Bon Om Tuk – Cambodia’s Water Festival

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Bon Om Tuk - Cambodia’s Water Festival
Bon Om Tuk - Cambodia’s Water Festival

Overview

Cambodia’s Water Festival is a traditionally Phnom Penh-centric affair. Water Festival – Bon Om Tuk in Khmer – is a Cambodian festival celebrated annually in the month of November. This joyous occasion marks the bi-annual reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. Every town in Cambodia holds their own version of the festivities, but the biggest celebrations take place in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

>> The Fire Festival in Jeju Island

Tonle Sap River
Tonle Sap River

The Water Festival in Cambodia

The first Water Festival celebration in Siem Reap took place was in 2001. That year, it was a small affair with just 20,000 people showing up to watch the races. This year couldn’t be more different. The streets around the river are closed to traffic, and Siem Reap has become a pedestrian paradise as everyone from the province has flooded into town to watch the boat races.

Dozens of street food vendors are out hawking their wares
Dozens of street food vendors are out hawking their wares

Dozens of street food vendors are out hawking their wares, and local restaurants have dropped their prices for the Water Festival hordes (Blue Pumpkin are selling scoops of ice cream for $1). Locals, tourists, and expats were enjoying the carnival-like atmosphere that went on long after nightfall. If you didn’t head to see the Bon Om Touk festivities yesterday, it’s well worth a visit today.