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Don't miss the King­dom's an­nual high­lights – use our handy events cal­en­dar

TAK­ING IN ONE OF CAM­BO­DIA'S FES­TI­VALS OR CUL­TURAL EVENTS CAN HELP MAKE A VISIT TO THE KING­DOM EVEN MORE EN­CHANT­ING

NEW BE­GIN­NINGS

APRIL

Kh­mer New Year is the big­gest, and prob­a­bly row­di­est, hol­i­day on the Cam­bo­dian cal­en­dar. The three-day cel­e­bra­tion of­ten co­in­cides with the end of the har­vest sea­son, pro­vid­ing ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties with even greater cause for cel­e­bra­tion. Busi­nesses tend to close down dur­ing the hol­i­day as work­ers re­turn to the prov­inces to party it up with their fam­i­lies. To best ex­pe­ri­ence the fes­tiv­i­ties, head to the coun­try­side, where tra­di­tional danc­ing, games and other ac­tiv­i­ties bring whole vil­lages to­gether.

UR­BAN SCRAWL

APRIL

Or­gan­ised by the French In­sti­tute, the Cam­bo­dia Ur­ban Art Fes­ti­val is a cel­e­bra­tion of the coun­try's nascent street art scene that also at­tracts some high-grade in­ter­na­tional tal­ent to Ph­nom Penh. A def­i­nite high­light is the ur­ban art tuk tuk tour, a won­der­fully unique ex­pe­ri­ence that in­volves vis­i­tors be­ing whisked around the cap­i­tal for an up-close look at key mu­rals. Th­ese tours are in high de­mand, so vis­i­tors should check the French em­bassy's web­site early to avoid dis­ap­point­ment.

A TIME FOR PRAISE

MAY

Visak Bochea day falls on the 15th day of the wax­ing moon, dur­ing the sixth lu­nar month, and cel­e­brates the an­niver­sary of the Bud­dha's birth, en­light­en­ment and death. Dur­ing this pub­lic hol­i­day, Cam­bo­di­ans are ex­pected to show added re­spect to the coun­try's ubiq­ui­tous saf­fron-robed monks.

Vis­i­tors to Angkor Wat will be treated to a lu­mi­nous torch­light pro­ces­sion at dusk, dur­ing which Cam­bo­di­ans carry burn­ing in­cense and flow­ers in silent, con­tem­pla­tive prayer.

DAYS OF THE DEAD

SEPTEM­BER/OC­TO­BER

Pchum Ben is a Bud­dhist fes­ti­val that sees Cam­bo­di­ans pay re­spects to their an­ces­tors of up to seven gen­er­a­tions. The 15-day fes­ti­val is the most an­tic­i­pated re­li­gious event of the year, with Cam­bo­di­ans typ­i­cally spend­ing this pe­riod vis­it­ing pago­das to make of­fer­ings to the spir­its of de­ceased fam­ily mem­bers. Each year, the vil­lage of Vi­hear Sour, about 35km north­east of Ph­nom Penh in Kan­dal prov­ince, hosts un­miss­able bare­back buf­falo rac­ing and tra­di­tional Kh­mer wrestling on the fi­nal week­end of the fes­ti­val.

HEAVE HO

NOVEM­BER

His­tor­i­cally, Ph­nom Penh's Wa­ter Fes­ti­val pro­vided a train­ing op­por­tu­nity for the navy. In the mod­ern era, how­ever, oars­men in wooden long­boats have be­come mil­i­tar­ily re­dun­dant, and the fes­ti­val has trans­formed into a three-day boat-rac­ing event on the Tonle Sap, com­plete with as­sorted river­side rev­elry. After sun­set, fire­works and light dis­plays il­lu­mi­nate the river­front, draw­ing about one mil­lion vis­i­tors to the cap­i­tal each year.

THE DI­REC­TOR’S CHAIR

DE­CEM­BER

Since 2010, Ph­nom Penh has hosted the Cam­bo­dia In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, gath­er­ing thou­sands of lo­cals, ex­pats and tourists at movie the­atres around the city. Films made in or about Cam­bo­dia are cen­tral to the event, though a va­ri­ety of films from around the world is also shown over the course of six days. In 2015, An­gelina Jolie and Brad Pitt stopped by, the for­mer in her role as pres­i­dent of the fes­ti­val's hon­orary com­mit­tee, bring­ing world­wide press at­ten­tion.

SNAP HAPPY

DE­CEM­BER

Held in Siem Reap, the Angkor Photo Fes­ti­val is the long­est-run­ning pho­tog­ra­phy event in South­east Asia. The event en­tails free in­ter­na­tional ex­hi­bi­tions and work­shops de­signed to pro­mote young Asian tal­ent and the de­vel­op­ment of pho­tog­ra­phy as an art in the re­gion. Among the pho­tog­ra­phers who have ex­hib­ited at the fes­ti­val early on in their ca­reers is Cam­bo­dian Kim Hak, who has gone on to im­press crit­ics on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

A LIT­ER­ARY GREAT

NOVEM­BER

The Kampot Writ­ers and Read­ers Fes­ti­val is a lit­er­a­ture, arts and cul­ture event that takes place across a to­tal of 20 venues, most of them in the sleepy cre­ative hub of Kampot. Launched in 2015, the fes­ti­val adopts a new theme each year – the most re­cent be­ing ‘Peace, Free­dom and Pros­per­ity'. Vis­i­tors can ex­pect lec­tures from lo­cal lit­er­ary fig­ures, a fo­rum for dis­cus­sion of the arts, and pe­riph­eral ac­tiv­i­ties such as cook­ing demon­stra­tions and live mu­sic.

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