Friday, October 12, 2012

To Market, To Market

One of my strongest memories of my time with the staff at the shelter I worked in in Phnom Penh, was the day I tagged along with Nina, our cook, to the market for the weekly shop.  Surely one of my most authentic glimpses into Khmer life.

Boeng Keng Kang Market was where she did the shopping for the supplies for the shelter. Here she carefully stuck to her list and budget, and stocked up to feed the children for the week.

Boeng Keng Kang was also a market that I had not really spent much time in, usually spending my time at Psar Tuol Tom Pong, (Russian Market), for clothes, music, fabric and little treasures.
Walking around Boeng Keng Kang, trailing after Nina who was all business in picking out the best of the ingredients, I witnessed the bargaining and interactions with the vendors, whom she clearly had ongoing connections with, given her regular task of doing the shopping here.

The sights of fresh vegetables, many of which I had never seen before, and the array of spices was a visual spectacular, all arranged and on display at each stall.

The smells are something you do not forget from an open air food market like this!  And the sights of meats and fish on display are also not for the weak stomached Westerner!
Nina also loved having me along, as she told each of her vendors that I was her work colleague, and that I was from Australia.  They greeted me after my limited in-training Khmer greeting back, and then Nina would complete her deal and probably be gossiping about me with the people at each stall.  This was at a point where there was so much of the context of a conversation I could pick up, so the interactions were all a bit of fun when I could interject with one of my very few Khmer words or phrases.

We also stopped and had breakfast in the market together, which Nina loved!  A fish curry that was so delicious - but I am certain was the source of my typhiod-like illness in the weeks that followed.   Oops! Still, despite the pain and fever that ensued, I wouldn't take back having that meal with her there.  Felt like such a special time.

This post is part of a series marking 10 years since I travelled to Cambodia to work as a volunteer.


  1. I would never think to do this, but it sounds like a great way to see how the locals really live and shop. I always think grocery shopping in other countries is fascinating. There are little cultural intricacies you notice from country to country.

    1. Was such an insight, and just one of the really authentic things I got to do because I was living and working over there.
      Thanks for the comment!


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