Chinese new year 2023, the year of the rabbit, Jan 22nd
Chinese new year 2022, the year of the tiger, Feb 1st
Chinese new year celebrations, also known as Spring Festival, starts on the evening preceding the new moon of the first lunar month & runs until the full moon, coinciding with Tet, the Vietnamese new year.
In Cambodia, this festival is not a public holiday, although a large proportion of Khmers will participate in the celebrations, many having Chinese ancestors. Officially it’s business as usual, however visitors may notice many places closed. Locals with ancestors from China will often return to their homeland and celebrate with their families.
For the photographer, you will witness increased activity in the Chinese pagodas, easily identified with the Chinese writing and different style to that of the Khmer pagodas. Visitors peak on the eve of the first day. A notable place to be is Wat Phnom in the capital, Phnom Penh, where crowds gather to see in the new year. Here you will witness a rich array of culture, incense sticks, candles, releasing birds for good luck & the burning of fake money for their ancestors.
Throughout the country there will be numerous dragon dance performances, the dragon being the symbol of China. Wealthy families will hire a team of performers to dance outside their houses, bringing good luck, enjoyed by passers by, well worth a look. There are a few places in Phnom Penh with quite large performances, just keep your ears & eyes open. These performances also happens In the countryside but on a smaller scale. Dancing dragons, along with fire crackers, it’s great if you stumble upon this, camera in hand.
Other things to note. Increased visitors it the Angkor Wat complex, but unlike Songkran (Khmer new year), it does not affect our photography workshops. Also, many Chinese & Khmer will head to the coast in great numbers, notably Sihanoukville*, which will inflate accommodation prices. Expect beaches to be busy with mostly Chinese.
We are expecting large numbers of Khmer, many have Chinese ancestors, here in Siem Reap. Many will come for an extended week / weekend to see the new roads and re-opening of pub street. Tourism remains low. Visitors to Angkor can expect the main temple, Angkor Wat, to be busy, other temples will probably be quiet. Expect traffic congestion early evening as locals return from Angkor.
With the ongoing Chinese funded development in Sihanoukville, this town is now out of favour with expats, tourists and Khmer. The mass construction of casinos and property investment projects have changed this place. Construction continues but at a lesser pace since the pandemic. Chinese gamblers and workers reman but in smaller numbers than before, with some investments drying up. The locals are looking for alternatives, Kampot, also Angkor Wat are getting busy around this time. If you are heading to Sihanoukville during Chinese new year, the Islands are your best alternative.
You may also like Visiting Cambodia during Khmer new year
Check out these 6 stunning photographs of Angkor Wat.
Got a few hours to spare before your flight? Check THIS GUIDE for where to wonder in Siemreap with your camera to pass a few hours.