Cambodian Water Festival Bon Om Tuk is an annual celebration coinciding with the full moon of the Buddhist month of Kadeuk (usually in November).
The 3-day festival celebrates the reversing flow between the Tonle Sap and the Mekong River. For most of the year, the Tonle Sap empties into the Mekong River. However, when the rainy season arrives the Mekong rises, reversing the flow to fill the Tonle Sap lake. When the rainy season ends in November the Mekong drops once more, allowing the current to reverse again, emptying the excess waters of Tonle Sap back into the Mekong.
Tonle Sap is vital to life in Cambodia. It's a source of livelihood for fishermen and farmers alike - it's rich in fish stocks, and the silt deposits left by the floods fertilise the fields.
The festival provides a chance to give thanks to Buddha for the year's rice crop and to ask for sufficient rain in the coming year.
Bon Om Teuk dates back to the 12th century, the time of Angkorian King Jayavarman VII. The Water Festival was celebrated by the King's Navy to keep the river spirits happy, ensuring a bountiful harvest of rice and fish for the year to come.
Bon Om Teuk was also a way for the King to prepare his navy for battle. Angkorian kings would test the fighting prowess of their warriors by holding competitions. The races were a form of training and a means by which the king could choose his champions.
In the capital city of Phnom Penh, people from every province join with the city's residents to celebrate for 3 days and nights. The highlight of the festival is a series of boat races held during the day. As night falls and the full moon rises over the capital, the Bandaet Pratip ceremony brings the Tonle Sap river alive with fireworks and brightly-lit flotillas. Each flotilla represents a government ministry or state institution.
Also part of the Festival, Sampheah Preah Kae is a ceremony in which salutations are made to the full moon.
Auk Ambok is a traditional Khmer dish which is eaten during Bon Om Teuk. Rice is fried in the husk and then pounded with a giant pestle. The husks are removed and the special rice mixed with coconut and banana.
Filmed November 2008 in Phnom Penh.