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Khmer New Year & Angkor Sankranta – 2017

Photo Credit: Narla Phay

April holds special significance for the Journeys Within team as Khmer New Year, or Choul Chnam Thmey, falls during this month.  Khmer New Year falls at the end of the dry (harvest) season in Cambodia, before the rains return.  Many locals head home to their villages to be with their families during this time, although hundreds of thousands of local people also flock to the Angkor Park to celebrate their heritage.  If you are visiting Cambodia, you may notice decorations such as stars and lights hung out in front of each house.  Khmer New Year represents a special opportunity for travelers to partake in the local culture and customs, but be advised that destinations such as Siem Reap will be particularly busy, and many businesses (such as banks) will likely be closed for the holiday.

Photo Credit: Narla Phay

Here is a brief overview of the three main days of Khmer New Year:

 Day 1: Maha Sangkran

Maha Sangkran is the first day of the Khmer New Year.  Locals dress up formally, and visit their local temples to offer thanks to Buddha for his teachings by lighting candles, burning incense, and kneeling three times before a statue of Buddha. To bring good luck in the New Year, Khmers wash their face with holy water in the morning, their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening.

 Day 2: Virak Vanabat

Vireak Vanabat marks the second day of the New Year and this day set aside to help others by donating to charity, and paying respect to elders, parents, teachers by giving gifts.  Many families also attend dedication ceremonies at their local temples to pay respect to their ancestors.

 Day 3: Vearak Loeng Sak

The third day of the Khmer New Year is T’ngai Loeng Sak.  In order to wash away past negative deeds and to bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life, Buddha statues and family elders are washed with perfumed water.

Photo Credit: Narla Phay

Although Khmer New Year has been celebrated in the month of April since the end of the Angkor Period, this will only be the 5th year that the special celebrations at Angkor Wat will take place.  These celebrations are known as Angkor Sankranta, and the festivities are becoming more and more spectacular each year.  Last year, more than a million visitors took part in these celebrations, which include traditional dances, Bokator (Khmer martial arts), games such as rope-pulling, Bas Angkulh, Haol Chhoung  and Leak Kanseng, along with exhibitions and concerts.  You can catch a sneak preview of what to expect with this YouTube clip.  Travelers can also visit the Angkor Park after hours during the New Year to see the temples lit up at night, which is not permitted throughout the rest of the year, and no temple passes will be required for night entry.  During the day, guests can celebrate the New Year with the throngs of locals partaking in the traditional games.

Photo Credit: Narla Phay

If you are interested in partaking in the festivities – let us know and we can incorporate Khmer New Year into your tour, with a Journeys Within guide to explain the significance of each cultural activity, and to help translate for you.

Here is a quick overview of the Angkor Sankranta schedule this year:

April 13th:

8:00 am – Blessing Ceremony (Boung Soung)

April 14th:

3:12 am – Reception of the Arrival of the New Year Tevada

8:00 am – Opening Ceremony

4:00 pm – Angkor Sankranta Friendship Tug of War (Teanh Proat)

5:00 pm – Khmer Popular Games and Traditional Dance Show

6:00 pm – Floating Lanterns Ceremony

7:00 pm – Khmer Classical Theater: “One Century of History of the Cambodian Royal Ballet”

April 15th:

8:00 am – Visiting Pagoda and Sand Mounding Ceremony (Poon Phnom Khsach)

4:00 pm – Angkor Sankranta Parade “Sabathrath Khemara”

30 pm – Mask Theater (L’khoan Khaol) “Heroic of Hanuman”

April 16th:

8:00 am – Angkor Sankranta Chess Championship Final

11:00 am – Awarding Ceremony: Photo Competition “Selfie@ Angkor Sankranta”

2:00 pm – Bathing of Buddha Statue Ceremony (Srang Preah)

3:00 pm – Awarding Ceremony: Oxcart/Buffalo Racing at Road 60 Market – Kyung Yu Fun Fair

5:00 pm – Khmer Popular Games and Traditional Dance Show

6:30 pm – Angkor Sankranta Concert “We Believe in Cambodia”

Photo Credit: Narla Phay

These events will be ongoing from the 14th – 16th, from 8am to 8pm:

  1. Nearyrath Garden
  2. My Village
  3. “Happy Khmer New Year” Concert
  4. Khmer Popular Games
  5. Wet Zone
  6. Cambodian Product Fair
  7. Cultural Heritage Preservation
  8. Chess Tournament
  9. Floating Lanterns
  10. Bokator Martial Art Performance
  11. Classical, Traditional & Popular Games
  12. Kids Zone
  13. Live Painting
  14. Desert of Love “Bun Dalean Phumi Knhom” at Siem Reap’s Royal Gardens
  15. Oxcart/Buffalo Racing at Road 60 Market / Kyung Yu Fun Fair

You can find out a bit more about local Khmer New Year traditions in our previous blogs:

Khmer New Year Rolls Around Again!

Happy New Year — the remix

A Regional Celebration

Southeast Asia 2011: Cambodian festivals and events

Photo Credit: Narla Phay

Traveling by Sound – Traditional Vietnamese Music

By Courtney Ridgel

Booking Coordinator, Courtney Ridgel traveled to Vietnam last May and reflects back on her interactive experience at The Truc Mai Music House:

Courtney tries her hand at playing the Ðàn Klôngpút, a rare instrument from the mountains of Vietnam
Courtney tries her hand at playing the Ðàn Klôngpút, a rare instrument from the mountains of Vietnam

Taking the time to listen and watch traditional music being performed is one of the best ways to really gain insight into a local culture.  For the Vietnamese, many stories and melodies are passed on and nurtured as part of their cultural identity.

Truc Mai House Music 1
Our hosts played a duet on bamboo xylophones, also known as ‘T’rung’ 
Truc Mai House Music 4
The stone lithophone, or Ðàn Ðá, is an ancient instrument that is believed to date back more than 3,000 years

One of the most unique and personal experiences for us in Vietnam was a visit the Truc Mai Music House in Saigon.   This family specializes in traditional Vietnamese music and performs all over the world.  They have a large collection of traditional instruments such as the monochord zither, bamboo xylophone, and stone lithophone in their home.  We were warmly welcomed inside and served hot tea, which we sipped while our hosts performed a private show for us in their living room.  This family studies and performs melodies from all across Vietnam and they really enjoyed explaining the origins and significance of each instrument.  As both of us come from a musical background, we were blown away when our hosts offered to let us try out the instruments ourselves after the performance!

Truc Mai House Music 5
Evan tries out the monochord zither or Đàn bầu