The streets of Siem Reap are quieter this week. It’s P’chum Ben, the biggest holiday in Cambodia and a time when families get together, people return to their hometown and visit pagodas to offer thanks and most importantly, to feed the hungry ghosts.
This Buddhist festival is held over two weeks in the tenth month of the Khmer lunar calendar and is also referred to as the Ancestor Festival.
Cambodians believe the spirits of their ancestors return to earth during this time and people must feed their ancestors to prevent them going hungry. It is common for people to visit many pagodas during this period because the ancestors wander, so they have a greater chance of finding the food offered to them if it is left in multiple places. The monks bless the food and make sure it reaches the dead.
This time is also school holidays in Australia, which means it is a busy time for VBC. We have three house builds this week, so the team is working through this holiday.
To ensure everyone got to visit pagodas and take part in ceremonies honouring their ancestors, Sinn organised a staff day out on Saturday. We visited seven pagodas, offering food and drink and receiving blessings from the monks while wishing all is well for our families.
There was lots of fun and frivolity along the way, with everyone piled into the back of VBC’s new truck as we headed out into the countryside. Sinn likes to try and find the poorest pagodas where the food is needed most.
We finished the afternoon with a picnic at West Baray, about 12km from Siem Reap. The team cooked a mountain of amazing food, stir-fried vegetables, chicken soup, grilled fish and pork. And of course, there was a big speaker and karaoke. It’s just not Cambodia without loud music and singing.
Happy P’chum Ben to all our friends and family.