The Cambodian Water Festival
The Bon Om Touk (Cambodian Water Festival) as it is natively known is an annual national festival that takes place in November. For centuries it has been both a cultural and national tradition and occurs throughout the country. The largest celebrations – often three days long - are held in Phonm Penh.
Accounts show that it was first celebrated as a military test to gauge the prowess of the naval warfare of the time. After the wars, the festival became a commemoration and celebration of the naval prowess of the then Cambodian navy.
According to culture, it is a celebration in honor to the gods for the reversal of the flow of Tonle Sap River. Carried out after the end of the rainy season, it is a celebration to mark the end of one season and the beginning of another. It includes various activities such as boat racing along the Sisowath Quay of Phonm Penh, dance, food and drink and is a major tourist attraction that brings together more than a million people annually.
The celebration includes three ceremonies:
Sampeah Preah Khae offers salutation to the moon; an object that holds enormous religious significance in Cambodia. After the salutations people move indoors for yet another ceremony.
Ak Ambok. This ceremony was named after a native dish of rice and encompasses the meal part of the Cambodian Water Festival. The dish itself has a special way of preparation. First it is fried in its husk then it is pounded. After that the husks are removed and the rice is mixed with banana, coconut and coconut water. Often enough of this dish is made to last throughout the entire celebration.
Bandaet Pratip is usually the most appealing to tourists. Decorated boats illuminated with neon lights in various colors, patterns, shapes and sizes float onto the water at night. Each of the boats signifies a state institution or a ministry of the government.