Long Sophal Water Festival racer Long Sophal – a plumber by trade – represented the capital’s Meanchey district as a boat racer at this year’s Water Festival. On the sidelines this week, the Kandal province native spoke with Mech Dara and Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon about Cambodia’s festive culture and what he likes to do around the city.
We practise boat racing, training hard for a month in different locations on the Bassac and Mekong rivers. A lot of the practice was held at Chak Angre Krom commune in Meanchey district. My responsibility on the boat is to row at the front of the boat – I’m not the one directing though, just rowing. I trained every day for one hour to gain stronger muscles in my arms, to be consistent with the other rowers and prevent unconsciousness. I feel nervous when my boat faces stronger and faster boats. But the more we train, the more we do not feel threatened by another boat. When we are on the boat and we shout and yell, we have the power to race fast and I feel very empowered.
The Sokha Hotel
When I’m rowing on the water during the races, my favourite building [to see] is the Sokha Hotel. I think it’s really pretty. I think that the people who go up there to watch the races must have the most beautiful view. It is very beautiful at nighttime, and because it is situated in front of the confluence of four rivers, when standing on the top of it you can see faraway landscapes. I think all the rich and powerful can go to this hotel. I want to see many high buildings [like this] in Phnom Penh because it helps develop the country. It will help to draw tourists to visit and invest in the country. I want to stand up there and look at the landscapes.
Hang Meas concert hall
I like Hang Meas concert hall because it has so many performances by popular stars. This week for Water Festival was the first time I went there, to watch Pich Sophea. She’s one of my favourites because she sings a lot of rap songs. I will go back to see DJ David – he and Pich Sophea are a couple and they always sing together. I know [the concert hall] from seeing it on TV, and I was very happy when I saw it, because it has a huge stage and I could see popular stars face to face. People have their own opinions about the modern stars, but I feel very happy when I see Pich Sophea and DJ David.
Club Sabay Sabay
In Chak Angre Krom commune, there’s a club called Sabay Sabay. It’s my favourite nightclub in the city. There’s always a lot of people there on Saturday and Sunday. You’ll find people from Phnom Penh but also from Kandal province who go there. The music is good, they always play sweet songs. So this is my top place to dance, it’s also close to my home, which I like – so I don’t drive drunk. I started going to the club four months ago. I do not think that this [negatively] affects Cambodia’s culture and tradition because I can go to relax and have fun. It is up to the eyes of the beholder.
I really like to go out on Koh Pich, especially near the Naga bridge, where I hang out with friends. It’s a good place for having a drink. I usually go there on a Sunday. I think it’s a good place to get fresh air, it’s always fairly windy there. There are youth . . . there are exhibitions, shows and lots of free gifts. And [the] environment and atmosphere is very pretty, with tall buildings. But sometimes there is fighting there. I also witnessed the stampede incident that killed hundreds of people – I still worry about safety there.