The three days before and after Khmer New Year—when most city dwellers leave Phnom Penh for family homes in the provinces, then return to work after the celebrations—are a boom time for business, say vendors, cyclo drivers and motorbike-pulled cart operators.
“I make good money for three days before the New Year, when everyone buys things for their trip home and for ceremonies and parties when they get there,” said Phsar Thmei toiletries vendor Hong Ly, 45.
But during the three-day holiday itself, when government offices, companies, factories and schools are closed, business dries up, she said.
On Monday, most stalls in Phsar Thmei were shuttered as vendors, too, returned to their family homes. About 20 percent were still open for business.
Vendors said they were getting practically no customers—but they had nothing better to do.
“I came here just to relax,” said cloth vendor Som Somaly, 57. “I have only seen a few people walk past my shop, and they didn’t even look at anything I’m selling.” But the alternative, she said, was staying home alone, since her family is out of town.
San Saroy, 21, a cyclo driver in front of Wat Ounalom, said the pattern was predictable. “On a normal day, I make about 7,000 riel (about $1.75),” he said Monday. “A few days before the New Year, I made 17,000 to 20,000 riel a day (about $4.25 to $5). Today I made 5,000 riel (about $1.25).
“Fewer people go out shopping during the New Year, but I make a little money from the old people who go to the pagoda to offer food to the monks,” he said.
Not everyone stuck in Phnom Penh for the holiday suffered a shortage of business. Taxi drivers and ferry operators said they were making plenty of money.
“There are fewer motodops in town now, so I can double the price,” said Pham Pin, 51. He said he was making two or three times his normal income of 8,000 to 10,000 riel (about $2 to $2.50) per day.