Happy New Year from Cambodia!
Suo sdey charm thmey!
Happy New Year from the Kingdom of Wonder, our first time celebrating it abroad and with new found friends. It has been a quiet week here at work since we’re busy with year end events. Most of my colleagues had planned for a trip to Sihanoukville, Kampot and Siem Reap for the New Year celebrations while we decided to stay on in the city. Bart had won a lucky draw ticket prize to the New Years’ Eve Dinner Buffet in Himawari (worth $85) and that’s where we spent the night while waiting for the fireworks to light up the sky.
Dinner under the lights and stars.
Himawari is located on the Riverside and its’ buffet spread was arranged outdoors where we would dine under the stars, facing the Mekong River. Dinner started as early as 6pm and we were seated together with Barts’ colleague named Jeremy who is a South Korean but speaks fluent American English (with the slang and everything). He brought along his Khmer friend Hou who explained to me a few Khmer culture as we chatted through the night.
Hou explained that girls are not allowed to go out late at night to the clubs or with the boyfriends as it is frowned upon by their families. They would go out at night and must return home by 8pm if they are staying with their family. Public display of affection is also frowned upon by the older Khmers as it seen as rude behavior. When he mentioned this to me, I am reminded of my road trip to Kelantan where girls are rarely seen out at night after 8pm.
The buffet dinner consists of cakes, desserts following to the Season Greetings theme, seafood salad (with generous amount of salmon), sushi bar, grilled seafood crabs, calamari, fishes, oysters, fried rice, frog soup (yes frog soup), fruit platter and others. I had most of the salmon, salads, sushi and the grilled seafood. At first I thought the hotel was serving mushroom soup until I asked them and it turned out to be frog soup which I passed on to Jeremy. He didn’t mind it one bit.
Entertainment throughout the night.
We had many hours to go before midnight and we were entertained with hip hop dance performances, street magic show, live band performance, belly dancing performance, not forgetting the lucky draw. Halfway through the night the live band sang a popular Khmer song and the locals started to crowd in front of the stage area dancing to the cultural tune. They filed a single line forming a circle and swayed left to right, arms and fingers curving upwards, feet moving front and back. This dance can be seen during wedding or formal events and it is definitely a local favorite. Foreigners including Jeremy joined in for a few minutes together with the rest of the guests.
The sponsors for the night gave away Hello Kitty hampers from Sanrio as well as hotel stays in Siem Reap totaling to $1,047 (for the grand lucky draw). We were all hoping to win something but our luck was out as guests including children went up the stage to collect their prizes. It was all in good fun.
Midnight arrived and fireworks flared the sky.
It was close to midnight when I saw guests holding on to long thin tube-like fireworks in the air. We didn’t manage to get any of our own so we opened up the goodie bag and found a few packs of sparklers for the night. When the countdown began, guests started lighting up the fireworks pointing it towards the sky and out shot colorful sparks of red and yellow. Even the boats on the Mekong River were lit up with their own fireworks. A few seconds later large fireworks burst into the sky above us and it felt like they were sprinkled around me. We wished each other Happy New Year, all the best, luck and happiness for 2015 and watched as the sky slowly turned dark again.
About Yafieda Jamil
A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.