Festival Fun at Banteay Chhmar in Cambodia

February 23, 2015 by | Filed Under: Authentic Experiences, Festivals, Travel

Bunseun You, Branch Manager in our office in Siem Reap blogs about Khmer New Year celebrations at the Banteay Chhmar Tented Camp and around Cambodia. Staying at the camp around the Angkorian temples in April, gives travelers a unique option to join the locals in their celebrations!

The Khmer New Year or Chaul Chnam Thmey is a 3-day holiday from 14-16 April. In some communities the fun can last up to 10 days. Banteay Chhmar Community’s celebration lasts about one week. Those travelers who stay at our luxury tents during the Khmer New Year in April are happily invited by the Banteay Chhmar village to join them in the New Year festivities.

Family members traditionally return to their home village during the Cambodia New Year holiday (it’s the Buddhist New Year celebrations that at the same time take place in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka). Cooking a variety of local dishes and eating together are important parts of the celebration. Khmer people also prepare food for the monks and deliver it to the temple. The females of the village wear stylish dresses and decorate their hair and faces. For the males, proper dress is what they normally wear to visit the pagoda.

Young adults who live or work in a place different than their parents make a trip home; however, nowadays, they also make time to visit with friends and relax. Mr. Sophal, the CBT Coordinator at Banteay Chhmar, said: “I see groups of friends drinking beer in the temple and along the barais (water reservoirs or ponds). It’s amazing to see the local beer store’s shelves completely out of stock and women as well as men drinking beer!”

Festival Fun at Banteay Chhmar  - Khmer New Year - Cambodia

Festival Fun at Banteay Chhmar  - Khmer New Year - Cambodia

After the traditional rituals to welcome the Cambodian New Year are completed, the fun and games begin. There is water throwing everywhere. Dancing and loud music are very popular but there are other traditional activities reserved for this festive time of year such as the following games:

Chol Chhoung is a game for flirting teenagers disguised as dancing and throwing a balled up piece of cloth, or chhoung, at a love interest.

Bos Angkunh, a target game using inedible fruit seeds (angkunhs) ends with the losing team having sore knees.

In Veay Ka Orm, a blindfolded player holds a bat and tries to break a clay pot held above their head.

Leak Kanseng, a game played by a group of children sitting in a circle, involves singing and secretly passing a twisted towel or kanseng. You can see some fun videos of these games on YouTube.

During the last day of the celebration (16 April or extended day), called Tgia Tras at Banteay Chhmar, Khmer people bath the Buddha images by pouring water over the statues. After the ceremonial bathing, the water throwing escalates to young men and women trying to throw each other into the barai.

Banteay Chhmar is an exciting destination, and the Khmer New Year is a popular time to visit the village and ancient temple ruins. For more information about community based tourism and Khmer New Year festivities at the Banteay Chhmar Tented Camp, and for booking requests, please send us a message via the contact form below.

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