Our Khmer New Year

Khmer New Year is a holiday I dread and look forward to in equal measures. I dread it because our neighbour starts celebrating about a week early and plays loud music for about 12 hours straight. I look forward to it because we always go to at least one wat and have a big family dinner or two.

First stop: inside the temple at Wat Samathi

First stop: inside the temple at Wat Samathi

I never really knew why Khmer New Year falls at this time of year. Fortunately, a friend filled me in on Facebook.

It is the end of harvest and it lasts officially 3 days, but 5 days is more common practice. One of the rituals is washing Buddha statues and (grand)parents. That ritual is the origin of the water throwing. Thailand and Laos also celebrate new year (Songkran in Thailand), so it is not a specific “Khmer thing”.

He went on to say that “Bonn Chrot Preah Nangkol (Royal Plowing Ceremony) in May marks the start of the rainy season (or end of dry season).

We often go to more than one wat (temple) over Khmer New Year, but I only went to one this year. It happens to be my favourite wat, Wat Samathi. Wat Samathi (same as Samadhi) is near Ream. I like it because it has a trail around a mountain. After we pay our respects in the temple, the kids fortify themselves with ice cream and we start on the short walk around the mountain.

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

The kids take along a stack of 100 riel notes as offerings along the way. For them, the walk is an opportunity to pay their respects to Buddha and play. They couldn’t resist climbing these tree roots they discovered behind a Buddha statue nestled inside a big rock.

WatSamathi1If you’re in a hurry, you can do the walk in about 10 or 15 minutes, but we took over an hour. The kids found plenty to do and I was content to just enjoy the scenery. Except for the path and the paved areas, they’ve left nature intact and the views are wonderful.

I occasionally go to Wat Samathi just to get out of town. Doing the circuit on a weekday between festivals is wonderful because I’m the only one there. Then I’ll ride out to a restaurant overlooking the water in Ream. It’s a great escape from the city and now I can take a motorbike lane all the way to Ream and not have to worry about getting run off the road by a Lexus or big truck.

Our sojourn was over by about noon. Instead of going home, I took the new road down to Otres and had lunch at Papa Pippo’s. He’s not sure when the bulldozer’s will come (or if), but is continuing as normal until the day arrives. As I enjoyed my meal and the cool sea breezes, Bob Marley’s One Love was playing in the background. It seemed like the perfect song to finish off the day.

I got home at about 2:00 p.m. and had to catch up on some work. Miraculously, the music wasn’t blaring next door. It was a good day.

WatSamathi2

The roots the kids were climbing are behind this Buddha

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About Rob Schneider

Rob Schneider is a writer based in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where he has lived since 2006.
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One Response to Our Khmer New Year

  1. Richard says:

    Thanks Rob
    I enjoyed knowing that my reactions to the holiday are mirrored by someone else.

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