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Fireworks at Angkor Wat

Diane-Ayres
The lighting on the night created an almost surreal effect. Photograph: Diane Ayres/Phnom Penh Post

Angkor Wat was lit up and showered in fireworks on Saturday night for the ASEAN plus Three Cultural Performance: Unity in Diversity, commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of ASEAN plus Three Cooperation.

The night was also in honour of Siem Reap itself, which was recognised as the cultural city of East Asia 2012 during an announcement at the thirteenth ASEAN plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Phnom Penh on July 10.

Hundreds of people turned up to watch nearly 200 dancers performing traditional dances representing each of the ten ASEAN countries, as well as the Plus Three member states, China, Japan and South Korea.

The night was one of two occasions organised by the Ministry of Tourism to mark the anniversary, the other being the ASEAN plus Three Youth Leaders’ Symposium held in Phnom Penh in October.

According the Ministry, one of the main aims of Unity in Diversity was to, “Enhance the efforts of ASEAN and the Plus Three countries to raise awareness of the people in the region through cultural exchanges.”

Walking down the causeway lit up with tiny spotlights into Angkor Wat itself was to walk into something that was magical and quite surreal. Still more surreal was to see the three great domes of Angkor changing from green to yellow, the covered walkway floodlit, and six great beams of light illuminating the sky.

The night kicked off at 6pm with speeches from various dignitaries including Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, before a stunning firework display opened the cultural performance.

Angkor Wat was bathed in green and pink light as the first of the thirteen performances began, with Apsara dancers taking to the stage to represent Cambodia. During the performance, other Apsara dancers posed inside alcoves between the pillars, creating a wonderful backdrop of living statues. This marrying together of living figures framed among the ancient stones was a sight that truly sent shivers down the spine.

The audience, comprised of both westerners and Khmers, was then treated to dance performances from Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, China and South Korea.

Standout performances included the Indonesian dancers, complete with Javanese masks. Also exhilarating was the contribution from the Philippines – four dances were performed from different regions, including some energetic high-kicking from the male troupe.

Firm favourites were the Malaysia performers, who lit up the stage with spectacular music, colour and energy almost reminiscent of a West End musical.

Overall, the night was well-received, with phrases like, “fantastic,” “unforgettable,” and “once in a lifetime” being bandied around.

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