It’s the time of the year again where Phnom Penh will once again come alive celebrating the Water Festival.
The Cambodian Water Festival is one the most awaited festivals in Cambodia and one of the most attended with thousands of locals and foreigners alike observing it every year. We were able witness the water festival twice and we had spanking good time observing the boat race, fluvial parade, fireworks and going around the city.
The Water Festival is held once every year usually in November on the full moon of the Buddhist month of Kadeuk. However, for the past three years, Cambodians didn’t celebrate the Water Festival after the human stampede tragedy happened during the 2010 Water Festival celebrations causing more than 300 casualties and due to the floods and death of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.
For this year, it will be on the 5th to 7th of November 2014. It celebrates a natural incidence when the River of Tonle Sap and Mekong River reverse the flow of the current. Perhaps it is the only estuary in the world which flows in opposite directions and at different times of the year.
The Cambodians have three important ceremonies during the Water Festival celebration. First is the Loy Pratip, it is a fluvial parade of fascinating lighted boats illuminating up the waterways. Second is the Sampeas Preah Khe, which means the salutation to the moon as Cambodians believed that full moon is a good sign for the coming harvest. The last ceremony which occurs at the midnight is called Auk Ambok because the people gather at the temples to eat “ambok” (flattened rice), holiday rice dish.
One of the highlight activities for this celebration is the boat race which is to be held in Phnom Penh. I heard that this year there will be around 240 boats which will be participating the boat race lead by competent oarsmen. This activity attracts millions of people from all over the country to the capital of Phnom Penh to cheer their boat team. For many locals it is the only occasion to visit the capital city and to explore the sights of Phnom Penh. Fluvial parades, fireworks and general merriment are also observed. If you like taking photographs, the whole city becomes a photographer’s dream.
Since Phnom Penh was very crowded during this time, we decided to book a room in a hotel with a river view to be able to watch the boat race and to avoid the throngs of people. We had a whale of a good time watching the boat race.
Little Lilly travel tip:
- Watch the full view of the boat races from the terrace bar of Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) or terrace of any restaurants or hotels on 363 Sisowath Quay while having a wonderful drink.
- Phnom Penh will be very crowded during this time of the year and traffic is chaos as many locals from the different provinces of the country arrive by buses, cars, bikes, cyclos, bicycles and even trucks.
- Look after carefully all your belongings and be careful of the theft.