The Cambodian Water Festival Bonn Om Tuk is celebrated to mark one of the truly amazing natural occurrences; the reversing of rivers the Tonle Sap and the Mekong Rivers. It takes place in the Buddhist month of Kadeuk (November) on a full moon.
The festival lasts for three days and has some interesting events like boat racing, elaborately designed boat parades, fireworks. Mostly through the year, the Tonle Sap flows into the Mekong River.
But as the rainy season arrives, the Mekong River swells up and now water flows in the opposite direction that is from Mekong River to Tonle Sap. The end of the rainy season brings back things to normal.
Tonle Sap is the lifeline of Cambodia and the festival is a way to thank the river for its generosity. Millions of Cambodians from all over the country gather at the river banks to participate in this colorful festival.
Preparations for this annual event takes place all year round. Around 400 long boats and more than 25,000 rowers participate in the event. The boats are beautifully decorated and brightly colored and can be as long as 30 meters.
On the first two days of this three day festival, only two boats can race at a time. On the third day, all boats make a dash towards the finishing line. During the racing event the air rings with encouraging words as people cheer their favorite boat.
Other events are a parade of spectacularly lit boats down the stream, carnivals, musical extravaganza, folk dances and lots and lots of food stalls. Salutations to the full moon to ensure a good harvest next year and finally the midnight celebrations at the temples.
People gather at the temples to eat a meal of fried rice mixed with banana and coconut. All schools, colleges and businesses are closed for this festival.