Launched to great fanfare six years ago in Sihanoukville to mark Cambodia’s membership of the elite 1,000 Most Beautiful Bays in the World club, the annual Sea Festival marks a culturally significant mass movement in the national calendar traditionally reserved for special celebratory events embedded in the Kingdom’s way of life.
The three-day festival this year moved to Kep after Sihanoukville hosted in 2016.
Two years ago, Kep and Kampot held the festival after Koh Kong’s turn in 2014, completing the country’s nearly 1,600km coastal circuit. The festivities were cancelled in 2012 following the death of King Father Norodom Sihanouk in October of that year.
The Paris-based Les Plus Belles Baies du Monde, at its seventh general assembly in Senegal in May 2011, accepted Cambodia as the newest member of the Most Beau-tiful Bays in the World club.
Proclaimed by the Ministry of Tourism as one of the biggest national initiatives to celebrate coastal and marine life, the festivities included a spectacular mix of music, acrobatic sports, cycling, triathlon, traditional fighting bouts, mixed martial arts, aquatic adventures, local and international cuisine, fireworks and makeshift shopping arcades covering a whole range of Cambodian products.
PM visits Kep
Thousands of people from near and far took part in the three-day carnival, though the overall numbers were decidedly much smaller than the crowds that had been seen at other venues in previous years.
Secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Vath Chamroeun said the response from the public on Saturday evening was nearly as big as those that had been seen at other festivals.
“Certain logistical factors like scattered venues and access to Kep, and local transport issues may have impacted the crowd size but, overall, we are happy that the festival went well and we had more events this time than in any of the previous five years,” Chamroeun told The Post.
“It is important that we protect and preserve our pristine beaches and there is no better stage for conveying this message to our people than through an annual festival like this,” said National Olympic Committee of Cambodia President and Tourism Minister Thong Khon, who gave away prizes to the winners of several events.
Prime Minister Hun Sen attended the formal inauguration of the festival on Saturday evening.
The premier visited several booths set up at various parts of the festival and opened an official FBT sportswear shop. FBT in association with NagaWorld have been Cambodia’s partners in major regional and international events in the supply of competition and training gear for the Kingdom’s athletes.
As in previous years, traditional and adventure sport events attracted the most attention from the public.
The introduction of mixed martial arts added a new dimension, while the intensely popular Kun Khmer bouts drew big crowds. One fun-filled highlight of the festival was when three rounds of boxing were held with the boxers blindfolded.
Water-related sports were once again watched with great excitement, with the organisers adding surfing to jetskiing and water gliding.
As usual, cycling was enthusiastically followed as was triathlon, biathlon and aquathlon.
Asia Euro University donated four year-scholarships for winners of the various events.
The newly formed Cambodian Sailing Federation seized the opportunity to hold an event of their own for their sailors.
Beach volleyball and wrestling were among the last of the events that brought the annual show to an end.