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Water Festival

Bon Om Touk (the water festival> is celebrated in November. Every Town and Province joins in with t he celebration but the place to be for Bon Om Touk is Phnom Penh. For three days, the workers from every province join with the city's residents to celebrate by night and day. The river comes alive with fireworks and flotillas of brightly-lit boats and the moon rises over the capital. The full moon which coincides with the festival is worshipped by many house-holds. For the Khmer people, Bon Om Touk is their most traditional festival.

The highlights of the festival are a series of boat race. These take place over three days and honor the 12th century Cambodian naval victories achieved under king Jayavarman VII. The Water Festival is ancient; having its roots in a time when the Angkorian kings would test the fighting prowess of their warriors by holding competitions. The races were a form of training and a means by which the king could choose his champions (in the same way that jousting tournaments were used in medieval Europe). The temple carvings at Bayon and Banteay Chhmar have numerous depictions of battles fought on water.

The spiritually, the festival provides a chance to give thanks to Buddha for the year's rice crop and to ask for sufficient rain in the coming year. There are other ceremonies during the festival. Loy Bro-tip begins around 7:00pm with illuminated boats taking to the water. Each boat represents a government ministry or state institution. Sampeas Preah Khe is a ceremony in which salutation are made to the moon. After the Sampeas Preah khe ceremony people gather at pagodas at midnight for Ork Ambok, named after the rice dish which forms part of the ceremony. Rice is fried in the husk and then pounded with a giant pestle. The husks are removed and the special rice mixed with coconut and banana. This most traditional of Khmer dishes is sold throughout the festival and its consumption is an integral part of the festival's spirituality.

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