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Making a living from Odong

Making a living from Odong

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Norn Loeung, 42, selling her freshly grilled fish on a Sunday from her stall at the foot of Oudong Mountain. Photo by: Hector Bermejo

RY Sopheap, 47, has been selling snacks and some jewellery from her stall at the foot of Odong Mountain for two years.

As we visit she is making bird nest cakes from rice powder she fries in a wok. The cakes cost 1,000 riel each. Ry Sopheap claims she was the first person to make the cakes here. Now most vendors nearby seem to have jumped on her bandwagon.

“When other people saw what I was doing they copied me,” she says.

Before opening her stall, Ry Sopheap worked as a door-to-door peddler in Phnom Penh for 20 years. Leaving Odong at 6am, she used to walk the streets of Phnom Penh from 8am to 5pm carrying her goods on her head.

“Here I just stop in one place and they come to buy from me,” she says. “So right now is not as difficult as before.”

Weekdays she earns from 20,000 riel to 50,000 riel, but at weekends this can rise up to 100,000 riel to 150,000 riel.

“In Phnom Penh I used to earn more money, but it was hard work, so I decided to work here,” she says.

Just along the small market Norn Loeum, 42, is grilling some fish.

“I have worked here for 18 years,” she says.

She sells the fish to visiting tourists, most of whom are Cambodian.

Although she still works at her stall each weekend, often during the week she elects to farm instead due to a lack of customers.

“Tourists have decreased,” she says. “Now there are many places for people to go and relax, so less people come here.”

Norn Loeum also believes that now too many traders are working at the market, making business more difficult.

Sar Srey agrees that business is not as good as before.

“Sometimes we lose money, sometimes we just break even,” she says. “It is difficult.”

The 50-year-old woman sells barbecued chicken as well as fish. Like Norn Loeum, she supplements her income through farming. Despite her struggle to make ends meet, she sees little option but to continue working at the market.

“I don’t have capital to change my business,” she says. “Even when I buy the chickens I am in debt and after I sell them all, I pay money for them.”

INTERPRETER: RANN REUY

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