Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cambodia's other New Year

Chinese New Year (Tet) at Wat Phnom is always an amazing experience. I continue to be surprised that so few (if any) foreigners/tourists come to see the scene at midnight. This year I saw 3 besides myself. I've done photo essays of Chinese New Year at Wat Phnom the past couple of years and so won't burden the reader with yet more photos of the coming of the year.  (See Greeting the Dragon at Wat Phnom - 2012 and It's New Year again - 2011.) But I couldn't resist taking a couple of short shaky videos with my iPad, and managed to capture the clamorous scene at midnight.

A few points of note: This was the end of the year of the Dragon (Naga on the Khmer calendar) and the beginning of the year of the Snake, the Water Snake to be specific... The crowd at Wat Phnom was about the same size as last year - a good crowd but still a bit smaller than the crowds of 5-10 years ago... Unlike last year, there were more beggars lining the steps up the hill this year, including a couple of dozen young children. Many people brought stacks of small bills especially for the beggars... Midnight seemed to arrive a little late this year. As I was filming I could hear people in the crowd muttering "midnight already." The clock on my iPad concurred. Yet the gong was not sounding. About a minute later the bell clanged, people cheered and the New Year was officially in... Lastly, in the videos notice the motorcycle helmets and aluminum foil gloves that people were wearing to try to protect against incense burns. People have been wearing helmets for the last year or two, but the foil gloves are, to my memory, a new innovation this year. Check out 1:00 in the second video - midnight, the moment New Year arrives - to see why such protective gear is necessary.

The first video is about 15 minutes before midnight. The second video from 11:59PM to 12:03AM and captures the moment New Year enters. 

Chinese New Year, 2013. About 15-20 minutes before midnight at Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh. Note people wearing motorcycle helmets and foil gloves to protect against incense burns.

Chinese New Year, 2013. Midnight at Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh. 
See 1:00 for the moment the New Year gong sounded.


  1. I haven't been to Cambodia since 2006 and went during Khmer New Year's. :) So it's really neat to see Chinese New Year celebrated in Cambodia! (I'm Cambodian/Cantonese/Vietnamese- a common mix in SE Asia.)

    - Jen

    I'm excited to read more of your blog!

  2. Have a closer look at your photos from last year - you'll see the gloves then as well -

    1. Yup, you're right. The foil gloves are there in 2012, but don't seem to be there in 2011.

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