A Dose of Angkor Songkran – Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Songkran or Chaul Chnam Thmei is the name of the Khmer New Year Festival which also refers to “entering the new year” in Khmer language. It is celebrated every year from April 13 to 15 and is considered to be the grandest and the most important celebration in Cambodia. I was fortunate to have experienced Angkor Songkran as it gave me a whole new experience. As they say, one way to know more about the country’s culture is through experiencing how the people celebrate their festivals. Indeed, my Angkor Songkran experience has given me a dose of Cambodian culture. Whilst it is also similar to Thai New Year which is also referred to as “Songkran: Thai Water Festival”, the Cambodian version of celebrating New Year is a bit calmer and more traditional.

Angkor Songkran: How it is celebrated

The Chaul Chnam Thmei or Khmer New Year coincides with the end of harvesting season, a time where farmers enjoy the fruit of their labor before the rainy season begins. This is the time where Khmer people take time off work to go to their homeland and spend time with their families and friends. Cambodians visit their local pagodas to pray and have some food offerings. Traditions are also observed during this time.

  • Setting up of altars in every house where they place food, drinks, incense sticks – a tradition everyone follows.
  • Traditional Cambodian games are played.
  • “Sraung Preah”, the pouring of water or liquid plaster (a mixture of water and chalk powder) on people which everybody enjoys especially the younger generation. The pouring of water or liquid plaster has traditionally been a sign of well-wishing, to wash away bad luck.

Angkor Songkran: The Event 

Angkor Songkran is undoubtedly the most important celebration for Khmer. This year, the event took place in the Angkor area starting from Angkor Wat to the Elephant Terrace. The area was really crowded as most people from the provinces headed over Angkor to commemorate this occasion. Activities included a grand parade which began from the north gate of Angkor Thom, a musical event, and a food fest which featured traditional Cambodian food.

What to do on Angkor Songkran

  • Indulge your taste buds with traditional Khmer food

Every time I visit a country, I almost always make sure that I get to to taste its local delicacies – yes, you have to taste the culture. You may not be accustomed to the food and find it challenging to try, believe me, give it a shot, it’s all part of the experience!

The first photo is a fried quail. I have noticed that in Cambodia, they tend to cook all the body parts. Look there’s still a beak and feet! The second photo is a plate of large spiders, a clear favorite exotic food among Cambodians.

  • Stroll around the temples of Angkor

Did you know that after 5pm it is already free to make a stroll around the Angkorian temples? Khmer New Year is the best time to witness the ancient beauty of two of the most visited temples of Angkor at night: Bayon Temple and Angkor Wat. These two Angkorian temples are usually lit up for Angkor Songkran as some ceremonies take place at these temples. I had always wanted to see the temples of Angkor at night time and voila, I got to experience it. A lot of thanks to a Khmer friend who took me around.

Head over Pub Street: Enjoy the Water Festival

Pub Street is where the action is. Prepare yourself as every passerby will be poured some water on and/or will be sprinkled with some powder on – feel the wrath! People will be carrying their weapons – water guns and powder. Make sure to get yourself one as it will be a fun and extreme water/powder fight. Expect a night full of fun and action, be soaked and get dirty.

At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your body should soggy, your hair should be messy and you should be happy. I looked so serious in this photo as the alcohol had kicked in.

At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your body should be soggy, your hair should be messy and you should be happy.
I looked so serious in this photo as the alcohol had kicked in.

If you are traveling to Siem Reap, Angkor of Cambodia in April, you should not miss out Angkor Songkran. During this celebration, you will know more about the Cambodian culture, their traditions and the way they celebrate New Year. The event is free for all – so there’s no reason not to join the fun!

Ryatt Lucero

Filtraveler | Adventure Travel Blog

Siem Reap, Cambodia | April 12 -15, 2016


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