At Intrepid we figure fundraising should be fun and our Intrepid Cambodia team put that into action when they raised money for the Sala Bai Hotel School For Underprivileged Cambodians. Jane Dearden, Responsible Travel Coordinator Cambodia, tells how Team Intrepid enjoyed the recent festival and managed to stay afloat for a good cause…
“After a gruelling week of rowing training and only once upturning our boat, our team felt like we were dreaming the three words ‘Muy, pii bei’! The Cambodian cry of ‘one, two, three’ signalled the start of our daily training ritual for the annual Bonn Om Touk in Siem Reap.
Wow! The race weekend finally arrived and suddenly the once quiet river banks were overflowing with Khmers ready to celebrate the Moon and Water Festival.
Crowds of families stood 10 deep along the river, eating, cheering and enjoying the day. Pulses were racing amongst rowers as we waited for the first event. The ceremony started with a procession of all teams and then we were off!
The atmosphere was buzzing on the river, the air filled with the chanting of war-like cries and constant bailing out of boats as excited rowers jumped around a little too much! The celebrations extended into surrounding streets which were a food lover’s delight. Hot buns with egg or pork, fresh waffles, barbecued meats, seafood, a huge variety of fruits and many other local specialities were on offer. Rowing teams didn’t miss out and were kept going with snacks thrown from the bridge above into the boats!
As the three-day celebrations continued the crowds increased. The roads were closed and everyone got into the spirit of the festival. Each night the sky was lit with fireworks, every team had a party and the street celebrations just didn’t stop. The festival finished with candles floating down the river in the darkness.
Bonn Om Touk is the biggest festival of the year in Cambodia. It celebrates the start of the fishing season and the flow of the Tonle Sap River back toward the Mekong. People from the provinces flock to Phnom Penh, where up to 400 boats carrying 50 people each battle it out on the river. Siem Reap is a somewhat smaller affair with around 35 boats taking part, but certainly no less festive and if you are in Cambodia next November come and join in the fun!”