Water festival in Phnom Penh

Water festival is a celebration at the end of rainy season (beginning of November, normally) in Cambodia. It takes place in all the villages, but the biggest "party" is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city, where Mekong river (coming from Laos) and Tonle Sap river join into Tonle Sap Lake. Mekong river gets a lot of water during the rainy season and therefore higher level of water causes the rise of Tonle Sap Lake and this further results in the opposite flow of Tonle Sap river! So, instead of flowing towards the lake it flows upstream! You can imagine that all these causes extensive floods in the area, which is ideal for rice cultivation and not so ideal for normal living of local people. When the dry season starts, the situation normalizes again and Tonle Sap river flows downstream again.

Lake-dwelling on the banks of Tonle Sap
Water festival is celebrated all over the country, reaching its peak in the capital, Phnom Penh, where around 1 million people gather. All hotels, hostels, guesthouses ... everything is fully booked! The streets of the city are full of people, street food sellers (you can buy fried frogs and cricket, cooked snakes and many more "weird" stuff), people are having picnics just about everywhere, there are fireworks at night ... party all the time :) It's crazy! One of the main events of the festival is boat race on the river close to the city center. Almost every village gathers paddling team, who then competes in the race - one boat i.e. one team has about 40 members and it's really cool to observe such a big group of people moving in the same way, almost synchronous!
Unfortunately the festival is internationally known after its incidents, like a stampede in 2010 or cases of drowned competitors.

Boat race on Tonle Sap
We were lucky/unlucky enough to be in Phnom Penh just in time of Water festival. Why we say unlucky? Because getting a room or any accommodation was a night mare, because walking or any kind of moving around the city center was almost impossible due to the crowds and because The Silver Pagoda, the most beautiful pagoda in whole Cambodia was closed :( But on the other hand it was really interesting to see the celebrations, to see Cambodia in a bit different perspective. And to understand that having drinkable water and not being threatened by the floods in our home is a privilege and is not granted. It really gave us something to think about.

Evening show on Tonle Sape



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