Cambodian Water & Moon Festival 2023

By admin | December, 1, 2023

Bonn Om Touk or the Cambodian Water & Moon Festival, is a Cambodian festival which marks the the end of the rainy season and reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. Visitors from every town and province travel to Phnom Penh to watch boat races along the Sisowath Quay and visited illuminated floating royal boats with firework and attend free concerts in the evenings over night. People from every province join with the city’s residents to celebrate by night and day. The festival lasts three days, and commemorates the end of the country’s rainy season, as well as the change in flow of the Tonle Sap River. It includes boat races and concerts, and attracts several million people each year.

The boat racing is still the biggest draw to the Water Festival. The colorful boat races are remarkably similar to the 800-year-old engravings on the Angkor temples. Made in the same style, the brightly-colored boats sit low on the water and are manned by anywhere from thirty to eighty people, with a captain who dances to the rhythm of the drums on the bow as encouragement to the rowers as they move swiftly through the water.

Historically, the boat races were a chance for the Angkorian people to train and prepare for battle, with the King selecting the champions to help defend the Kingdom. Today the stakes are just as high, with the honor of every man’s village to fight for. Every villager takes pride in preparing for the Water Festival, painstakingly hand carving out the boat and training for months before pulling together all their savings and making the long trek to the capital to demonstrate their strength and stamina in front of the King.

Bonn Om Touk also celebrates the unique phenomenon of the Tonle Sap River, which changes its direction twice a year. The river flows from the Mekong River to the Tonle Sap Lake during the wet season, and reverses its course during the dry season. This natural cycle provides fertile soil and abundant fish for the Cambodian people. The Water Festival honors the river’s bounty and the life it sustains. The festival also coincides with the full moon of the Buddhist month of Kadeuk, which marks the end of the rainy season. The moon is believed to have a powerful influence on the water and the crops. People gather to watch the moonrise and offer prayers and offerings to the moon goddess for a good harvest.

The Water Festival is a time of joy and gratitude for the Cambodian people. They celebrate their culture, history, and faith with music, dance, and fireworks. They also enjoy the company of their family and friends, and welcome visitors from near and far. The Water Festival is a unique and unforgettable experience for anyone who witnesses it