Siem Reap is one of South East Asia’s best tourist destinations as it is the gateway city to the world-renowned heritage of the Angkor temples. Because of its wonderful location and charming ambiance, Siem Reap has become a fast-emerging tourist magnet of Cambodia. The warm hospitality of the colorful people and their Buddhist villages are what creates the unique charm of this small fisherman’s town. Tourists then rush to not only see the vast temples of the city but to enjoy the culture and festivals in Siem Reap as well.
Many Cambodian holidays and festivals are held in Siem Reap as the native people are found to be always in the mood for a celebration. Many of their beliefs, rituals and cultural outfits are related to these festivals and events of the city. These celebrations are not merely about merrymaking but are sometimes also a reflection of the melancholic events of the olden days.
- Water Festival – The Water Festival of Siem Reap is marked by two significant scenarios: one is the reverse flow of the Tonle Sap River and the other is the commencement of the fishing season. The event is highlighted by boat races that are held over three days. When the night falls, fireworks light up the sky as boats are lighted to sail for good luck. Locals all around the city gather on the banks of the Tonle Sap River for several days and nights just to get a good glimpse of the much-awaited boat races.
- P’chum Ben or Spirit Festival – Held in late September, this festival is similar to All Soul’s Day where locals pay their respects to the dead by giving their offerings at the water’s edge.
- Khmer New Year – The Khmer New Year or also known as the Chol Cham Thmey is the most important holiday for many Cambodians. This day is usually marked by the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the rainy season. Most of the businesses are closed during the Khmer New Year as everyone is out to join in on the celebration.
- Aspara Dance Performance – During the first of May, various locations in Siem Reap perform the Aspara Dance Performance, which is an ancient art form that has played a great part in the Khmer culture for thousands of years.
- Chaul Chnam – Held during mid-April, the Chaul Chnam is based on the ancient Khmer calendar of Cambodia where it counts from the day that Buddha died. Khmers make offerings to the temples as they also clean out their homes and exchange gifts of new clothes with loved ones. Colorful processions of music and dance are also a common sight during this time.
To find out the essence of Siem Riep, it is good not only to wander the Angkor temples but to explore the culture and festivals in Siem Reap as well. Come to Siem Reap when celebrations are in full swing as the festive mood of the city will be way too ecstatic to not delight you.