Sunday, November 25, 2007

Phenom-enal Water Festival

The Phenom Penh Water Festival takes place over 3 days and is the biggest weekend in Cambodia. Millions descend on the capital to watch almost 500 boats compete in non-stop racing on the Tonle Sap river. There are several different designs of boat but the most common contain around 60 blokes paddling furiously, meaning that tens of thousands were participating in the event.

Two boats race in the fast-flowing center of the river, while finishers make their way along the banks back toward the start.

At the start line dozens of boats jockey for position while they await their turn to race. There was much whistling and hand waiving, but everyone seemed to know what was going on (except me).

The chain-smoking leprechaun in the bow keeps time for the rowers...

.. while several chaps at the back with longer paddles steer the boat. You can see offerings in the bow - I think to appease the spirits.

Waiting for your race slot is an exhausting business.

Each day was topped off with fireworks and barges with huge light displays which paraded up and down the river.

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