For 3 days and nights each year Phnom Penh hosts the Water and Moon Festival
[This year, 2017 it was 2-3-4 November… The dates vary each year according to the full moon.]
Known locally as Bon Om Touk it is the premier event in the Khmer calendar. The carnival attracts over a million revellers who line the banks of the river to celebrate and party for 3 days and nights.
Around 400 boats take part, each propelled by between roughly 40 to 70 colourfully attired oarsmen or women. The boats race in pairs throughout the day for the honour of the village and prizes. The rowers will have trained for months for this spectacle.
Meanwhile the carnival atmosphere on the river banks reaches a crescendo each evening with spectacular firework displays and a procession of Pratips, or ‘candle boats’. These are atmospheric and noisy illuminated floating platforms.
The Water and Moon festival itself is a celebration of the reversal of the Tonle Sap rivers flow and heralds the start of the fishing season. The middle day is also a celebration of the full moon.
From November to May the Tonle Sap river drains into the Mekong and Bassac rivers. During the other months the Tonle Sap river actually flows UPHILL!
This occurs due to the monsoon rains upstream in the Mekong and it’s tributaries as well as the snow melt from the Himalayas. All this excess water can not exit through Vietnam's Mekong delta downstream and so a blowback event occurs causing the Tonle Sap river to reverse it’s current and flow upstream flooding roughly one third of Cambodia and bringing with it a multitude of fish and massive amounts of nutrient rich silt which will feed the rice paddies and vegetable gardens.
Meanwhile to celebrate this Phnom Penh goes crazy!
What a great time to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Ask Asia Expeditions about our itineraries to see the Water and Moon festival, visit rice paddies and their owners, chat with fishermen, visit floating fishing villages and generally make merry!
Image©Peter O Sullivan