For many Phnom Penh teenagers at least, love was in the air Wednesday.
Struggling to carry a meter-high stuffed Hello Kitty under one arm and a bouquet of roses in the other, Chea Lina was all smiles as she entered Street 184’s ICE restaurant with her boyfriend for a Valentine’s Day treat.
“We celebrate every year,” the 19-year-old student said, adding that even though the holiday is not a Cambodian tradition, Feb 14 is a special day for her and Khoy Vannvuth, her boyfriend of three years.
Vendors peddling roses, stuffed animals, balloons and chocolate for Valentine’s Day appeared on the streets of the capital Wednesday, primarily attracting high school and university students buying gifts for friends and lovers.
Most of the customers who visited her flower stand were boys shopping for girlfriends, said San Sambath, 20. But people also use the holiday as an opportunity to show their love for friends and family, she added.
“I don’t care if [Valentine’s Day] is from the West. It’s just showing love, for friends and parents too,” San Sambath said, adding: “It’s like Christmas.”
Twenty-year-old Vuthy, a bouquet of flowers wedged between the seat and the handlebars of his Honda motorbike, said he would be taking his girlfriend to dinner and a movie.
“Today is special, so I must pay for everything,” he added. Most roses were going for a premium price of $1 per stem Wednesday, dropping to $0.75 in late afternoon.
Teenagers dominated the holiday, but were not the only ones celebrating. Kim Chhorda, a 53-year-old police officer, stopped to buy a bouquet of red roses on his way home, and said his wife would be making a special dinner.
But an aged cyclo driver, who declined to be named, reacted angrily when asked about amorous youngsters who celebrate the holiday named for Christian martyr Saint Valentine.
“I hate it,” he said, adding that flower vendors along the roadside create traffic jams. “I don’t know when we started celebrating Valentine’s Day.”