Khmer New Year 2018 in Siem Reap

Khmer New Year 2018 in Siem Reap

Breaking addition April 4, 2018: Today the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism meeting was held to announce the full schedule for the Khmer New Year and Angkor Sankranta celebration at Angkor Wat. The Baby Elephant management team was in attendance. Events take place across the entire Angkor Archaeological Park from April 12 – 16.

Please see these photos of the flyer they gave us. The text was too small for one photo but we hope this helps until we get a higher resolution copy. Please credit these photos to Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel if you intend to use them elsewhere.

Breaking addition March 30, 2018: Khmer New Year is on the way in Siem Reap, which means the annual Khmer New Year pop song is out! It also means it’s time for the city to come alive for this annual festival that is based on the lunar cycle.

This year’s Khmer New Year pop song is called “City Chicken” and is heating up the airwaves creating hype for the upcoming annual festivities. The song already has more than 1.7 million views on Youtube.

About Khmer New Year

With some similarities to the Songkran new year festival celebrated in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, this year’s Khmer New Year takes place between Saturday 14 and Monday 16 April. Here’s our guide to enjoying the festivities in Cambodia’s temple town.

Khmer New Year celebrations - photo by Sam Sith

The three days of the traditional Khmer New Year

Other names for Khmer New Year include Chol Chnam Thmey and Angkor Songkran. Whatever you call it, you can expect a lively atmosphere and cheerful celebrations to take over the whole of Cambodia – including here in Siem Reap – as the country sees in the traditional new year. Khmer New Year celebrations place over three days, and each day of the festivities has particular significance.

Day one – Moha Songkran

Day one of the Khmer New Year celebrations is known as Moha Songkran, when traditional beliefs hold that a new god or angel takes responsibility for protecting the world in the coming year. Cambodians welcome this new god or angel, and set the stage for the new year to begin auspiciously, by cleaning and decorating their homes.

It’s common for Cambodian Buddhist families to visit their local temple to make merit at this time. Back home, they also put out a table of offerings such as fruits, cake, and special festival-worthy Khmer dishes. This offering table is also often decorated with incense sticks, flowers, and chains of flashing lights that are traditionally believed to hold the power to protect the house and its occupants over the coming 12 months.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter

Day two – Virak Wanabat

On the second day of Khmer New Year, known as Virak Wanabat, Cambodians remember others and do good deeds, particularly by offering gifts to one another, including to parents, grandparents, the elderly, children, and the less fortunate, as well as by visiting the local temple to receive blessings from monks and to remember ancestors. The hope is that performing these good deeds will set individuals up for good fortune themselves in the year to come.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Mt.Nind

Day three – Tanai Loeng Sak

By day three of Khmer New Year, it’s time for the focus to really turn to the new year itself. Tanai Loeng Sak, the name given to the third and final day of the festivities, is all about new beginnings. The occasion is marked by making more offerings to elders, and by returning to the local temple to bathe Buddha images and receive further blessings from monks.

The last day of Khmer New Year is also when the water pistols come out and things take on a livelier, more fun atmosphere. Don’t expect anything quite on the same scale as the raucousness of celebrations in Thailand and elsewhere, but it’s common for Cambodians – especially young people – to take to the streets for light-hearted water fights and the chance to really ring in the new year in a fun and festive way.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

What to know about Khmer New Year in Siem Reap

There are few better places in Cambodia to celebrate Khmer New Year than Siem Reap. This already atmospheric and fun-loving town acquires extra festive energy for celebrations at this time of year. As well as the water fights you’re likely to witness (and join in with!) on the last day of Khmer New Year, Cambodians also like to roll-out traditional, light-hearted ball games and tug-of-war variants – passed down through generations – as a way to mark the occasion. And this wouldn’t be Cambodia without those games being accompanied by plenty of traditional Khmer singing and dancing.

That said, Cambodia remains a traditional agrarian society and, for vast swathes of the population, the Khmer New Year holiday marks the end of an exhausting farming season. It’s a chance to rest, recuperate, and spend time with loved ones. It’s common for Cambodians to live and work far from their families in the provinces where they grew up, and Khmer New Year gives them a rare opportunity to travel back to spend time with their family and friends – often for a week or more. That means it’s possible that your favourite coffee shop, bar or restaurant may be closed during the Khmer New Year period.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

How to celebrate Khmer New Year 2018 in Siem Reap

Street parties for Khmer New Year fun

The best way to enjoy the Khmer New Year festivities is to join in with them! Keep an eye out for spontaneous street parties around Pub Street, along the Siem Reap river, and in the Royal Gardens – and then head along and partake in the fun. Expect the likes of live concerts, fireworks, and plenty of delicious Cambodian food and drink to tuck into.

Angkor Wat’s Angkor Sangkranta Festival

The annual Angkor Sangkranta Festival is a highlight of the Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap. The festival takes place around Angkor Wat and elsewhere in the wider Angkor Archaeological Park, putting on traditional games, Cambodian martial arts, music, dancing, and plenty of the best Khmer street food you’ll find. Just be prepared to be part of a huge crowd from across the country looking to get involved!

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

Head to the local temple

There’s no better way to get a close-up on the traditional side to the Khmer New Year festivities – which arguably remains more accessible in Cambodia than in neighbouring countries like Thailand – than by simply taking a walk to the closest temple to your hotel in Siem Reap. Local temples and pagodas are always happy to welcome inquisitive visitors, and you’ll get a real feel for the day-by-day significance of the holiday to the Cambodian people.

Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Hotels in Siem Reap for Khmer New Year

Khmer New Year is a busy time in Siem Reap – attracting Cambodians from elsewhere around the country as well as foreign visitors – and it’s common for hotels and guest houses to be fully booked well ahead of time. Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is perfectly placed to allow you to conveniently explore all the goings-on of Khmer New Year across Siem Reap, quickly reach the famous Angkor Wat temples, and enjoy seclusion when you want to just hide away and relax for a while.

Our 25 rooms cover every style of travel, from luxurious premium accommodations to affordable budget stays – all benefit from free breakfast (including vegetarian and vegan options, of course!), use of our gorgeous saltwater swimming pool, and access to our spa, breezy rooftop spaces, in-house yoga classes, and funky tropical restaurant, bar and garden, plus free airport pickup. Book direct with us for the best rates and perks every time – guaranteed.

How will you be celebrating Khmer New Year in Siem Reap? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by Sam Sith; Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter; Mt.Nind; Narin BI

Run the Angkor Empire Marathon in Siem Reap this August

Run the Angkor Empire Marathon in Siem Reap this August

The 4th Angkor Empire Marathon takes place in Siem Reap this Sunday 06 August, comprising both a half- and full marathon.

Excellent Deals Direct

Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

  • The best deals on tours and transport
  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

The races take place at the heart of the Angkor Wat temple complex, and are the perfect way to take in the medieval splendour of Cambodia’s prime tourist attraction while also giving your fitness a boost, and perhaps ticking off one or more bucket-list items!

Running in the shade of ancient trees at Siem Reap’s UNESCO world-heritage-listed archaeological site is a truly breathtaking experience. Runners pass several incredible temple sites, evolving through impressive landscapes over a vast area where rice fields, jungles and villages offer panoramas of surprising diversity.

If you’re planning to be in Siem Reap around the time of the Angkor Empire Marathon, whether to participate or simply spectate and cheer others on, it’s advisable to book your accommodation early. The popularity of this and other similar marathon events sees us book up completely – so we recommend securing your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel as soon as you can.

When you stay with us, not only do you enjoy stylish, comfortable and affordable boutique accommodation in an intimate, friendly, nourishing, and socially conscious hotel environment, but you also benefit from:

We guarantee the lowest rates anywhere when you book direct with us – click here to search for room availability now, and make your marathon visit to Siem Reap one to remember!

For more information on the Angkor Empire Marathon, visit www.angkorempiremarathon.org.

Photo via Angkor Empire Marathon.

5 things you didn’t know about Angkor Wat

5 things you didn’t know about Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is just about everyone’s main reason for visiting Siem Reap – and we don’t blame them. This marvellous, spectacular complex of ancient Khmer temples is certainly worth the visit, and doubly worth waking up extra early for that sunrise tour. But there are plenty of facts that those who stroll around Angkor Wat’s wonders are blissfully unaware of. Read on for the insider knowledge to help you make a more enlightened visit to Siem Reap’s infamous temples, and get so much more from it as a result.

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Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

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  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

Ta Phrom temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Steve Cornish

There’s a stegosaurus carving at Ta Phrom – or is there?

One thing you might not know about the Angkor Wat complex’s famous Ta Phrom temple – known for the vast tree roots that ensnare it, and its appearance in the Tomb Raider film – is that it features a carving many believe depicts a stegosaurus dinosaur. Science generally holds that the stegosaurus and other dinosaurs existed the Late Jurassic period, some 150 to 150 million years ago, and that they became extinct at least 65 million years ago.

However, some suggest that the apparent depiction of a stegosaurus at Ta Phrom is an indication that humans and dinosaurs lived together around the time of the temple’s construction in the late 12th century.

Take of it what you will: cynics believe the carving is at best a depiction of a boar or rhino than a dinosaur – noting in particular that what are often referred to as spike-like plates on the so-called dinosaurs back may well just be a leaf-design background to the image – or, more likely, that it is a far more recently created hoax.

Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by quiquefepe

There’s a whole medieval city beneath the Angkor Wat complex

Research published by Siem Reap-based writer Lara Dunston for The Guardian in 2016 revealed the archaeological discovery of multiple previously hidden medieval cities beneath the ground close to Angkor Wat.

Groundbreaking laser-based Lidar technology was first used to survey the ground beneath Angkor in 2012, resulting in the discovery of the city of Mahendraparvata, founded by Khmer King Jayavarman II more than 300 years before Angkor Wat rose to prominence.

But work in 2016 by Australian archaeologist Dr Damian Evans showed that this was in fact only part of Mahendrapravata, identifying multiple other cities between 900 and 1,400 years old beneath the tropical forest floor, believed to big enough to rival the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. That’s a thought to behold as you wander through the temples on your sunrise tour! 

Angkor Wat’s three tiers have specific meanings

Angkor Wat is distinctively designed to incorporate three tiered galleries, but what you may not know is that this was a deliberate design choice intended to evoke spiritual meaning, dedicated to Brahma, the moon, and Vishnu.

The temple’s design is intended to represent the mythological home of the Hindu deities, Mount Meru, considered the centre of the universe.

Monks at Angkor Wat - photo by Ken Shirakawa

Even today, there are active temples around Angkor Wat

While for most visitors Angkor Wat appears purely as a historical monument – one that’s undoubtedly a stunning sight to behold, but is perhaps past its prime – what many don’t realise is that the temple, along with the complex’s Bayon temple at Angkor Thom, and other smaller pagodas nearby, remains in active use for religious worship.

This is especially true during major religious holidays, when the temples continue to attract Cambodian Buddhists in large numbers in spite of the Hindu-style relief work (and even though Hindu temples are not normally used for religious congregation as such).

Angkor Wat faces west where the region’s other temples face east

While most temples in the region face east, including others from the Khmer empire, Angkor Wat stands out as facing in a westerly direction. There is disagreement among historians as to the cause of this, but Angkor Wat was dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu, rather than to Shiva or indeed to a Cambodian ruler.

According to Hindu beliefs, Vishnu is the supreme deity in front of whom all others sit; since other Hindu deities are believed to sit facing east, this leaves Vishnu facing west, hence that is also the direction in which structures dedicated to Vishnu are designed to face.

Some also believe that, since the easterly direction is typically associated with death in Hindu culture, Angkor Wat may initially have been intended as a tomb – possibly for King Suryavarman II, who ordered its construction. In addition, the counter-clockwise orientation of bas reliefs at Angkor Wat is interpreted by some to mean that the temple was associated with funeral rituals, though others disagree. Whatever the reason, its westerly facing position makes Angkor Wat the perfect spot to catch an unforgettable sunset.

Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to explore all that Siem Reap has to offer, while also being within easy reach of the famous Angkor Wat temples? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.

Do you know any offbeat facts about Angkor Wat or the surrounding temples in Siem Reap? Let us know – leave us a comment below!

Photos by Matthew Yglesias; Steve Cornish; quiquefepe; Ken Shirakawa.

What to do in Siem Reap during the green season

What to do in Siem Reap during the green season

Siem Reap’s green season sees the relentless heat give way to welcome rain, and the whole of temple town takes on a luscious shade of verdant.

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Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

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We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

The rain can bring challenges, as the city’s notoriously dusty streets give way to puddles – but it’s a wonderful time to observe our little city in the midst of change, and often an altogether more comfortable period to take in the sights.

That’s not to mention the fact that the crowds are fewer, and prices at many spots around Siem Reap drop as a result. There’s plenty to see and do at this time of year – here’s a round-up of the green season attractions you’ll want to squeeze into your visit to Siem Reap.

Full Frontal art gallery in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Full Frontal

Take in an exhibition at Siem Reap’s art galleries

Siem Reap has a blossoming art and culture scene that’s continually on the rise, with numerous new openings having hit temple town in the past few years.

The likes of One Eleven, the McDermott Gallery, Theam’s House, Full Frontal and The 1961 display wide-ranging collections that span everything from modern art by local talent to surreal images of Cambodia’s infamous temples by renowned international names.

Even better? A number of Siem Reap art galleries embrace the frankly ingenious concept of an in-house bar, making them the perfect places to skip the rain, soak up some culture, and settle in for an evening of cocktails and enriching conversation.

Read more: see our full post on the best art galleries in Siem Reap

Kandal Village in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

Pick up souvenirs at the best Siem Reap boutiques

What better way to pass the time on a rainy day during Siem Reap’s green season than to indulge in some retail therapy? Our little town has a great shopping scene, making it the perfect place to pick up inimitable souvenirs of your time in Cambodia.

The choices are just about endless: you could pick up something homemade or quirky from the boutiques of Kandal Village – perhaps some of Saarti’s fragrant candles, natural skin products, or bright and cheerful fabrics, or a slice of Cambodian kitsch from the Trunkh concept store.

Alternatively, you might be tempted by an arty souvenir from the Theam’s House living gallery, or by a bottle of the sombai infused Cambodian rice spirit that’s popular as a tipple to take home.

Sister Srey Café in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Sister Srey Café

Savour a brew at our favourite Siem Reap coffee shops

Siem Reap’s bounty of cafés and coffee shops are a big draw – in recent years, the town has developed a café scene that’s centred on a real love of excellent-quality coffee served by engaged and expertly trained baristas.

Whether you opt for the comfort of air-con interiors or the atmospheric people-watching potential of a seat outdoors (infinitely more comfortable in the immediate aftermath of one of the green season’s very welcome downpours), there are certainly worse ways to while away a lazy afternoon than by cosying up with a delicious hot coffee and a book (and, go on, perhaps a slice of cake, too) in one of Siem Reap’s many coffee shops.

Read more: see our full post on the best Siem Reap coffee shops

Phare Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

See an impressive, emotionally charged circus performance

There’s no getting away from it: we simply love Phare the Cambodian Circus. This responsibly managed social enterprise combines dance, theatre, live music and acrobatics to tell traditional and modern tales about Cambodian history and culture. The circus’ work supports a school and professional arts training centre in Battambang, as well as providing opportunities for its performers from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Above all else, an evening at Phare the Cambodian Circus is always one to remember – and, under the shelter of the big top, you’re also safe from the rain!

Read more: Phare is one of our Siem Reap bucket list items – take a look at the others

Long's Bar in Siem Reap - photo by Long's Bar

Watch the world go by over cocktails and cold beers

When all else fails, retreating to the bar is never a bad option! Thankfully, Siem Reap has a smorgasbord of unique, atmospheric drinking holes where it’s well worth spending an evening. In fact, we would go so far as to say a leisurely Siem Reap bar crawl of these winning spots is almost an essential component of a trip to temple town.

From Asana – a bar set in downtown Siem Reap’s only remaining traditional wooden house, also offering innovative cocktail classes – to air-conditioned Long’s Bar, retro Shanghai-style Miss Wong, and Le Tiem Sra in Baby Elephant’s own local neighbourhood, there’s enough variety in Siem Reap’s bars to keep you entertained and amused while also ensuring you’re sheltered from any inclement weather during green season.

Read more: see our full post on the best bars in Siem Reap

Beef lok lak at New Leaf café in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

Taste top Cambodian cuisine and international favourites

There’s little denying that Cambodian cuisine is massively overlooked in favour of that of regional neighbours like Thailand and Vietnam, but it’s complex and exciting in its own unique way – and Siem Reap is home to no end of fabulous restaurants serving excellent Khmer food. All the way from high-end tasting menus of traditional Cambodian recipes given modern twists, to comforting home-style cooking, and simple but satisfying street food classics, there’s plenty to chow down on during your time in Siem Reap.

Taking yourself on a gastronomic discovery is a great way to wait out a storm while also giving yourself a break from the often frantic pace of sightseeing – and if you need a break from local fare, temple town is also home to a wealth of top-quality international restaurants serving dishes from just about everywhere on earth.

Read more: see our full post on the best Cambodian restaurants in Siem Reap

Cambodian Tastes Khmer cooking classes at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

Learn to master delicious local dishes – and cocktails

Why stop at just eating and drinking? Participating in one of the many cooking classes in Siem Reap means you’ll be able to take home a deeper understanding of Khmer cuisine, and be able to recreate all your favourite dishes long after your trip is over.

At Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel, our very own five-star head chef Hoyha leads guests through a culinary education during our Cambodian Tastes cooking classes. Shop for fresh ingredients at a traditional local morning market, before preparing a full three-course Cambodian meal in our verdant tropical garden (or, in case of rain, under our sheltered gazebo or in our hotel kitchen!) – and then, of course, tuck into the delicious fruits of your labour for lunch.

Asana – a charming, atmospheric bar set in downtown Siem Reap’s only remaining traditional Cambodian wooden house – also offers innovative cocktail-making classes in which you can learn how to whip up potent, flavoursome concoctions that showcase unique local ingredients.

Read more: discover Baby Elephant’s Cambodian Tastes Khmer cooking classes

Take in a Hollywood or Asian flick at Siem Reap’s cinema

Few visitors to Siem Reap expect this bustling yet overwhelmingly small, almost rural-feeling city to have its own cinema – but it does! The Platinum Cineplex shows a variety of Hollywood flicks, as well as movies from homegrown Cambodian talent and from elsewhere across Asia. Chilling out with a film and a bucket of popcorn is an ideal way to beat the Siem Reap heat at the best of times, but it’s equally well suited to hiding out from the rain.

Tonle Sap lake near Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

Float on the mesmerising Tonle Sap lake

While you might not want to be caught out in the middle of a downpour, the wider green season is the time when the water levels of Tonle Sap – the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and long since one of Cambodia’s most vital food sources – are at their highest.

This not only renders excursions to Tonle Sap logistically more practical, since navigation by boat through the lake’s numerous floating villages becomes much easier, but it also makes the lake an infinitely more impressive sight to behold.

Angkor Wat sunrise in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by dia_n

Visit the temples and all the other places you would normally

We wouldn’t want you to think that visiting Siem Reap during the green season means temple tours are off the cards – far from it!

While you might want to pack an umbrella, the green season leaves the infamous temples at and around Angkor Wat dressed in splendid, ultra-photogenic verdant mosses – and it’s just as good a time to visit these and the whole host of popular cultural and historical attractions Siem Reap is known for.

What’s more, temperatures are more bearable, prices at many attractions and hotels drop due to reduced visitor numbers, and the crowds are thinner – meaning you can have more of the temples to yourself, and truly soak up the serene, zen vibe that is a big part of the attraction for many visitors.

Read more: see our full post on our Siem Reap bucket list

Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to explore the best of Siem Reap come rain or shine, while also being within easy reach of the famous Angkor Wat temples? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.

Have you visited Siem Reap in green season? What are your favourite attractions during this period? Let us know which spots we should include on our list – leave us a comment below!

Photos by Full Frontal, Chris Wotton, Sister Srey Café, Long’s Bar, dia_n.

How to celebrate Khmer New Year in Siem Reap in 2017

How to celebrate Khmer New Year in Siem Reap in 2017

The streets of Siem Reap are about to buzz with even more activity than usual – Khmer New Year is on the way! Based on the lunar cycle, this year the holiday falls on Friday 14, Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 April, and it’s the perfect time to see temple town at the height of its festivities.

Excellent Deals Direct

Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

  • The best deals on tours and transport
  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

Khmer New Year celebrations - photo by Sam Sith

Right across Cambodia, you can expect a lively atmosphere with cheerful celebrations, as Cambodians see in the traditional new year with fervour. Wondering how and where to celebrate in Siem Reap? We’ve got all the details.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter

The three days of the traditional Khmer New Year

Celebrations during Khmer New Year, also variously known as Chol Chnam Thmey and Angkor Songkran, take place across three days, each of which has particular significance.

On the first day, known as Moha Songkran, it is believed that a new god or angel is appointed to protect the world for the year ahead. As a way of rolling out the red carpet and ensuring that the new year doesn’t get off to an inauspicious start, Cambodians clean and decorate their houses (and themselves).

As well as getting a good scrubbing, homes play host to an offering table of fruits, cake, and other special Khmer dishes that are only rolled out for festivals and celebrations, plus incense sticks decorated with flowers, and chains of flashing lights designed to protect the house and family in the coming year. Families will also commonly visit their local temple to make merit and pray.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Mt.Nind

Khmer New Year’s second day is called Virak Wanabat, and revolves around offering gifts to parents, grandparents, the elderly, children, and the less fortunate. It’s a time of recognising pothers and doing good deeds in the hope of good fortune in the year to come. There’s also more praying at local temples, culminating in blessings being given by monks, and a service to remember ancestors.

Tanai Loeng Sak, the third and final day of the Khmer New Year celebrations, is all about new beginnings. The new year is finally here and, after more offerings to elders, more prayers and blessings at the local temple, and some symbolic bathing of Buddha images, it’s time for some good old-fashioned fun. Though not on quite the same frenetic scale as neighbours like Thailand, Cambodians – especially younger generations – take to the streets for some light-hearted water fights.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

How to celebrate Khmer New Year in Siem Reap

Expect a festive atmosphere in Siem Reap during the Khmer New Year holiday. For many Cambodians, it marks the end of the hard slog of the agricultural harvesting season, and is a chance to rest, recuperate, and spend time with family and friends. Those who work far from their families in other provinces will commonly return home for as long as they can – often for as much as a week to 10 days. (Be warned: some of your favourite Siem Reap coffee shops, bars and restaurants may be closed for part or all of the Khmer New Year period!)

In a marked difference from the Songkran celebrations in Thailand and elsewhere, Cambodians put on plenty of light-hearted games to mark the occasion. These might include traditional ball games passed down through generations, and the likes of tug-of-war, plus plenty of Cambodian singing and dancing.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

Join a Khmer New Year street party

Siem Reap frequently sees street parties in the Pub Street area, along the riverside, and in the Royal Gardens, with live concerts, fireworks, and of course plenty to eat and drink.

Head to the Angkor Sangkranta Festival

At the Angkor Archaeological Park, including around Angkor Wat, the huge Angkor Sangkranta festival draws crowds of locals, expats and tourists from across the country to take part in traditional games, Khmer martial arts, music, dancing, and of course lots more street food.

Visit a local Buddhist pagoda

For a glimpse of the traditional Buddhist ceremonies that take place on each of the three days of Khmer New Year, local temples and pagodas welcome curious visitors.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

Discover traditional Khmer games at Baby Elephant

At Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel, on Saturday 15 April from 2pm we’ll be putting on an array of traditional Cambodian games for all the family to join in and celebrate Khmer New Year. Our friendly team are ready to share some Khmer cultural insights with you and teach you to play a number of games, including Bom Teak Dak Dob, Chis Kong Yeat, Sae Pom, and Bos Bol. If those names don’t mean much right now, come along and discover them for yourself!

Click here for all the details about our Khmer New Year games day.

Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to explore all the goings-on of Khmer New Year, while also being within easy reach of the famous Angkor Wat temples? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast (including vegan options, of course!) and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.

What will you be doing to celebrate Khmer New Year in Siem Reap? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by Sam Sith; Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter; Mt.Nind; Narin BI

The spiritual heart of Siem Reap

The spiritual heart of Siem Reap

Whether it’s the rich religious history of the famous Angkor Wat temple complex, the peaceful countryside vibe of Siem Reap, or the vibrant yoga and healing scene in our little town, there’s little denying that there’s a positive spiritual buzz around here.

Excellent Deals Direct

Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

  • The best deals on tours and transport
  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

Temple in Siem Reap - photo by Danielle C

If you could use a little calm and a touch more zen in your busy modern life (who couldn’t!?), here’s how to use your stay at Baby Elephant to tap into Siem Reap’s spiritual heart. 

Take a yoga class

Yoga somehow feels like it belongs at Siem Reap, and our little town has no shortage of places to get your pose on, stretch yourself to wellness, and reap the spiritual benefits of mindfulness in the process.

At our Siem Reap hotel, we run a regular schedule of yoga and fitness classes, open to both guests and non-guests, and led by a stellar line-up of travelling and Siem Reap-resident yogis with vast experience from wide-ranging backgrounds. Take a look at our current yoga and fitness schedule here.

Feel the spiritual buzz at Angkor Wat

There’s a reason most visitors to Siem Reap are in town for Angkor Wat – the temples at this expansive, UNESCO-recognised complex are still alive with the spiritual and religious wisdom of the past, and you can truly feel the buzz of this fascinating ancient civilisation.

Angkor Wat, like other ancient sites around the word, is even said to lay along intersecting ‘ley line’ points that form a grid across the globe. These lines apparently mark out where energy is emitted by the earth, which in turn can be harnessed for positive power.

Take a trip to Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom and other famous and lesser-visited temples at Cambodia’s renowned complex – our team can help you tailor your excursion to avoid the crowds, so that you can make the most of the ambiance and spiritual energy, and really soak up the vibe of the place.

Experience a retreat

With all this positive, spiritual energy flying around Siem Reap, it’s the perfect place to take a retreat, and recharge your batteries by escaping the stresses and strains of everyday modern life.

At Baby Elephant, we’ve introduced our Signature Retreats, focussed on helping you achieve wellbeing and balance while exploring Siem Reap’s medieval and modern history and getting a special taste of the Cambodia of today.

You’ll participate in yoga, fitness and meditation classes, enjoy traditional Khmer massage, and be treated to authentically Khmer dishes prepared by our Cambodian chef.

There’s also a visit to one of Siem Reap’s NGO-operated training restaurants for dinner, plus local tours and a trip to the historic Cambodian pagoda at nearby Wat Thmey. It’s all the perfect opportunity to unwind and recharge – click here for more details.

Participate in a water blessing

You don’t get much more spiritual than taking part in an actual religious blessing and, at Siem Reap’s Wat Athvea temple, that’s exactly what you can do. Just a short way out of the city and into the Cambodian countryside, the pagoda hosts the traditional Buddhist practice of receiving a water blessing with the aim of bringing you fortune and good luck.

Accompanied by traditional Buddhist chanting that’s believed to bring good luck, you’ll have water poured over you by monks from the temple. You can then explore the rest of the pagoda in all its beauty, and soak up the natural healing vibe of rural Cambodia.

Learn the art of the lotus flower

The lotus flower holds a special place in daily life in rural Cambodia, and the flower is a traditional Buddhist symbol of determination and accomplishment, in the same way as the flower itself is seen to hold its head above the waters where it grows.

At Siem Reap’s lotus farm – which claims to be the first of its kind in the world – you can discover that there’s more to the humble lotus than you realised. By taking part in one of the farm’s guided tours, you’ll see every step of the lotus’ journey, from harvesting these beautiful flowers to seeing them spun, woven and put to use as fabric or simply as decorative flowers.

It’s difficult not to be mesmerised by the striking beauty and relaxing qualities of this most elegant of flowers – and it’s possible to take home a memento from this sustainably run social enterprise, where the shop sells lotus products ranging from bath salts and balms to fabric, massage oil and necklaces.

Lotus Farm; daily, 10am-6pm; 98 Pithnu Street; 063 63 69 133; www.lotusfarm.org

Discover meditation and energy healing

Various healing and spiritual wellness centres in Siem Reap help to demystify the art of meditation, and enable you to make the most of it in order to achieve balance and fulfilment in your life.

Spiritual wellness sessions involve both meditation and healing programmes that empower you on your own personal journey, channel your energies and balance your chakras, while also indulging in massage and reflexology to accomplish total wellness.

Wayist Centre; 66 Wayism Road; 077-804-814; www.wayist.com

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to best explore the spiritual buzz of Siem Reap? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – and we’ll be happy to help you arrange activities like these to get the most out of your stay – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.

Which are your favourite spiritual activities in Siem Reap? Do you have another favourite that we’ve forgotten? Let us know in the comments!

Photo by Danielle C.

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