This week there has been a lot of publicity about the tragic events at the Water Festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where over 370 people were trampled to death in a stampede as the crowd became panicked. It was a tragic incident and our thoughts are with all those affected by the event. Thankfully we can confirm that none of our travellers and staff or their friends and families were involved.
Intrepid’s Graham Stanley was in Siem Reap to visit our Cambodian office at the same time as the Water Festival…”The festivities here in Siem Reap were a lot less news-worthy and it was actually a fantastic occasion. The Water Festival is one of the largest festivals in Cambodia. The town was full of foreign visitors, as well as Cambodian tourists from other cities or the countryside wanting to be a part of the event.
The festival celebrates the reversal of the water flow from the Tonle Sap Lake which changes direction after the wet season and flows back into the Mekong. It is the local way of giving thanks to the water that provides Cambodia with its fish-filled Tonle Sap Lake and productive agricultural fields. It’s a 2-3 day affair that involves boat races on the river, food stalls, music concerts and the beautiful tradition of floating small offerings down the river with a burning candle. The river was flowing with small floating lights which looked lovely. Of course there was a fireworks display over the river on both nights that thrilled the kids.
The highlight was the boat races. Each boat represents a local village and they are elaborately decorated. The enthusiasm and cheering made the river’s edge an exciting place to be. While this year has been marred by the tragedy in the national capital of Phnom Penh, I hope the Water Festival continues to attract tourists from around the world to experience the carnival atmosphere and the welcoming Cambodian hospitality. It’s a great opportunity to understand how the Cambodians can party and how they are so tied to their land that this ancient festival continues to this day!”