Bon Om Touk – or Water Festival – falls on Nov. 2 to 4 and will see Phnom Penh’s riverside packed with crowds of Cambodians who flock to the capital to watch the three days of colourful boat racing. This month, AsiaLIFE highlights some of the best spots to watch the races – with plenty of time to book a prime place.
Le Moon Rooftop Lounge
Perched atop Amanjaya hotel, Le Moon offers pristine views of the boat racing and the fireworks display that follows. Its prime position overlooking the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers means the spacious open-air rooftop fills up quickly. The bar and restaurant often puts on drinks and food specials during the festival, and guests are advised to book a table ahead of the races to ensure they secure the best views of both the racing and the crowds swarming below. And with the festival coinciding with the full moon of the Buddhist calendar month of Kadeuk, Le Moon is a great place to watch the sunset from behind while the shimmering moon rises ahead. Magical.
Amanjaya Pancam Hotel, #1 Street 154, Sisowath Quay, Riverfront, Phnom Penh
To get a true taste of the celebratory spirit, braving the crowds on the riverfront is the most obvious place to be. With the area pedestrianised for the three days, it quickly fills with crowds jostling for a peek of the boats slicing through the water, and this is where the atmosphere is at its highest. Viewers cheer and shout on the boats, sellers flog everything from balloons and snacks to drinks and other random trinkets. However, this comes with a warning because – unless you wake ahead of the crack of dawn – securing front row action can be tricky, with the area commonly packed like sardines. So, if you’re agoraphobic, or just hate been sandwiched in the middle of a sweaty pack of people, then this probably isn’t the best place to be.
Bellevue Serviced Apartments
To escape the masses, then crossing the Japanese Friendship Bridge to Chroy Changvar is an alternative. While the peninsula is gaining in popularity, it still remains peaceful in comparison to the city center stretch of riverside. For those looking to make the most out of the three-day holiday while enjoying a slice of luxury, then why not team up with a few friends and check into Bellevue Serviced Apartments? Of course, we’re not suggesting you invest in a new home, but a quick search on Google will flag up some affordable nightly rates to enjoy watching the races from the stylish sky garden, sky lounge or simply lounging about next to the infinity pool, which overlooks the Tonle Sap River.
Le Grand Mekong Hotel
Having recently undergone a revamp, Le Grand Mekong Hotel sits on a stretch of Sisowath Quay a little further north from Le Moon. Taking in a sprawling contemporary space, the hotel’s Sky Bar, which also serves food, is less off the grid than Le Moon, meaning finding a seat should be easier – however, booking ahead during this busy time again comes recommended. The hotel offers a range of tables and chairs, and from this lofty perch guests can catch the cool breeze while sitting among tropical flora and kicking back a cool beer, refreshing smoothie or sundowner cocktail, leaving the chaos that is playing out below to another world.
Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residences
Another top spot on Chroy Changvar peninsular is Sokha hotel, with its multiple facilities offering a range of viewpoints across the Tonle Sap and a prime slice of the action. On the 20th floor, the Tonle Sap Bar boasts 360 degree views, taking in the capital’s cityscape and surrounding areas. The rooftop Mekong Bar, on an elevated section of the 20th floor, is another option but is for private parties only so book ahead if this tickles your fancy. To watch the races from ground level in a more soothing environment, then why not lounge around the hotel’s 1,650msq swimming pool and enjoy a cocktail, or three, and some snacks from Chaktomuk Poolbar?