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The biggest and most impressive festivals in Cambodia is the celebrated water festival, called Bonn Om Touk. This festival celebrates the beginning of the fishing season and the change of current in the Tonle Sap River. The three-day festival during November brings more than a million faithful spectators to the center of Phnom Penh, overlooking the river. During the day, hundreds of colorful, fabulously decorated long boats, pushed by 40 to 50 men, compete down the river. At the head of the boats are gold naga, water serpents. These races are in remembrance of the skilled and powerful navy of King Jayavarman II, the 9th-century founder of the great Angkorian Empire. During the night there are revelers and fireworks, as the boats float on display for the public.
The festival of Bonn Pchum Ben is held in late September or October. This is a festival for remembering those who have passed away and is participated by whole families. For 15 days, the families make various offerings and alms to the Buddhist monks, like sweets and savory goods. Then on the 15 th day, at night under the full moon, families give offerings to the Silver Pagoda, in memory of the deceased. During Phcum Benh, the city of Phnom Penh is mostly deserted as many of the locals would return to their homeland provinces away from the city.
Also in October is the celebration of the Kings Birthday, which is a national holiday. The city comes alive with fireworks displays along the river. Onlookers flock to the Royal Palace, which is open to the public that day.
There is an art festival held in April at the front of the National Museum, called Val Menh in the heart of the city. The event is free, open to locals and visitors alike, that displays Cambodian performers, musicians, actors and artists.