Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
now a world heritage site
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Bonn Om Touk
Water Festival 

Bonn Um Touk’ orWater Festival is the largest annual festival in Cambodia. It has its roots in the 12th Century when King Jayavarman VII ordered that an annual boat race be held to honour the victories of the Khmer Naval Forces during various battles against neighbouring countries.  These traditional long-boat races are held in front of the Royal Palace on the 'Chaktomukh' or 'Four Faces*' every year for 3 days during the full moon in November.

Normally each boat is manned by thirty to forty rowers but some could hold up to 80.  Traditionally there is a man (occasionally with a woman) who sits or stands on the boat’s bow and sings, dances, and/or beats a drum to set the rhythm of the rowing. With dynamic gestures and inspiring words the man encourages the rowers to try harder and harder in order to win the race. 

In addition to the boat races, there are three other ceremonies that form part of this festival: 

  1. Loy Pratip’ or The Procession of Illuminated Boats - these are very colourful because they use hundreds of coloured neon lights. Each one of the boats represents a government department, a business or a religious organisation. The event is also accompanied by spectacular fireworks.

  2. Sampeah Preah Khae’ or Paying Homage to the Moon – people pray and give thanks to the moon in pagodas around the country until midnight when it is followed by ‘Ork Ambok’.

  3. Ork Ambok’ or The Eating of Rice Flakes - people celebrate this festival by preparing a family meal consisting of freshly made rice flakes pounded from nearly ripe sticky rice. This is normally eaten with bananas and/or coconut juice. 
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Being a Buddhist country, this event is also held to offer thanks to Buddha and to pray for sufficient rain for rice cultivation during the following year. It marks the end of the rainy season which coincides with the reversal of currents in the Tonle SapRiver and the beginning of the fishing season. Above all, it represents a thanksgiving to the MekongRiver for providing a livelihood to the Khmer people. 


 * 'Chaktomukh' or 'Four Faces' is a part where the four rivers: Tonle Sap, Tonle Bassac, the upper & lower Mekong Rivers, cross each other. It is located in front of the Royal Palace.