Cambodia's water festival returns with a bang

The annual event takes place in November for three nights during the full moon.

| | Cambodia, Asia, Arts & Culture

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Bon Om Touk is an annual water festival in Cambodia, marking the end of the rainy season and the reversal of flow of the Tonle Sap river.

For three nights during November's full moon, villages send teams with their dragon boats to compete from around noon until sunset.

Pairs of boats race from the Japanese Friendship Bridge down the river to the finish line in front of the Royal Palace.

The history of the festival can be traced back to the 12th century when the naval forces of the Angkorian king Jayavarman VII defeated his Cham rivals.

In recent years, the festival has been through various ups and downs.

In 2010, a stampede on an overcrowded bridge resulted in the death of almost 350 people.

In 2011 and 2013, flooding caused the boat races to be cancelled.

In 2012, the races were cancelled owing to the death of King Norodom Sihanouk. 

Last year, the water levels were too low.

This year, however, the festival returned to Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, with a bang. Despite what appeared to be a quiet turnout on the the first day, locals and tourists showed up en masse in the following days.

There were 259 boats racing during the festival this year, including 76 special racing boats, 170 paddle boats, 26 rowing boats and 63 international standard boats.

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