phnom chisor, Takeo province- Tens of thousands descended on this famed temple to usher in the millennium with traditional Khmer hot-air balloons, kites, and fireworks.
Provincial officials said more than 100,000 people visited Phnom Chisor over the course of the weekend. The ancient mountain, off of National Road 2, is capped with an 11th-century temple that overlooks rice fields, a nearby lake, and palm tree forests for kilometers around.
“In all my life, I have never seen this kind of celebration,” said Long Yorn, a 67-year-old Takeo villager who climbed the mountain with the help of his son. “I am very happy to see this celebration because this is special. It is great luck for me to be alive to celebrate.”
Throughout New Year’s Eve, more then 2,000 traditional hot- air balloons were released into the sky, and the event’s organizers continued to release them as the clock struck midnight and fireworks lighted up the sky.
“I brought my family here to celebrate because it is very meaningful we could live through two millenniums,” said Bun Tiev, 45, from Kandal province. “I come to Phnom Chisor to pray to the powerful spirit here for peace and prosperity for our people and nation.”
The unexpectedly large crowd was a boon to local merchants, and hundreds hawked food and memorabilia.
“We expect this event to happen every year if possible,” said Da Rita, 23, a vendor. “During this event, we made a lot of money for the family.”
On New Year’s Day, a handful of CPP parliamentarians, including Men Sam An, offered alms to 21 monks, representing the 21th century.
The festival was funded in part by donations from prominent politicians. All told, Takeo Governor Kep Chuktema said he received 20 million riel ($5,100) from donors. Prime Minister Hun Sen contributed 2 million riel of his own money, while Sok An, minister of cabinet, contributed 1 million riel, he said. Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng contributed 1.5 million riel to the event.
There were no violent incidents, they said. But two children were injured when they fell down while playing on the famed stone temple. One broke his arm, the second had a serious head injury, Kep Chuktema said.
“We are very happy with this very successful celebration because a lot of people turned out here, very good security was ensured for people to have a good time,” he said.