April is the most special month in Cambodia. It is the celebration of the Khmer New Year (Chaul Chnam Thmey, which literally means “Enter New Year”). While the new year is officially a 3-day holiday, most Cambodians treat it as a month-long period to visit family, friends and have a festive time. This is the last good, long holiday that everyone will have before the start of the long, hard rice planting season.
In Banteay Chhmar, villagers celebrated with food and dancing in the temple and parties with friends and family. Powdering faces is a common and fun activity. There are also a number of traditional games played and ceremonies observed during the new year period. One ceremony is when people build sand hillocks around the pagoda. Villagers mound up a hill of sand or dome which represents sakyamuni satya, the stupa at Tavatimsa, where the Buddha’s hair and diadem are buried.
Also, this year a number of villagers, shopowners and local authorities made a special trip to visit the poorer villages and pagodas along the Thai border distributing food, drinks and making monetary donations to the communities. It was a special day for everyone involved.
The month was not all fun and games, though. Before the start of the new year, the CBT members met several times to begin work on a 3-year business plan. As Global Heritage Fund begins to wind down its conservation project and support, the CBT needs to become more proactive in increasing its business sustainability. The CBT is looking at ways to increase its visitor numbers and income by adding new activities and increasing market awareness of Banteay Chhmar.
If you would like to get involved in helping the CBT with travel market research, business planning, networking, or helping to create a “Friends of Banteay Chhmar” group, please contact Tath Sophal or Andrew Marino. Thanks! 🙂