Water Festival, an annual three-day event, is enthusiastically celebrated in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Competing with the Khmer New Year, it is one of the most important Cambodians holidays.The carnival atmosphere ashore and the boat races on the Tonle Sap attract a lot of international visitors.
In Khmer, Water Festival is called Bonn Om Toeuk – a special event to celebrate Full Moon day and show thanks to Tonle Sap River – an ecological hot spot that was recognized as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997. This year, the event is commemorated in late November.
In this occasion, carnival is spread out in Phnom Penh: open-air live concerts are held, make-shift food stalls selling a variety of local fare are set up in parks and children as well as adults take rides on ferries wheels.
The festival marks a unique natural phenomenon - the Tonle Sap River reverses the flow of its current. It is probably the only waterway in the world which flows in opposite directions at different times of the year. From November to May, the Tonle Sap River runs into the Mekong, but the current strangely change direction and flow back into the Tonle Sap Lake on the arrival of the monsoon rains. Boat races propelled by precision-trained oarsmen as well as fireworks displays are held at the river. This is one of the major events in the Kingdom which attracts multitudes of people from the various provinces to the capital Phnom Penh.
The Festival also coincides with the full moon of the Buddhist calendar month of Kadeuk. The Cambodians believe that the full moon is a good omen which promises a bountiful harvest. On this night, people gather to give thanks to the moon, wish for the next bumper crop, and enjoy Cambodian specialty.