Cambodia's Exciting Rowing Festival in November

December 23, 2023 - 2117 views

Don't miss a unique opportunity to come to Cambodia and join in an exciting rowing festival this November.

The Rowing Festival, or called Bon Oum Touk, is one of the largest festivals in Cambodia, held on a full-moon day in November every year. November there marks the end of the rainy season, brings cooler temperatures, high water levels. This is a great condition for opening the fishing season and also is a good occasion for the Khmer people to have boat racing competition thanking God for granting plentiful harvest, good health, and well-being. During three days, a stream of local people from across the country flock to Phnom Penh capital to watch the colorful boat races taking place along the Tonle Sap River in front of the Royal Palace.

racing team in Cambodian rowing festival

Colorful racing teams on Tonle Sap River

For centuries, Bon Om Touk held in Cambodia with evidence found on sculptures of Angkor Wat, Banteay Chhmar, and Bayon Temple. Within the Angkorian period, the boat races are organized by the kings to demonstrate strong naval forces for battle. This tradition is still practiced to this day.

ancien carving of rowing festival in Cambodia

Carvings of sailing battle during Angkor period

To prepare for the festival, village communities throughout the country spend all year getting many long thin wooden boats that ready for holding up to 100 people. Boat racing participants will usually arrive a few days before the competition to practice with their boats. This festival is necessary to promote the flexibility and agility of youth, especially, local residents who live near the river's region in Cambodia. Individual donors and government officials often sponsor the boats.

With the brightly painted boats, loudspeakers, and glowing T-shirts, the streets are lined with pop-up food stalls, play areas, open-air live concerts, and the city is decorated with colorful bunting and banners. All created a carnival atmosphere of excitement for Bon Oum Touk.

Spectators on the riverbank are cheering for their teams in rowing festival

Spectators on the riverbank are cheering for their teams

Besides, there are many major activities held during this holiday to thank both the land and water for providing life, including:

fireworks after Cambodian rowing festival

Beautiful fireworks show displays around 20 minutes

Bandaet Pratip is believed to take away bad energy after the festival

Perform illuminated boat called Bandaet Pratip is believed to take away bad energy

Cambodians worship the Moon on Sampeah Preah Khae which takes place on the last day of the festival

Cambodians worship the Moon on Sampeah Preah Khae which takes place on the last day of the festival

Tourists have a chance to enjoy special food sold during the festival is Ak Ambok which is rice fried in the husk before being pounded by a giant pestle and then get rid of husks. This flattened rice is mixed with coconut and banana and eaten after midnight when revelers gather at the temples to celebrate the harvest moon.

Popular bars along Phnom Penh’s riverfront have a rooftop terrace. This is a good idea to have perfect views catching actions of the races or fireworks.

Let’s visit Cambodia and join in the crowds to discover this upcoming colorful event.

Luong Dang

(Images source: Internet)

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