The Water & Moon Festival – The Mardi Gras of Cambodia

The Water & Moon Festival – The Mardi Gras of Cambodia

Cambodia is a colorful country, with a beautiful culture known for its colors, beauty and music around the world. And if you really want a spectacular souvenir of your visit to Cambodia, then you should really look forward to the Water & Moon Festival, or the “Bun Om Tuk” in Khmer, apart from other attractions. Although the event is celebrated according to the Buddhist calendar, in the month of Kadeuk, but as per the Western solar calendar, it usually falls in the month of November, so that is the time that you should be planning your trip to catch all the action. The Water & Moon Festival is held in the capital Phnom Penh.

The Water & Moon Festival is celebrated to commemorate the victory of the navy of the great Khmer ruler Jayavarman VII, and a traditional rowing boat race is held at day in the Tonle Sap River, which falls into the Mekong River at the city. The Water & Moon Festival has been celebrated for many centuries in Cambodia. Rowing boats have always been a great tradition in Cambodia, especially from the times of the Khmer Empire, during the period of which, armies used to prepare for battle by practicing rowing. Not less than 150 dragon shaped rowing boats participate in the grand race, with 40 or even more rowers on each one.

Apart from the traditional Khmer rowing boats race, the Water & Moon Festival also has a lot more to offer. The festival also features a float parade in the evening in which colorful and illuminated floats called Loy Pratip in Khmer show off in full glory. Not different to the scene at the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, you will find the masses on the streets on the day of festival, especially around the Royal Palace, and since the festival is largely attended by people from all over the country, you will feel the festivity in the air. The evening is very colorful indeed, with fireworks exploding and colorful lights illuminating the city.

The further traditions of the Water & Moon Festival are of religious nature to the indigenous population, which includes the Moon Salutation or the Sampeas Preah Khe. The significance of this ritual is that the festival coincides with a full moon night, which is deemed by the Cambodians as a good omen for a favorable harvest, for which they offer their salutations to the moon. This also is considered to be a very appropriate time for prayer for prosperity in the year to come. The festival also marks the new fishing season, so it offers many reasons for Cambodians to celebrate.

Every important festival is famous for its food, similarly the Water and Moon Festival offers a great Cambodian recipe named ‘Ork Ambuk’, which is a renowned Cambodian specialty for this landmark festival. During the festival people are offered Ork Ambuk consisting of banana or coconut juice served with rice, while many people choose to drink appetizing juices extracted from various other fruits and vegetables. The three day festival marks an annul event which keeps the locals waiting for it throughout the year, meanwhile foreign tourists get to see the colorful side of the Cambodian culture giving them yet another reason to arrive in this Southeast Asian nation same time next year.

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