The days of Pchum Ben have brought mixed blessings for those who remained in Phnom Penh to work during the holiday.
At Phsar Thmei Thursday, customers trickled past the booths that were open, while many stalls remained shuttered.
Swinging in a hammock behind her unsold cuts of pork, Meas Srey, 30, said she had the worst post-Pchum Ben sales in her 10 years doing business.
“Probably there are good sales in the provinces, because the people are out there,” she said. Although she sold 100 kg in a day just before the holiday, on Thursday she had sold less than 10 kg.
“No sellers, no buyers,” she said.
A few stalls down, however, a vegetable vendor said the lack of competition had helped her.
“Because so many shops close, people must come here,” Chea Siem Huor said. Although many smaller restaurants were closed during the holiday, she said larger clients had kept the same wholesale orders, and her retail business boomed, even at increased holiday prices.
Chhun Leng, 49, said her dried and cured fish had sold less well before Pchum Ben than in previous years, but she hoped business would rebound as Cambodians living abroad buy her food to take home after the holiday.
Cyclo and motorbike taxi drivers said that although the week had earlier gone well, Thursday’s business was quite slow, as many customers hadn’t returned from the provinces.
“During Pchum Ben, I made 30,000 or 40,000 riel [about $7.50 to $10] per day,” said Neang Sam, 25, who pedaled his cyclo rather than return to his native Svay Rieng province.
At Sorya Shopping Center, throngs of people rode up and down the escalators and window-shopped, but salespeople said business had been slow.
“Many people come, but they only look and don’t buy,” said Chan Phea, 21. She said that last year had seen similarly high levels of foot traffic contrasted with low sales.