The Cambodia Water Festival or ‘Bon Om Tuk’ in Khmer is the largest festival in the Cambodian calendar. The 3-day Water Festival in Phnom Penh celebrates the end of the rainy season and coincides with the flow of the Tonle Sap river changing direction.
The highlight of the Water Festival are the boat races, where highly decorated boats from each village race over the three days. Thousand of Khmers descend on Phnom Penh to watch the races from the shore and cheer on their villages boat, which can have up to 80 oarsmen/women as they race down the Tonle Sap.
During this time Phnom Penh takes on a carnival atmosphere, and as well as the river banks being lined with exuberant spectators there are also live concerts, hundreds of food stands, games of chance, fair rides, and at night fireworks light up the sky and people dance in the street.
This year however, the Water Festival ended with tragedy when a stampede on the Koh Pich bridge left approximately 350 people dead and a similar number injured. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/23/cambodia-water-festival-phnom-penh). Our prayers and concern are with those who lost friends and family during this awful event.