Chinese new year celebrations, also known as Spring Festival, starts on the evening preceding the new moon of the first lunar month & runs until the full moon, coinciding with Tet, the Vietnamese new year.
In Cambodia, this festival is not a public holiday, although a large proportion of Khmers will participate in the celebrations, many having Chinese ancestors. Officially it’s business as usual, however visitors may notice many places closed. Locals with ancestors from China will often return to their homeland and celebrate with their families.
For the photographer, you will witness increased activity in the Chinese pagodas, easily identified with the Chinese writing and different style to that of the Khmer pagodas. Visitors peak on the eve of the first day. A notable place to be is Wat Phnom in the capital, Phnom Penh, where crowds gather to see in the new year. Here you will witness a rich array of culture, incense sticks, candles, releasing birds for good luck & the burning of fake money for their ancestors.
Throughout the country there will be numerous dragon dance performances, the dragon being the symbol of China. Wealthy families will hire a team of performers to dance outside their houses, bringing good luck, enjoyed by passers by, well worth a look. There are a few places in Phnom Penh with quite large performances, just keep your ears & eyes open. These performances also happens In the countryside but on a smaller scale. Dancing dragons, along with fire crackers, it’s great if you stumble upon this, camera in hand.
Other things to note. Increased visitors it the Angkor Wat complex, but unlike Songkran (Khmer new year), it does not affect our photography workshops. Also, many Chinese & Khmer will head to the coast in great numbers, notably Sihanoukville*, which will inflate accommodation prices. Expect beaches to be busy with mostly Chinese.
With the ongoing Chinese funded development in Sihanoukville, this town is now out of favour with expats, tourists and Khmer. Mass construction of casinos (now 88 registered casinos) and property investment projects have changed this place, which now represents a building site with inadequate utilities. The locals are looking for alternatives, Kampot, also Angkor Wat are getting busy around this time. If you are heading to Sihanoukville during Chinese new year, the Islands are your best alternative.
Chinese new year 2020, the year of the rat, January 25th- Feb 11th
Chinese new year 2019, the year of the pig, February 5th
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