It’s April and that means it’s Khmer New Year.
There are pros and cons to arriving in a new country smack, bang in the middle of a major festival. The upside is you get to witness something special about a place and its people. The downside is you don’t necessarily know what it all means and the best places to take it all in.
Our arrival in Siem Reap coincided with the start of Khmer New Year. It is a huge celebration and the city was buzzing. While the temples are obviously an important part of this celebration we didn’t visit them at this time. But the air of excitement was evident everywhere and we wanted to absorb some of this atmosphere. And we wanted to stay clear of all the tourists and westerners on Pub Street.
So on the second night of the festivities – it is a three-day holiday – we ventured out to 60 Street, out of town a little, where we had a very Khmer experience.
And 60 Street was a hive of activity. It was the Cambodian equivalent of Side Show Alley. Dodgem cars, a somewhat rickety looking ferris wheel, colourful balloons and plenty of food.
It was packed with people, motorbikes and massive big cars. It was so busy traffic at the roundabout ground to a halt and police had to come and direct. And in amongst this hive of activity and celebration we didn’t see any alcohol being sold and only two westerners.
60 Road is a popular night time spot for the local Khmer people every night, all year round. But at Khmer New Year it is positively heaving with locals from Siem Reap and Cambodians on holiday from other parts of the country.
It was a great experience. Glad we went and shared Khmer New Year with the locals.