For decades a visit to Phnom Penh's frenetic Central Market — or Psar Thmei in the local language — has been a critical component of any traveler's itinerary.
Built in the late 1930's on swamp land, the markets towering dome and dazzling displays of jewelry and gold certainly make for a unique shopping experience.
So unique, in fact, that government officials now say that the aging art-deco building is a bona fide Phnom Penh landmark deserving of preservation.
Others have gone even further, arguing that the maze-like alleys and overflowing isles of the city's main market are worthy of World Heritage Site status.
It's a bold claim, but the city appears committed to the challenge.
"The central market should be listed as a World Heritage Site, and the city itself is preparing the documentation to make it one," says Dougald O'Reilly, director of Heritage Watch, a Phnom Penh-based organization that works with the government on cultural preservation issues.
The city began renovations to the market in November, with water diversion projects to alleviate flooding and extensive examinations of the foundation and structural strength of the building. The work, which will include a new paint job but otherwise leave the building's character unchanged, is scheduled to finished by April 2007.
"The appearance will remain the same," said Ieng Aunn, director of the Bureau of Architecture and Urbanization. "The work is predominantly structural, so that the building will stand for years to come."
When, or whether, the Central Market will be ready to apply as a World Heritage Site status remains to be seen. For its part, the government appears willing to take a longer-term approach to the challenge.
Part of Phnom Penh's "Master Plan" for 2020 calls for the municipality to establish regulations for development that would preserve architectural monuments, complete an inventory of urban heritage, and rehabilitate historic structures in downtown Phnom Penh.