Cambodia celebrates river-based dry season festival

9th Oct 2013

Tourists on Cambodian city breaks to Phnom Penh can enjoy all the colourful, water-based delights of the Bon Om Tuk festival next month.

It is one of the most important festivals and events in the south-east Asian country's calendar.

The festival commemorates the start of the dry season and the reversal of the flow of the Sap River, which runs from the south-eastern corner of Tonlé Sap lake to join the Mekong and Bassac rivers.

An estimated 250,000 revellers join in the festivities between November 16-18. These include longboat races, music, dancing, fireworks and much eating and drinking.

The largest celebrations happen in the capital with boat racing along the Sisowath Quay.

But every town and province joins in with the festivities.

Torrential rains occur in the months leading up to the event.

These cause the hugely increased volume of the Mekong River to force the Sap River to back up, and finally reverse its course, flowing northwards to flood the Tonlé Sap with huge amounts of fresh water and rich sediment.

Then, halfway through October, the cool, dry winds start to blow from the north and the level of the Mekong subsides.

The flow of the Sap is once more reversed, carrying the surplus waters of the Tonlé Sap southwards to the Mekong and Bassac deltas.

The yearly flooding of the Tonlé Sap makes the lake an immensely fertile breeding ground of fish.

The farmland around it, meanwhile, benefits from a yearly spate of rich sediment.

Very competitive boat races are staged in Phnom Penh and at Angkor, and monks at several temples nationwide will row ceremonial boats.

The longboats are vibrantly decorated and rowed by up to 40 competitors, which makes for a breathtaking spectacle.

Angkor is home to the Angkor Wat temples, which greeted over a million international visitors in the first half of 2013 to one of the world's most famous cultural sites.

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