One post about the Water Festival just isn't enough. Below are some photos from last night. During the day, most PP residents opt to watch the races on TV but in the evenings, everyone comes out to the riverside for the festivities. All the streets for several kilometers around the Royal Palace are closed off to traffic and it is one of the few times Cambodians walk. And walk they do! Up and down the riverside are people from all walks of life and from around the country. There are concerts, games, food stalls, vendors, performances, music and fireworks every night.
These boats float up and down the river and each one represents a major institution. There is the crest of the Royal Palace, Ministry of Defense, National Assembly, Phnom Penh municipality and so on. There is one for the Ministry of Justice which we joked should have exclamation points on either side of it... This year there was a new float for the Ministry of Tourism's Kingdom of Wonder campaign, but it was so ugly I couldn't even force myself to take a picture of it. the one pictured here is the Ministry of Defense and has two intertwined Naga's (7 headed snake monsters) spitting out a stream of water.
This afternoon the races ended and all the big wigs, including the King were at the main podium to cheer the winners. Yeng told me there is a special formation at the very end of the races, where all the boats, or all the winning boats, or just a lot of boats, gather in front of the King. This is to depict Jayavaraman's Royal Navy as it entered the ancient Khmer kingdom to win it back for the Khmers. As well as celebrating the changing the of the direction of the river, the festival is also connected to the naval war which put King Jayavaraman VII into power and marked the beginning of the most successful period of the ancient Khmer empire. Bas reliefs at Angkor Wat show the beloved king on the bow of a ship, riding into victory.
If all goes well, I'd love to enter a Cambodia Knits team next year or the following year. There are a few all female teams and I think we'd kick butt!!