The Royal Plowing Ceremony is a ritual held in many Asian countries to commemorate the start of the rice growing season. Taking place in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on 25th May 2015, the ceremony consists of two sacred oxen ploughing a ceremonial field and rice is seeded behind. After the ploughing, the oxen are offered a variety of food, including rice, corn and vegetables, as well as a drink (either water or rice wine). The choices that the oxen make are said to predict how bountiful the harvest will be. If the animals choose not to drink, it is believed that farmers will not suffer serious floods and the more of a particular food type they eat, the better this harvest.
In Phnom Penh, we recommend staying at either Raffles, the Sofitel or the top-rated boutique iRoHa in a balcony suite.
With it's warm temperatures and high humidity, running is not the first activity you think of in Cambodia. However, each year in December, the Angkor Half Marathon takes place through the temple park. Starting at around 6 am, participants have the choice of the full half marathon, a shorter 10 km jog or a 3 km dash. A flat course with plenty of inspiration along the way, the run provides a chance for fast times if you can bear the climate. The entry fee of $60 goes to support landline victims by providing prosthetic limbs and social reintegration programs. Education and HIV prevention programs are also funded by the entry fees paid by runners from all over the world. This is a fantastic opportunity to run through unique scenery and raise money for excellent causes. Make sure to soothe aching limbs in the Park Hyatt spa afterwards though.
Held on the 15th day of the 10th month of the Khmer calendar (October 11th Gregorian calendar 2015) Pchum Ben Festival (Ancestor's Day) is thought to be unique to Cambodia. The celebration is on the last day of a 15 day festival, which occurs at the end of Buddhist lent. Monks chant to prelude the opening of the gates of hell that are presumed to take place once per year. At this time, it is thought that ghosts of the dead become more active, thus many Cambodians pay respect and make offering to dead relatives going back seven generations. Whilst it is hoped that relatives who have gone to hell may be able to end their purgatory on Ancestor's Day, it is also believed that relatives who are in heaven benefit from the celebrations and offerings. If you are visiting a pagoda during Pchum Ben, make sure to wear a white shirt (the colour for funerals) to show your respect.