Three Days of Khmer New Years in Siem Reap

The day was finally upon us. Day one of three days of Khmer New Years celebrations. We had been pampered and prepped for the occasion, which you can read about here, but nothing could truly prepare us for the festivities ahead. 

Khmer New Years is a mix of spiritual enlightenment and good old fashioned party fun. The blazing hot days in the city are quiet as Khmer locals visit temples to pray and tourists go about their normal routines. But as the sun starts to set, everything changes.

Slowly you begin to hear music pumping from giant speakers on every street corner and buckets are filled with water as the city prepares for the oncoming war... a water war that is! 

By nightfall the city has turned in to a giant water gun fight as people walk the street and attempt drive by shootings with oversized super soakers. But it's not just water, there are the clouds of baby powder. We have not found a clear answer as to why, but everyone has a container of baby powder and either dumps it on your head, or smears your cheeks with the soft soothing powder. 

This might sound like an activity that gets out of hand and causes fights and riots on the street but it did nothing of the sort. It was one of the most peaceful and fun events we've ever attended. From the hours of 6pm to 3am you get to be a kid again. 

These festivities go on repeat for three days. Quiet daylight hours, insane water fights and partying at night. The epicenter of this in Siem Reap of course, is Pub Street. Every bar is bursting with water drenched, powder chalked patrons, who are singing, dancing and laughing. Drinks are flowing and music is blasting so there is nothing but fun to be had. 

Apparently there are similar New Years events that go on throughout SE Asia which we can't comment on but all we can tell you is that Cambodians really know how to throw a New Years celebration.

Due to the insanity and wetness of this event, we were hesitant to take our cameras out so we only have a few pictures. All we can say is if you're looking for something amazing to do for new years, forget Times Square and January 1st.                                                                                  Mid April in Cambodia is where it's at!

Khmer New Years at the Victoria Angkor

When we arrived in Siem Reap after 12 hours of travel from Laos, we were tired, hot and sweaty. Luckily for us, we were about to enter the garden of eden. 

We had come to Siem Reap to celebrate and witness the Khmer New Year so we needed to get refreshed and ready to party! After a month on the road in Laos, we decided to pamper ourselves with a pre New Years rest at the Victoria Angkor, located in the heart of Siem Reap. The hotel is conveniently located near the famous Pub street, but far enough from it to escape the traffic and bustling streets of the city.

When we arrived, we were greeted with their delicious welcome drink, made with sugar cane juice and served in a bamboo cup with a bamboo straw. We later learned the hotel management makes a conscious effort to minimize the waste they produce so they replaced plastic straws, which are terrible for the environment, with a natural bamboo straw. The drink was delicious and refreshing and we liked it so much, that we requested it a few more times. We also recieved chilled towels soaked in jasmine water to cool ourselves off as we checked in. That was a welcome well done and right away we fell in love with this hotel.

Although only about a decade old, the hotel has been designed in a 1930's french colonial style and the esthetic perfectly reflects the nostalgia and romantic vibe of that era.

For the next few days we had the fortune of staying in one of their beautiful Maharaja suites. We laughed when we walked into the room because we had just spent almost 6 months in India and the suite was decorated accordingly with Indian flavors and in some ways, felt like home. Of course the hotel management didn't know that when they put us in this suite, but somehow we just can't escape India.

The suite was huge: living room, master bedroom, dressing den and a specious bathroom.  The large living room was full of light with it's windows facing the Royal Park, and it was our favorite spot to read the daily news while sipping on coffee or one of their delicious cocktails. Our favorite design detail from the living room was the french windows with louvers looking into the garden.

The bedroom was clearly built for royalty. Whether you've had a long flight or have been on the road for while, nothing feels better than falling on a king size bed full of soft pillows and letting all the stress melt away.

Every day, after we came back to our room our bedsheets were perfectly dressed down with the blankets folded back, the slippers and robes were laid out and they even left delicious chocolate treats for extra sweet dreams. We loved their attention to details and we definitely felt spoiled.

The hotel has the most amazing international breakfast buffet we've ever had. The buffet was huge, and it filled two rooms! You can choose between asian food or a western breakfast (or both!) with fresh pastries and breads from their bakery. Having been away from home so long, we couldn't pass on the french cheese, eggs, cured meats and fresh smoothies. To make the mornings even more jolly they also served bottomless mimosas with your choice of fresh fruit. Ahh Europeans know how to live!

In the morning, before this huge breakfast we actually joined a free yoga class in the park across the street. The yoga instructor was a young Cambodian girl, and she was great at correcting your posture. It was fantastic! If you don't like yoga or it is too hot for you, they also have a small AC gym near the pool, which was empty most of the time.

Of course, our favorite was the bar or more precisely the drinks they serve at the Victoria Angkor. The menu constantly changes but all the drinks are delicious and they are continually making new cocktails you can't get anywhere else.

Here are our two favorites: Passion Fruit Daiquiri and Mango Caviar Fizz.

The Khmer new Year is the biggest holiday in Cambodia. Before we hit the street scene, we and other guests were invited to join and participate in the local games in the hotel's courtyard. Although most of us were shy at first to dance to the most popular Cambodian hits of the years, after a few minutes of watching the fun from a distance, we joined the party. Oh and did we mention the water and baby powder? Yeah the cheeky Cambodians first spray you with water and then they throw baby powder on you. It was so much fun and gave us a great taste of what to expect later on the streets, which you can read about here.

What really made the Victoria Angkor great, wasn't just their attention to detail in creating a truly luxurious yet at the same time, unpretentious experience, but the way they made you feel a part of the family, and at home. And no, it wasn't just because we were there to review them. We saw every guest being treated with the same sense of local hospitality; and that leaves you with an experience you'll always remember.


Specials thanks to Cedric & Patric and their wonderful staff for hosting our stay at the Victoria Angkor. Our opinions regarding our stay are completely our own.