The scent of incense is thick in the air as I drive around the strangely quiet streets, where there is normally hustle and bustle now I see a few cars and motorbikes probably on their way to family celebrations.
The majority of houses are shut up because families have gone to visit family in the province and most shops are closed except it seems the ones who sell food and drink or thankfully petrol! The market corner near the pagoda is subdued with a few sellers hawking last minute fruit and vegetables, in complete contrast to yesterday where there was a traffic jam. At the pagoda the prayer flags flutter in the breeze and people can come and make offerings and ask the monks for a blessing on the New Year.
In every house where people have stayed in Phnom Penh, there is a table set out with candles and offerings of food and drink for the Khmer New Year “angels” and sometimes flashing light and tinsel. This is one of the biggest holidays in Cambodia and a time when family gather in their homes to spend time together.
We have just had a week off school as Cambodia celebrates Pchum Ben. I have written about it in a previous post so if you want to know more then read here
The celebrations for Pchum Ben start 16 days before the actual holiday with very early chanting from the monks at the nearby wat (sometimes as early as 4.30 depending on who has arrived at the wat and requires the monk to chant) So this month has been somewhat sleep deprived!
As people are leaving offerings at each wat for their deceased relatives inside and outside the wat will be these piles of food with a cut out of a person or skeleton. Normally I don’t see them but this year I noticed them outside a nearby wat.
As this is one of the holidays where shops could be closed for up to a week, many Cambodians return to their family in the provinces. It is a time where Phnom Penh is super quiet especially on the roads and the roads going out of Phnom Penh can be busy, so we have always stayed at home and just had a quiet week. This year was no exception! After the actual Pchum Ben day on Wednesday the wat fell blissfully silent and a lie in was actually possible!
I finally finished a project I started 6 weeks ago before school started to make a giant family planner for the wall. Giant it is… and also very bright!
We were also able to get away to a local hotel with a nice quiet pool where they let you swim as a day visitor…well it was quiet until we arrived! We were the only people using it and it was a nice break from the house. We then finished off the day out with a meal at Divine Pizza.
Then end of term in mid June was the usual crazy madness of too much to do. However for us there was something to look forward to. Granny and Granddad were coming….and lots of goodies. Phoebe the organiser she is drew on the wall (tiles with whiteboard marker) a countdown chart.
Finally the day arrived and we went to meet them from their 10pm flight at the airport …..there was much excitement. The next day we had a catch up on several birthdays and a large pile of goodies. We can get chocolate here but it id quite expensive and has something added o make it melt slower which changes the taste. Each of the children had a small budget and had ordered from Tesco’s online from Cambodia…delivered to Grandparents in Liverpool then brought to Cambodia via Dubai and Thailand in their luggage!!! The things you can do on the internet.
Ewan with granddad Saunders
Lucia with Granny Saunders
Kids with goodies
It was so nice to see Granny and Granddad Saunders again after a year. We had lots of things planned to do but before that we all needed a few days to chill out…except the temperature was 30 and humidity was 89%!!! Lucky we have one Air-con room for them to stay in.