The most important festival in the Cambodian calendar, Bonn Om Toeuk (known as the Water Festival), attracts more than two million visitors to the capital from the provinces each year to celebrate the reversing of the flow of the Tonle Sap River (variable, late Oct to mid-Nov). Many come to support their teams during the three days of boat racing, but most are happy to soak up the atmosphere with their families, eat copiously from the myriad street vendors and scoop up bargains from the sellers who lay their wares out along the riverfront. After dark the town remains just as animated, with free concerts and fireworks.

The sheer volume of people weaving a fragile dance along the riverfront is a spectacle in itself. Given the volatile mixture of millions of exuberant people and zero crowd control, it was almost inevitable that at some point something would go wrong. During the extravagant closing ceremony of the 2010 celebrations panic broke out as the several-thousand-strong crowd poured onto a narrow footbridge, causing a stampede in which 351 died. The following year’s festival was cancelled as a mark of respect.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Cambodia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
11 gorgeous pictures of Cambodia

11 gorgeous pictures of Cambodia

This beguiling country in Southeast Asia has captured the hearts and imaginations of travellers from all over the world. Travel photographer Fiona Campbell is …

23 Aug 2017 • Fiona Campbell insert_drive_file Article
The truth about elephant tourism in Asia

The truth about elephant tourism in Asia

Elephants are born free, but are everywhere in chains – and it’s tourism which is increasingly to blame. Riding an elephant used to be on every visitor’s …

11 Aug 2017 • Gavin Thomas insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month