Cambodia //

Festivals

Cambodians are always celebrating a festival of some sort, heading out to a popular pagoda with family and friends or taking off for the provinces; unsurprisingly, festivals are the busiest times for shopping and travelling.

The major celebrations of the year are Bonn Chaul Chhnam (Khmer New Year; mid-April) and Bonn Pchum Ben (Festival of the Ancestors; mid-Sept to early Oct). These are festive occasions with everyone gathering at the family home and always involve lots of food and trips to the pagoda. The other big public holiday is Bonn Om Tuk (Water Festival; mid-Oct to late Nov), which occurs when the waters of the Tonle Sap reverse; activity is mainly centred on Phnom Penh with dragon-boat crews from around the country congregating to show off their prowess and massive crowds of supporters thronging the riverfront to cheer them on.

Buddhist offering days (exact dates vary from month to month according to the lunar calendar) are also colourful occasions: stalls do a roaring trade in bunches of flowers which are taken to pagodas and used to decorate shrines at home. Lotus buds – the traditional offering flower to the Buddha – are artistically folded to expose their pale-pink inner petals, while jasmine buds are threaded onto sticks and strings as fragrant tokens.