Sunday, 2 October 2011

Welcome To Cambodia: Travel to coast down during Pchum Ben

Pchum Ben (Khmer: បុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ)("Ancestors' Day") is a Cambodian religious festival, culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer Calendar. In 2008, the national holiday fell on the 28th - 30th of September in the Gregorian calendar. And for this year, 2011, the Pchum Ben fell on from 26th to 28th of September.


The day is a time when many Cambodians pay their respects to deceased relatives. Monks chant the Mantras in Pali language overnight (continuously, without sleeping) in prelude to the gates of hell opening, an event that is presumed to occur once a year, and is linked to the cosmology of King Yama originating in the Pali Canon. During the period of the gates of hell being opened, ghosts of the dead are presumed to be especially active, and thus food-offerings are made to benefit them, some of these ghosts having the opportunity to end their period of purgation, whereas others are imagined to leave hell temporarily, to then return to endure more suffering; without much explanation, relatives who are not in hell (who are in heaven or otherwise reincarnated) are also generally imagined to benefit from the ceremonies.

In temples adhering to canonical protocol, the offering of food itself is made from the laypeople to the (living) Buddhist monks, thus generating "merit" that indirectly benefits the dead; however, in many temples, this is either accompanied by or superseded by food offerings that are imagined to directly transfer from the living to the dead, such as rice-balls thrown through the air, or rice thrown into an empty field. Anthropologist Satoru Kobayashi observed that these two models of merit-offering to the dead are in competition in rural Cambodia, with some temples preferring the greater canonicity of the former model, and others embracing the popular (if unorthodox) assumption that mortals can "feed" ghosts with physical food.

Pchum Ben is considered unique to Cambodia, however, there are merit-transference ceremonies that can be closely compared to it in Sri Lanka (i.e., benefitting the ghosts of the dead), and, in its broad outlines, it even resembles the Taiwanese Ghost Festival (i.e., especially in its links to the notion of a calendrical opening of the gates of hell, King Yama, and so on).

Travel to coast down during Pchum Ben

According Phnompenhpost posted on Friday, 30 September 2011...the number of tourists to Cambodia dropped down during the three days Pchum Ben 2011...

Bad weather scared tourists from Cambodian beaches and other popular travel destinations during a three-day national holiday, provincial tourism officials said yesterday.

Preah Sihanouk province saw a 30 to 35 per cent drop in tourist numbers during the Pchum Ben holiday, which ended Wednesday, Seng Kha, deputy director of the province’s Tourism Department, said. He attributed the decrease to heavy rains.

Torrential downpours have deluged Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces for weeks. The floods have killed 97 people and have affected about 90,000 families countrywide, the Post reported yesterday.

“Bad weather, rains and storms have made it difficult for people to take tours this year,” Bin Biev, director of Koh Kong province’s Tourism Department, said yesterday.

About 20 per cent fewer tourists visited Koh Kong province during the holiday, he said. Foreign guests at some hotels increased, however. Hang Dara, owner of Koh Kong Resort Hotel, told the Post that international tourist numbers grew during the spell of poor weather. Local tourist declined.

Floods are not the only factor keeping travellers at home, Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodian Associations of Travel Agents, said yesterday. Although floods may be the main factor dissuading travel, high food and transportation prices are also deterrents, he said.

“Last year, vendors in Preah Sihanouk province increased food prices which made some guests unhappy,” he said.


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