By Rob Walker.
From cultural customs and experiences during the day to diverse nightlife activities, nothing can prepare you for the grandiose Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap. Officially spanning a massive 3 days, this national week of celebration will leave you in awe and is the biggest holiday on the Cambodian calendar.
If you’re in Siem Reap already you’ll see marquees popping up in the Royal Gardens next to Raffles Hotel, streetlights decorating every part of the town and the festive atmosphere starting to build.
The bustling local parties provide a feeling of emerging oneself in true Cambodian-style celebrations; walking around the streets of Siem Reap you will hear families, friends and local businesses playing music, cooking food, dancing and inviting anyone in who walks by. These lower key celebrations occur the week before a convergence of around half a million people on Siem Reap for the 13th April.
The Angkor temple festivities, from the 13th – 16th April, provide a truly unique insight into Khmer culture. The opportunity to see the Angkor temples in use by the modern Cambodian people cannot be missed. Traditional games, sports, foods, dancing and music abound. The Cambodian government has successfully maintained the Khmer cultural influence over celebrations, rather than acquiescing to the tourist-flooded water fights to the west. The result…a truly inspiring expression of Khmer culture, a testament to the Cambodian peoples’ good nature and commitment to traditional values.
Siem Reap Khmer New Year celebrations wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the infamous Pub Street. This is typically packed with locals and tourists throughout the holiday, but get yourself down here on the last night to see the Pub Street properly ring in the Khmer New Year. Try the local delicacy of barbequed insects or, maybe something a little less titillating for the senses, try some of the numerous street food carts floating around that provide fruit juices, shakes, fried ice cream and noodle dishes.
As a tourist, traveller or expat if this is your first Khmer New Year here are a few points we hope will help make sure you make the most out of the Khmer New Year Celebrations:
- Take your camera, but make sure to ask permission before taking photographs of Cambodian people or Monks
- Dress conservatively, cover your shoulders and knees especially when entering temples or pagodas
- Party like a local – Explore more than just Pub Street, get around town and see what is really going on
- Be responsible, keep your belongings safe and just enjoy!
Angkor Handicraft Association will be closed during the Khmer New Year from 13th to 16th April but please make sure to come visit us at Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple and the Raffles Hotel Gardens where you can meet some of our artisans and check out some real authentic Khmer handicrafts!