Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Photo from: PhotoAsia.

For the last 3 days, Phnom Penh has been celebrating Water Festival. It's a (mostly) yearly festival that stretches back to Cambodia's Angkorian days around a thousand years ago. People from all over Cambodia flood into Phnom Penh to watch teams from villages around the country race their traditional boats along the river.

The festival also celebrates the time when the water in Cambodia's Tonle Sap river changes directions. Yes, it changes directions! Apparently, Cambodia is the only place in the world where this happens. How does that work? There's a big lake at one end of the Tonle Sap River, and at the other end, it merges with the Mekong River to make it's way to Vietnam and the ocean. During the rainy season, monsoons flood the Mekong and water gets pushed up the Tonle Sap River into the lake (where the water level will be down from the dry season). Once rainy season slows down (now), the Tonle Sap River changes directions and water starts to drain from the lake back down to the Mekong and out to the ocean.

Wikipedia offers this GIF to illustrate the phenomenon...but I'm not sure it clears it up much!:

Unfortunately, over the last 6 years, Water Festival has gone through some rough times. During Water Festival in 2010, a stampede on a bridge caused over 350 deaths. Because of political instability, drought, etc, the festival was canceled in all but one year since. Because of this history, the millions of people flooding into the city, and also because we just moved apartments, we've decided to spend our break for Water Festival mostly at home getting organized and getting caught up on our studies. Hopefully we will make it out next year!