One of the most popular festivals and celebrations in Cambodia is undoubtedly the annual Water Festival which is also called Bonn Om Touk in Khmer. It is celebrated on the full moon of the Buddhist month of Kadeuk, which usually falls in the end of October or November, and the Cambodian Water Festival is celebrated all over the country.
Siem Reap River gets lit up at night during the water festival
The Water Festival in Cambodia coincides with the end of the rainy season and reverses flow of the Tonle Sap River which is a unique phenomenon where the water pressure of the Mekong River causes the river to change its direction. The Water Festival also marks the start of the Cambodian fishing season and originates back to the reign of King Jayavarman whose navy celebrated in order to keep the god of the river happy to supply a plentiful crop of rice and many fish.
Even though the Water Festival and celebrations in Phnom Penh by no doubt is bigger, there are many celebrations, boat races and fireworks in Siem Reap too. Cultural displays and traditional boat races make up a fantastic weekend of celebration and fun not to be missed!!
The boat races involve whole communities, and villagers from near and afar bring their boats painted brightly, with large eyes on the prows as a precaution to ward off evil spirits. The boats, often 60 oarsmen strong, compete throughout the festival and whilst many like the build-up, the grand finale on the last day is especially worth seeing as the teams frantically paddle and chant their way to first place position.
Accommodation during the Water Festival in Siem Reap
If you are looking for accommodation in Siem Reap during the Water Festival, it is strongly recommended to book accommodation well in advance as the most popular places along the riverside will be booked solid.
The boat races are free of charge to watch and even though the Siem Reap River is within easy reach from most accommodation providers, we have selected a few properties that are very conveniently located and offer good value for money.
City River Hotel
Conveniently located on the tranquil banks of Siem Reap River, City River Hotel is in the heart of the action during the Water Festival in Siem Reap. Only a few minutes leisurely stroll to the old market area, comfortable rooms and a nice rooftop terrace makes it a good choice the rest of the year too.
Soria Moria Boutique Hotel
Located on the corner of Wat Bo Road and Street 24, Soria Moria Boutique hotel is only a short stroll from both the Old Market and Siem Reap River, and provides affordable accommodation and easy access for those who want to look at the boat races or simply want to suck up the lively and pulsating atmosphere.
FCC Angkor Boutique Hotel
Located on the west side of Siem Reap River, FCC Angkor provides an ambience of casual elegance right at the centre of the action. During the water festival, you will also be able to enjoy Cambodian cuisine in the extended restaurant with unrivalled riverside location.
If you can't make it to Siem Reap and Cambodia during the Water Festival, but are thrilled by the idea exploring the great Tonle Sap lake, you can always ceck out our tour pages and where you'll find various tours and activities ranging from a sunset dinner on the Tonle Sap lake to multi-day excursions and home-stays in local fishing villages.
See also Top 10 Things to Do in Siem Reap