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Where Can I Celebrate Khmer New Year?
The Biggest Celebrations are in Siem Reap & Phnom Penh
Whether you find yourself in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap for the Khmer New Year, you’re in for great time. However, it pays to be prepared. It gets extremely busy, so make sure to book your accommodations and transportation in advance.
You will have a great time partying with Cambodians and fellow travelers for three full days! Do set aside some time to experience and learn about the social and religious traditions around Khmer New Year.
Visit Angkor Wat to take part in Angkor Sankranta! This is a three-day festival full of cool events, entertaining shows, traditional ceremonies, fun activities, delicious food and drinks all in the stunning Angkor Temple Complex. There’s always a nice little schedule and itinerary every year. Once we find it, we’ll be sure to share it here and on our social profiles.
Taking part in Siem Reap’s songkran means you’ll get wet.
No matter where you walk or drive, you’re sure to end up soaked with water and covered in baby powder. Prepare to be ambushed with water guns, buckets, hoses full of icy cold water! So, buy yourself a water gun and join in the fun.
What to do in Siem Reap during Khmer New Year
If you are lucky enough to be in Siem Reap during the Khmer New Year, we strongly advise you to venture out and join Siem Reap Sangkranta festivities with the locals. To do just that, here are the most recommended five activities to do during Khmer New Year in Siem Reap.
1. Visit a Pagoda
For the Khmer New Year, nearly every pagoda of the country is decorated for the occasion. Go to one of them to admire the colorful garlands, flowers and other decorations that adorned every part of the monument. During your visit, you can witness several traditional ceremonies taking place, especially in the morning when families go to pagoda to offer foods and fruits to the monks and receive blessings.
Note: Remember to be respectful by wearing modest clothing and make sure that you are enough covered, also take off your shoes before entering the pagoda.
2. Play Traditional Games and Dance with the Locals
Don’t pass on the opportunity to join the locals who gather at the courtyard of pagodas and other public areas to dance Khmer music and play traditional games such as Leak Kanseng, Donderm Sleok Cher, or Teanh Proat. This is the time to truly get to know the Cambodians and to share together a joyful moment. Laughter guaranteed!
3. Participate to the Siem Reap Sangkranta Festival
This year, Siem Reap Sangkranta festival will take place in the city center located near the Royal Residence. This festival is one of the main attractions of the city during Khmer New Year. So don’t hesitate to go and take a look at what’s going on. Many cultural activities will take place throughout the three days.
It’s the perfect opportunity to discover Khmer arts and traditions. Also, multiple stalls set up in the area will offer endless choice of street food and other traditional delicacies for the occasion. Finally visit the commercial displays to find handmade souvenirs and other items as your memorable belongings from the Khmer New Year in Siem Reap.
4. Visit a Nearby Village
We advise you spend an afternoon in a village nearby Siem Reap if you can. It’s the best way to interact with the local Khmer people and experience an authentic celebration of the Khmer New Year. Don’t forget your camera because you will also be able to see breathtaking landscapes, with rice fields and wooden houses on stilts.
5. Party in the Streets of the Old Market area
Finally, for the third and final night of the celebration, if you’re up for partying, wander in the streets of the Old Market area where Cambodians, expats and tourists come together to party and to celebrate the end of the holiday. When it’s time, look up at the sky and admire the fireworks to conclude your perfect Khmer New Year experience.
Safety during Khmer New Year
Khmer New Year was a really friendly, lively festival to be a part of, but due to the water and talcum powder throwing, and alcohol intake it can also be dangerous on the roads.
There’s an increase in road traffic accidents caused by people swerving or being surprised by water attacks when on their motors or cycles. The combination of water and talcum powder also makes the road surface slippery resulting in skidding and crashes, especially when mixed with speeding and drink driving.
Personally, I would avoid riding a bicycle or motorcycle during Khmer New Year. After being squirted directly in the face when riding my bicycle on the first day of the festival and nearly coming off it I decided the bike would remain safely at home for the rest of the celebrations. You also need to stay alert when walking around town as normal road rules don’t apply…keep your wits about you.
There’s little violent crime during Khmer New Year but one other thing to be aware of is the increase in opportunistic pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially in the crowded areas.
There’s probably not much chance of it happening but to be on the safe side I’d recommend the following: don’t take a bag out with you, don’t carry large amounts of money and don’t walk around with your camera or phone out.
I actually just stashed my money in my bra and kept my iPhone in the waistband of my jeans. If you take these precautions you should be fine.
One other thing to remember is that Khmer New Year falls at the hottest time of the year, so be sure to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen when out and about.