Traditional Event at Preah Vihear Sour Pagoda
This article describes the traditional and popular annual horse and buffalo racing at the well-known Preah Vihear Sour pagoda at the big day of the Pchum Ben Festival – an event – no one wants to miss.
For those who come directly from Phnom Penh, they probably have to get up very early considering the travel time and the starting time of the event at 7am. If you know Cambodian Japanese Friendship Bridge (Chroy Changva Bridge), you can find the Preah Vihear Sour Pagoda. You just need to travel (via taxi or motorbike) along the National Road #6. Come straight until you see a big newly built Prek Tamak Bridge which is about 40km from the city. You cross the bridge and go straight (about 15km) until we find the old gate of the pagoda on your left hand. By that time, you might see many people both young and adult want toward one direction-to the annual race which people from Vihear Sour are deeply proud about.
When we arrived at the scene, keep touring around the many temples later, what you should do is to ensure a good spot to be able to have a great view of the exciting event. There is one tip. Usually, there are a few professional photographers who go there to take great the colorful and decorative racers (I mean the buffaloes and the horses). If you are curious enough, follow them! As professionals, they know exactly where to take good pictures.
What you might see is the racers with yellow/golden decorative design on their heads with their men on top, moving to the starting point through a narrow road where there are two rows of houses along. When the time come has come, you must see one by one of the racers moving toward the finish point under the cheer of the crowd.
Usually, there is a committee who give some little money as reward to those racers who win the game.
What you should do:
- Take some photographs: you can ask for photographs with the racers. It is not an offense at all if you want to donate a few thousand riels/1$ to the competitors.
- After the race, go to the biggest temple. The sacred temple is believed to have great power where you can pray for almost anything from having a baby to the success of your business. You do not need to believe. Just have a try and pray. There is no disadvantage of doing that.
- Go to feed the fish at the big lake on the eastern of the pagoda compound
Not long after we got our best stance, there were more decorated buffaloes with their proud riders. With yellow clothes over their heads, the riders were not all from Vihear Sour village but some of them came from nearby villages and from as far as Kampong Cham province.
As the rising sun cleared the limited cloud, there were so many people young and old coming over that it was enough to make us feel worried whether we could still have a clear view of the race.
Before the race started, all of the riders and racers (the animals) directed to a sacred place to pay their prayers and asked for victory. The animals indeed did not want to come close to humans and were very irritated with the too-many cameras spotting on “The praying time before dawn”.
There was a little boy who liked to show off. He was on his little white pony trying to gain the cheer from the crowds. Poor pony was just too obedient…. but poor the pony… I bet he wanted to rebel.
As excitement grew stronger….racers came back and forth so that animals get used to the muddy roads while people were cheering. People applauded the racers and animals as if they were welcoming Hollywood stars. How awesome!
Actually, the race was finished without our realization. People were so ready to get dirty on the Friday morning, the final day of Pchum Ben festival. Sure we will come again next year.