Bon Om Touk, also known as “the Water Festival,” is one of the most important Cambodian celebrations occurring each year. The celebrations occur primarily in the capital city of Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap to mark the end of the green season and the flow reversal of the Tonle Sap River.
Bon Om Touk - Water Festival in Cambodia
Not to be confused with the Songkran Water Festival in Thailand, the Bon Om Touk in Cambodia occurs on the full moon of the Buddhist month of Kadeuk, which usually falls in late October or early November. This year, the three unforgettable days of boat racing, evening boat parades with illuminated vessels, carnival rides, fireworks, and traditional music and dance performances will be from November 2nd-4th.
Bon Om Touk at night
Many months before the Water Festival begins, the locals prepare their boats by decorating them in lavish, colourful decorations, such as boats with large eyes on the prowl to discourage evil spirits. For three straight days, the celebrations continue, with people from all over Cambodia traveling to Phnom Penh to take part in the festivities. Highly competitive boat races are held in Phnom Penh and Angkor; even monks at many temples around the country will row ceremonial boats. The long racing boats are colourfully decorated and rowed by up to forty participants, which makes for a spectacular sight to see. However, occasionally, the annual boat race in Tonle Sap may be cancelled due to low water levels. Nevertheless, Siem Reap is still a fantastic hub of festivities, far away from the touristic crowds in Phnom Penh, offering a chance to celebrate other traditions with the locals.
Travellers touring Cambodia during this celebration will also have the opportunity to try Dal Om Bok—a special cake that is only made at this time of year to celebrate the Water Festival—and to participate in the salutation of the moon, known as Sampeah Preah Khe.
To add this festive experience to your itinerary, please contact our expert here.