Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Capital residents skip town in droves for Water Festival

Capital residents skip town in droves for Water Festival

Capital residents skip town in droves for Water Festival

13-story-124.jpg
13-story-124.jpg

Massive crowds, road accidents and pollution in Phnom Penh drove many cityfolk to favour getaways in Sihanoukville, Siem Reap

Photo by:
Tracey Shelton

Throngs of partygoers in Phnom Penh on the riverside. Cambodians are increasingly turning to Sihanoukville and Siem Reap to celebrate the Water Festival where crowds are thinner.

TRAVEL and tourism industry officials say a growing number of Phnom Penh residents this year have shunned the capital's Water Festival, choosing instead less frenetic environments offered by Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.

Government authorities estimated that as many as four million visitors would visit the capital to mark this year's Water Festival, packing the banks of the Tonle Sap to view the dragon boat races and choking traffic at intersections throughout the city.

However, hotels in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, which also host Water Festival celebrations, reported record bookings.

Eng Panharith, owner of My Home guesthouse in Siem Reap's Phsar Krom commune, said he has turned away customers and referred them to friends' guesthouses because he could not accommodate the nearly 100 people trying to book rooms with him.

"The number of customers here has doubled or tripled the normal number, which is about 40 percent or 50 percent occupancy," he said.

"Most of them have arrived from Phnom Penh. I've already turned away 28 people."

Hut Sokim, 25, a booking agent at a Phnom Penh-based travel company, spent this year's festival in Sihanoukville with friends to escape the holiday bustle.

"We didn't want to stay in Phnom Penh because it gets so crowded with traffic everywhere," she said.

"We never stay at home during the Water Festival because the pollution [in Phnom Penh] gets so bad."

So Vong, 48, teaches primary school in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district.

He and his family returned to their home province of Battambang to spend the three-day holiday in a more relaxed environment.

"Phnom Penh gets so congested with all the crowds, and there are so many traffic accidents," he said.

"I can watch the festival on television at my home if I want, or my family and I can visit local temples, hike in the forest and enjoy the beautiful landscape of our province."

Phnom Penh has attracted record crowds, but the increase in arrivals in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville outpaced the capital, said tourism sources.

Lorn Thin, supervisor of the Jasmine Hotel in Sihanoukville, said he has also seen a spike in business during the festival.

No vacancies

Jasmine's 55 rooms have been booked solid through the festival, while normal capacity generally runs between 18 and 20 rooms.

"While the number of foreign tourists has decreased recently ... local tourists have increased during the Water Festival," he said.

"Most of my customers have come from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Ratanakkiri and other provinces," he added.

Reaksmey Sreynaph, a ticket vendor with the Paramount Tour Co, said passenger loads on buses from the capital to Siem Reap have risen nearly 50 percent, with buses running at full capacity compared with other times of the year.

"We have four departures from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap each day, and every bus has been full during the festival," she said.

Meas Rotana, who sells tickets for the Sorya Transport Co in Phnom Penh, said she has also seen increasing numbers of passengers buying tickets for Sihanoukville.

"I think more people in Phnom Penh are looking to spend the holiday in an environment with fresh air, where they can relax with family or friends," she said.

No government figures were available on the exact number of arrivals in Siem Reap or Sihanoukville.

Tourism Ministry authorities were unavailable for comment.

MOST VIEWED

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said

  • CPP: ‘Behave or Sokha suffers’

    The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman warned Kem Monovithya on Thursday that her attempt to damage “national reputation and prestige” would lead to her father, Kem Sokha, receiving even harsher punishment. Sok Eysan issued the warning as Monovithya, who is the court dissolved

  • Preah Sihanouk beach developments halted

    After receiving an order from Hun Sen, Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara led a team of experts and relevant officials to Sihanoukville to call a halt to the illegal development of a beach. The prime minister ordered the Prek Treng beach in Otres commune