A collective of journalists based in Asia
  • Date:
    November 2016
  • Country:
    Cambodia
  • Photos:
    Thomas Cristofoletti

As the rainy season came to an end and the flow of the Tonle Sap river slowly starts to reverse, Cambodians celebrate the “Bon Om Touk” – the annual water festival.

For three days, thousands of people flocked into the capital Phnom Penh to watch the 259 boats race against each others in front of King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Almost every town and village across Cambodia takes part in the festival, with the biggest and most important competitions held in the waters off the capital’s riverside.

The festival is a very popular Cambodian tradition that can be traced back centuries.

November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A boat crew moves aboard its racing boat, warming up for the first day of racing of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A boat crew moves aboard its racing boat, warming up for the first day of racing of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People hang out in front of the Royal Palace, waiting for the fireworks show. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People hang out in front of the Royal Palace, waiting for the fireworks show. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Top officials watch the opening ceremony from the main VIP tent. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Top officials watch the opening ceremony from the main VIP tent. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Balloon sellers on the riverside. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Balloon sellers on the riverside. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni arrives at the opening ceremony of the festival, followed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni arrives at the opening ceremony of the festival, followed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People are gathered in front of the Royal Palace to enjoy a fireworks show for the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People are gathered in front of the Royal Palace to enjoy a fireworks show for the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A team of racers has a moment of rest between competitions. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A team of racers has a moment of rest between competitions. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the riverside of Phnom Penh. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the riverside of Phnom Penh. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People follow the races through the screens of their smartphones. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People follow the races through the screens of their smartphones. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Racing teams rest beneath the Japanese and Chinese bridges. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Racing teams rest beneath the Japanese and Chinese bridges. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of a boat racing team walk towards the tent camp built by the authorities for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of a boat racing team walk towards the tent camp built by the authorities for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Actors wait to start their performance in the backstage of one of the stages installed in the biggest tent camp built for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Actors wait to start their performance in the backstage of one of the stages installed in the biggest tent camp built for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A guy massages a friend inside the tent camp built by the authorities for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A guy massages a friend inside the tent camp built by the authorities for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of the security watch the VIP's main tent, where King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials are watching the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of the security watch the VIP’s main tent, where King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials are watching the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). View of the VIP's main tent, where King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials are watching the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). View of the VIP’s main tent, where King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials are watching the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people gather on the river banks to enjoy a firework show for the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people gather on the river banks to enjoy a firework show for the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

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