New Year’s Revelers Celebrate at Wat Phnom

A hot sun beat down on hatmaker Meng, 45, Sunday as she fashioned cardboard and a few spare parts into hats topped with colorful birds amid the New Year Celebrations at Wat Phnom.

Her work was quick: just a mi­nute or so for each hat, as she deftly stapled pieces of sequined rubber and tinsel fringe into new shapes.

Celebrating the New Year is fun for some people; for others it’s work. Both kinds of folks converged at Wat Phnom for a powder-tossing, hat-selling celebration Sunday.

As Meng stapled away, youth nearby doused each other with fistfuls of baby powder. Some even said the fun and games seemed less intense this year, complaining that not as much powder seemed to be flying as in years past.

But no one seemed to miss water guns, which had been banned by the government.

“I am happy with the ban on water; I’m afraid not of water but of acid,” said Ny Pao, a powder seller. She said water, powder and dirt all mixed up together make people look messy.

Another fear shared by many people—jewelry stealing—seem­ed less rampant than last year.

Teak Kum, the deputy chief of Chamkar Mon district in charge of security, said he didn’t know of any necklaces or earrings being stolen. La Ny, a reveler at Wat Phnom, said she deliberately didn’t wear any jewelry so thieves would have nothing to steal.

Photographers kept busy as people dressed in fine clothes, or doused in baby powder, flocked to photo stalls to catch the mo­ment in a picture.

Kim Dara, 21, said he shoots 5 or 6 rolls a film a day during the New Year. His photo stall, set up near the sidewalk, offered two backgrounds: one a peaceful-looking forest, the other a dramatic waterfall.

The park was full of people playing traditional games, such as  the Monkey Steals a Branch. In that game, two teams stand facing each other, usually women on one side and men on the other.

A referee in the middle holds a branch, then calls a number and lays the branch down. If the team’s number is called, a member must race to the branch to steal it and bring it back to their team.

But there’s a catch: if they pick up the branch and then get tagged by the other player, they lose.

Others competitors went all-out: one tug-of-war game ended in a draw at one point when the rope broke, snapped by two powerful teams pulling back and forth in a grueling match.

Ah well. There’s always next year.

(Reporting by Ana Nov, Pin Sisovann and Matt McKinney)


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