The Water Festival
The boat sails by, the shore remains. - Cambodian Proverb
The Water Festival or Bon Om Touk is a three day holiday that marks the reversal of the Tonle Sap River which includes boat races, music and rides.
Who knew that we would become one of the attractions at the water festival. It all began with me climbing on the back of the motorbike with the two French volunteers. Sorry, Mom if you are reading this! While Olivera was a seasoned motorbike driver, he had never driven manual or with two people on the back. So the adventure began...
Decision time, "How are we all going to get to the Water Festival?"
With three kids, six volunteers and two motorbikes we started off with creative ideas of how to get everyone there. First idea was to bike with some of the kids, but not all of the bikes worked. Second idea was to have someone on the bicycle hold onto the motorbike - probably not the best idea! Finally, the third idea was to ask to borrow another motorbike - this is what we did.
Motorbike 1: Olivera & his wife, myself
Motorbike 2: Antonin, Tonia & Virak
Motorbike 3: Vid, Long and Bianca
Surprisingly, the most experienced motorbike driver is probably Vid, at just twelve years old he seemed to be the most confident as he weaved along the muddy, bumpy dirt road. He told us that he has been driving since he was eight years old!
After about a 10-15 minute nerve-racking ride, we parked our motorbikes and headed into the festival. The first stop was the boat races. Of course in true Cambodian fashion, one of the people in the boat was designated as the person to empty the boat of water as they paddled the river. By the end of the race every member of the team was soaked in both sweat and water.
Of course kids being kids, they wanted to go on the rides. The first one is a bit deceiving when you first look at it - more or less looks like a carousel - but once it gets going, it definitely isn't a carousel! The horses whip around and can get to new heights! Let's just say this ride wouldn't be allowed in Canada.
As we watched the boys on the ride, we noticed that we started to obtain a following. A wall of onlookers formed to just look at us, mainly children. We felt a bit like celebrities but without the screaming and touching, more just looking and staring at us. In particular, they really liked Antonin because of his height.
Next up, the boys found a bouncy slide that they wanted to play on. So after snapping some pictures of them, we left to roam around while they played. Purchasing jack fruit as a snack while we watched the boat races.
After returning to four smiling faces, we lead the boys to the speed boats. After a loop and a 360 degree turn the ride was over, but definitely worth their surprised faces.
The last ride of the day was a shaky unsafe ferris wheel, and a weird dance party that was happening below it. Some things are just too hard to describe, and that dance party was something else completely.
Overall the kids had smiles all day and so did us volunteers. I highly recommend experiencing the Water Festival with locals.
Total Cost = $6 USD