Siem Reap Busy as Holiday-Makers Travel for New Year

Phnom Penh may be a little quiet during the Khmer New Year, but Siem Reap is teeming with people using the days of revelry to visit places they may have never been to.

Tens of thousands of people have converged on Siem Reap and the Angkor temples, with the numbers increasing by the day, said Pheun Arun, chief of investigation police in Siem Reap.

“There are so many outsiders,” he said, “there are not places to eat and stay. There’s much more than in previous years.”

Most of the Cambodian tourists come by car, truck and bus with their families, he said.

“There are a lot of people here,” said Phnom Penh resident Sok Veng, as he toured the Ta Prohm temple with his friends. “This is my first time.”

Any time other than the New Year holiday was too difficult to come he said, adding that he would return to work on Thursday.

“It is wonderful,” he said. “I may come again next time.”

Siem Reap resident Pheun Arun said the security in the country and the roads are improving, giving people from farther-flung provinces a chance to visit the ancient temple sites, including the holy waterfall site at Phnom Kulen.

Khmer New Year, which is celebrated with cleansing water and shower powder as Cambodians welcome the New Year spirits, was also celebrated in Phnom Penh.

About 50 people joined municipal officials, including Governor Kep Chuktema, for a celebration Monday at noon.

“Happy New Year to everybody,” the governor said after briefly touring the hilltop temple and lighting candles to welcome the new year’s arrival.

Authorities also said Monday, the first day of the celebrations, had been safe. Extra security was maintained at foreign embassies, officials said.

No traffic accidents had been reported in the capital Monday, although traffic jams in Phnom Penh were more frequent as people began their trips back to the provincial homes for the holiday.

“This New Year is better than in past years,” said Chev Hak, deputy traffic police chief in Phnom Penh.

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)

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