New Year's Eve in Siem Reap
During our three-week journey across Southeast Asia, we celebrated New Year's Eve in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Are you curious to hear about our experience?
To be honest, I was also curious myself. While we were planning the trip, a question popped up: do they celebrate the new year on January 1st in Cambodia? Or do they follow a different calendar where the new year starts on a different date? It was something we wanted to find out.
If you're reading this blog post, you may be wondering why we chose Siem Reap as our destination for New Year's Eve. The truth is, we didn't actually choose it - it was simply part of the itinerary for our trip.
We were traveling in a group of two families - four adults and three children - and we all live ordinary lives in Brazil, with work and school commitments, so we have limited vacation days. To make the most of our trip and ensure it was worth the long journey, we took advantage of the Christmas and New Year holidays to gain some extra time off. As we planned our itinerary through Southeast Asia, Siem Reap was assigned to this stage of the trip by chance, and we had no insider information or preferences about New Year's Eve in Cambodia.
When is New Year celebrated in Cambodia?
As I mentioned previously here, during our trip to Cambodia we were fortunate enough to have an excellent guide named Samir, who spoke fluent Portuguese (the first language of our daughters) and greatly contributed to our enjoyable and unforgettable experience in the country.
Samir informed us that according to the Cambodian calendar, the New Year is celebrated on April 13th or 14th, in a festival known as Bon Chol Chhnam Thmei, which lasts for three days. This celebration traditionally marks the end of the harvest season and is the country's most important holiday.
We got really disapointed - but not for long! Samir also explained that due to the worldwide standardization of the calendar and the large influx of tourists that visit Cambodia (of which the country, and specially Siem Reap,is highly dependent), there is also a New Year's celebration on December 31st. Cambodians celebrate not only Western New Year but also Chinese New Year and their own Cambodian New Year festivities 🎉🎉🎉."
Pub Street is where New Year's Eve celebrations take place in Siem Reap.
New Years on Pub Street
After an intense day of visiting the temples at Angkor Wat (including watching the sunrise, as I mentioned here), we took a mandatory afternoon nap to recharge for the night's festivities.
By 9 pm, when we arrived at the Pub Street area, it was already packed with people. Despite the electronic music blaring at full volume, we attempted to enter Pub Street but found it nearly impossible due to the crowds. Instead, we took a quick look and decided to explore the surrounding streets.
All of the streets surrounding Pub Street were closed to vehicles and filled with pedestrians, including locals, tourists, and families with children. Food stalls were scattered throughout, and street vendors sold all kinds of drinks. We were able to easily find cold beer at affordable prices, with a standard-sized can running between US$0.50 and US$1.00. Though we decided not to join the throngs inside Pub Street, we still had a great time exploring the lively atmosphere of the surrounding area.
At midnight, the speakers on Pub Street counted down to the new year and a shower of blue and red balloons rained down on the cheering crowd. However, to our disappointment, there were no fireworks to be seen or heard.
After the celebration, the surrounding streets began to empty quickly while Pub Street continued at a frenetic pace. Despite the lively atmosphere, we were exhausted from the long day of sightseeing and didn't stay out for long before returning to our hotel to rest
Where to stay in Siem Reap
The most convenient area to stay in Siem Reap is around Pub Street. This bustling street is surrounded by blocks filled with bars, restaurants, travel agencies, souvenir shops, and various essential services like pharmacies, laundry, massage parlors, and currency exchange centers.
During our stay, we had the pleasure of staying at the Golden Temple Hotel, which was the best hotel we stayed at during our entire trip to Southeast Asia. Despite not being the most expensive option, it exceeded our expectations in every way. The rooms were spacious and comfortable, the pool was delightful, and the breakfast was fantastic. However, what made our stay truly exceptional was the impeccable service provided by the hotel staff. They were incredibly attentive, helpful, and proactive, going above and beyond to assist us with everything we needed. I highly recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Siem Reap
How to get around Siem Reap
Siem Reap is an easy and safe town to navigate.
As with most Asian cities, the traffic can be chaotic with motorcycles and tuk-tuks everywhere, and sidewalks filled with everything except pedestrians. However, after a few days, you get used to it.
We were able to walk to most places, except for Phare Circus and the National Museum of Angkor, which we reached by tuk-tuk, and the temples of Angkor, which we visited with a tour van. In this post, I have shared all the details about what to do in Siem Reap and how to get around.
Want to know more about Cambodia? Check out our post on what to do in Siem Reap and our complete 3-week itinerary in Southeast Asia.
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