Russian markets around the world
The Russian Market (Psar Tuol Tom Pong), not to be confused with another market Psar O Russei, is wonderfully diverse. Nowadays, it is half and half, half souvenirs and tourist stuff, and half motorcycle parts, clothing knock-offs and food stalls. It is covered and fairly large, so it's not difficult to get lost in the narrow dark lanes. The sellers are friendly and easygoing, but as more and more tourists come here the prices go up. The reason for its name is that during the Soviet times in the 1980s the only places Russians could go to were other communist friendly countries, like China, Vietnam and Cambodia, so they came here and shopped.
Walking down the street of Chaowai Shichang feels like travelling through space. Cyrillic script, bleached Caucasians women in way too tight clothes and Russian words, even the Chinese vendors speak to you in Russian. You have entered the area of the Russian markets. Since the time of communism, the people of the red states could only visit each other, so in every red capital (Beijing, Phnom Penh, Hanoi,...) so-called Russian markets sprung up to cater for the Russian tourists. Today, the Beijing version has expanded to more than just a market, it is now a collection of malls filled with what Russians apparently want. Anything made of fur, with high heels, or that makes you look like a call girl can be found here. The shops are strangely hidden by curtains and posters of skimpily dressed Russian models, so window browsing is obviously not a big thing for the Russian customers. Go there for the weird factor.
During the 1980s every communist-friendly country had their share of so-called Russian markets, which were markets catering for foreigners who at the time were mostly Russians. The original Russian market in Ho Chi Minh doesn't longer exists, but has been incarnated into a new market named "Saigon Square" in down town HCM City. Some of the stalls owners are the same from the old Russian market, and though the selection isn't as "Russian" as it use to be, you can still find reasonable cheap t-shirts, designer knock-offs, imported Chinese counterfeits and outdoor equipment. You don't get overcharged as badly as in Ben Thanh market, but you still need to bargain hard.