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Bonn Om Tuk

Listed under Festivals in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

  • Photo of Bonn Om Tuk
  • Photo of Bonn Om Tuk
Photo of Bonn Om Tuk
Photo by flickr user Neil Rickards
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This three day festival is one of Cambodia’s biggest and celebrates the end of the wet season and the rivers changing flow in a series of boat races. The course is constructed so the water is held in that section of river by a gate dam across the finish line and when the race is won the gate is pushed open and water gushes out.

Special rice dishes are served late at night in the light of the full moon and there are fireworks and a lantern lit flotilla contributing to the spectacle and celebratory atmosphere. Bonn Om Tuk is held annually on the full moon at the end of October, beginning of November.

Written by  World Reviewer Staff.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Bon Um Tuk, Water Festival.

Whether you’re a boating fanatic, or just up for some tropical (wet and wild) fun, Bon Um Tuk or ‘The Festival of Boat Races’ is not to be missed if you’re heading to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. The festival takes place annually in November, for the three nights during the full moon. If this timing suggests to you that at the core of the festival is a mysterious and prevailing sense of tradition then you wouldn’t be far wrong; the story behind the festival is wholly superstitious, and acts as a reminder to Cambodian enemies of her military victories on water.

These days, thankfully, the event is less about stark military messages, and more about throwing a big Buddhist (and competitive!) party at the end of the rainy season, to thank mother earth for providing the country with fertility and well being.

But now the most important part of the festival, a.k.a the action; and there’s plenty of it to behold. Witness over three hundred and fifty dragon boats, made and exotically decorated by various teams of villagers, race until sunset down the river while those on dry land throw a cracking good party until the finale.

The festival may dominate the capital for three days but it certainly doesn’t take anything away from Phnom Penh as a city. The festival, in fact, provides a greater opportunity for the visitor to appreciate Cambodia’s sparkling capital. It lights up the splendid Chaktomuk River and Royal Palace, bringing its key tourist attractions and cultural splendor well and truly to life.

Lucinda Day

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