is also on the large side.

Like most massive, unruly Asian markets, it's a confusing labyrinth, distinctly scented with durian, dried shrimp, and turpentine, and lots and lots of people shoving you aside while carrying enormous boxes of god-knows-what from stall to stall.

Draperies are useful in many guises in Cambodia, especially for those ceremonies - weddings, funerals, what-have-you - that are often held in the street. O'Russei is your ceremonial regalia emporium of choice.

You might want to consider wearing closed-toe shoes, lest you get your digits smashed by some dude going 10 miles an hour down the aisles with a rusty pushcart full of hacksaws.

Sometimes I think I should just do a photo book called "Dried Fish I Have Known." Of course, who the MARKET for this would be....

You can buy spring rolls and noodles and dumplings and other somewhat mysterious food products from ladies in pajamas squatting in the stairwell, and there's usually someone wandering around with an ice-chest with accompanying massive ice block with beverages inside in case you find yourself in need of electrolytes, and God knows you will.

There's also fruit stands and candy-makers and lots of ladies wandering around with durians, which can be a bit difficult to divert yourself around (they are spiky). It's a good idea to keep your eyes on your feet at all times in this place.

And down the stairs we go.

O'Russei is especially useful because the lack of tourists means prices are reasonable, and if you speak a smattering of Khmer, it's even easier to get things cheap.

My extremely tall boyfriend looking somewhat out of place while negotiating for a backpack. The good news is it is absolutely impossible for me to lose him in a crowd.

Recent finds included a black bag that says GIANT SPIDER: SPIDER SPIDER SPIDER on it (with a picture of a neon tarantula), cardboard photos of the King and Queen of Cambodia that now hang in reverent positions in our home, and a hacksaw for whatever the hell my boyfriend gets up to when I'm not home.

An entire floor of O'Russei is devoted to women's clothing and shoes. So many shoes. A vortex of shoes. Thankfully, mostly in my size. 5 1/2 size feet are finally paying off. Bless ya, Asia.

Cambodian retail tends toward hyper-specialization. As this photo may illustrate.

Also, if you were wondering where Cambodians buy those t-shirts that make no sense whatsoever in English, this is the place. (I really want the shirt that just says PERCENT: % but have resisted the far).

More hot wild dried fish action.

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