For the last five years, Phnom Penh’s Khmer New Year celebrations have been somewhat overshadowed by the Sangkranta extravaganza in Siem Reap, which attracts visitors from all over the world.
But this year, the capital is hoping to get a share of the attention after City Hall decided to expand its annual festivities at Wat Phnom to welcome the Year of the Rooster in style for those who aren’t traveling to the provinces.
The Sangkran celebration at Wat Phnom, which is free for all, aims to echo the success of the Siem Reap version.
“We wanted to create a joyful event for people in Phnom Penh city who do not leave the city to their hometown or any resorts in the provinces,” said Met Measpheakdey, City Hall spokesman.
Mr. Measpheakdey did not know the budget of the event on Thursday.
The celebration started on Thursday at 4 p.m. with live music, traditional Khmer New Year games and displays of local handicrafts.
At 3 a.m. this morning, Buddhist monks were due to hold a religious ceremony at the peak of Wat Phnom with a 10-minute firework show welcoming this new year’s angel, Kemera Devi.
The event was already proving a hit with visitors on opening day on Thursday.
Tork Panha, a 23-year-old National University of Management student spending his holiday in Phnom Penh, messaged his in-town friends to join him as he walked through Wat Phnom’s grounds.
“If there are no activities like this, there’s no place to go because everyone has left the city,” he said.
When foreigners and locals pass her stand, which sells bananas, mangos and traditional desserts, 17-year-old Lou Chamreoun will explain, in English or Khmer, the ingredients and significance of the sticky rice treats wrapped in banana leaves.
“We are doing this…so that people, not just local but international as well, can come and understand our culture through our food,” she said.
Ms. Chamreoun doesn’t mind working over her holiday, she said, because she will be with the person with whom she wants to greet the new year: her mother, Culture Ministry employee Prak Sunnry.
“I get to bond with her while working,” she said. “It’s like a family reunion.”