This year the Cambodia Water Festival, or Bon Om Touk to give its Khmer name, falls on 18 to 20 November. For three days watch as Phnom Penh’s riverside explodes into life with boat races and firework displays in what is one of the most dramatic festivals in the region.
Unfortunately the 2020 Cambodia Water Festival was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns as has been the 2021 Water Festival.
During the Cambodia Water Festival, Phnom Penh is flooded with people coming in from neighbouring villages and all over the country seeking to participate in the races and to join in the festive fun. Although this is a great spectacle to watch, it does come with the inherent risk of some danger – particularly petty theft from pick-pockets, so people are advised to leave valuables in their hotel safe. The riverside area is closed to traffic, but as the races run past the central area, it is an easy – albeit crowded – walk.
Easily the best way to enjoy the spectacle is from a lofty perch at one of the riverside hotels or rooftop bars, or across the Japanese Friendship Bridge on the Chroy Changvar Peninsula. The Quay and Amanjaya hotels on Sisowath Quay come recommended, and are only 10 metres apart, while Bellevue Serviced Apartments has a great pool where you can lap in the spectacle.
Traditionally this is the time when the Tonle Sap river reverses its flow – a unique sight and the waters are high and the current fast. It really is a spectacular sight and a must for anyone who is in the area at the time.