Yesterday officially marked the beginning of the rice growing season which is celebrated with the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. It also marks the beginning of the rainy season and boy did it rain. Two hours of rain in the afternoon was enough to flood the roads and without a decent drainage system in place my usual 20 minute tuk tuk ride from work to my home took about 50 minutes. At one stage I was worried our tuk tuk might be sinking and my colleague Alison and I were wondering if it comes with a life-vest. We started imagining all kinds of horror scenarios of us having to walk through the water being attacked by rats or snakes, but luckily we made it home safely. Even though a few motos struggled and did actually sink the locals seemed to be completely unfazed by the flooding and they just followed their daily routines as if nothing has happened. They just took off their flip flops, put on a poncho and off they went.
To officially celebrate the beginning of the rice growing season the Royal Family in Phnom Penh celebrated the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony. During the ceremony sacred oxen are hitched to a wooden plough and they plough a furrow in a ceremonial ground. After the ploughing, the oxen are offered plates of food, including rice, corn, green beans, sesame, fresh-cut grass, water and rice whisky. Most oxens go straight for the rice whisky as you can imagine, and then if they are not too drunk they may also manage to eat something (the Englishman’s equivalent of a kebab). Depending on what they eat, court astrologers make a prediction on whether the coming growing season will be bountiful or not. But bad omens can also be a part of the predictions. If the oxen drinks too much water for example, it may be a signal of flooding. I wonder what happens if they drink too much rice whiskey?
We have been very lucky to see the Royal Ploughing ceremony up very close. So close in fact that we were sitting only a few meters away from the Royal Family. Don’t ask me how we managed to do that. We were just wondering around the compound and a security guard asked us if we wanted to sit near the Royal Familiy in the shade. Maybe we looked particulalry sweaty and he took pity on us, but we were certainly very grateful to be able to witness the Royal Ploughing Ceremony up so close.
A member of the royal family is being carried to the festivities
Protected by the royal guards
The beginning of the ploughing action
The all important oxens (still sober at this point)
The ground is being blessed by various people, monks, priests and the Royal Family
Have you ever attended a Royal Ploughing Ceremony before? Or have you managed to get VIP treatment during your travels? I would love to hear about it in the comment section below!
Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.
We are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between us we are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. In 2011 we left the rat-race in London behind to work in international development and see the world.