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Bon Om Tuk

Thousands and thousands of people crowded the banks of the Tonle Sap to watch the

annual Water Festival (Bon Om Tuk) boat races.

The festivities ran for three days from Nov. 27-29 and date back to an historic point

in Khmer history when King Jayavarman VII and his navy defeated water-borne invaders

during the 12th century.

More than 200 boats from all parts of the country participated in this year's celebrations,

racing a 1,000 meter course with the finishing line in front of the Royal Palace

.

The Water Festival coincides with two others: Ok Ambok (The Pounding of Rice) and

Sampeah Preah Khai (Full Moon Prayers).

Ok Ambok stems from Buddhist mythology about a female giant who can predict the weather.

Farmers are said to believe in her power and hold the ceremony each year to honor

her.

Sampeah Preah Khai, according to folklore, is dedicated to the power of a rabbit

that took its own life in a fire to serve as food for an emaciated old man who visited

Earth as a god in human form.

The two celebrations begin at midnight when the moon is full. According to Khmer

mythology, the rabbit symbolizes fidelity, justice and honesty, and some celebrants

look for the rabbit's figure drawn by the god in the full moon.

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