To celebrate the Pchum Ben festival, the Royal Government of Cambodia allowed all Cambodian people and expatriates to pause their work and studies and travel to their hometowns to celebrate this, one of the biggest religious festivals in Cambodia. In order to give you a picture of this national celebration, I'd like to share a bit about Pchum Ben, in which the elderly and ancestors are highly respected in Cambodia and are honored every year during an important religious event called Pchum Ben, or Ancestor Day. “Pchum”, means “to gather together”, and “Ben”, a “ball of food”. During this festival, the souls of the ancestors trapped in the spirit world due to bad karma are temporarily released to find their living relatives and repent. Living relatives will visit pagodas (temples) to pray for them and bring food through the monks. It is believed that if spirits do not see relatives bringing food for them, they will wish their relatives bad luck. This year is really special as I went to my hometown to visit my parents and my grandparents and gather all of my siblings. We actually had a big dinner with Khmer BBQ, and it was the first time ever that we had this moment, as I am 22 years old. Having a good time with my family was my purpose for visiting my hometown, but collecting fruit and vegetables from my parent's garden is another enjoyable activity. And of course, we made food and Ansom, which is a Khmer cake that is used during the Pchum Ben celebration.
During the first day of the Pchum Ben celebration, CRST also had a special event to gather all CRST students in Siem Reap to make Ansom and bring food to two different pagodas in Siem Reap town. Intentionally, I was persuaded to celebrate this for two different reasons: one is for solidarity gathering in this special event, and two is to preserve Khmer culture and let the new generation understand and learn the rich culture of Khmer. Remarkably, I invited my mother, our sawing ladies, and a few CRST recipients' mothers to participate in this event too. We had breakfast together, and everyone was very active in learning to make different kinds of Ansom and Khmer cakes. And truly, some of our team don't know how to make it. 😁 Honestly, the cake and Ansom were so delicious, we prepared it for the monk and then shared it with our students' parents and themselves.
After spending two days in my hometown, I traveled with my sister and brother-in-law on my motorbike with some fruit and crops that my parents planted in Pusat province, which is my brother-in-law's hometown. To reach my brother-in-law's hometown, I had to spend almost a day traveling from Siem Reap across Banteay Meanchey province, Battambong province, and Pusat town. It was the greatest trip ever, even though it took a long time to reach the destination. I had opportunities to ride my motorcycle from one town to another town, taste and eat different local cuisine, and have a look at three provincial geographical indications, including Battambong rice, Nem, which is one of the well-known Khmer delicacies of raw spiced fish wrapped up in banana leaves, mixed with many other ingredients, Pusat orange, and Battambang grapefruit. What I can notice in the food made in this province is that it is kind of spicy as it is influenced by Thailand nearby. Additionally, I went to different tourist destinations, including Sampeou Mountain-Battambang, the floating village of Kompong Luong, Sompov Meas Island in Pusat, and a statue of Khleang Moeung, the warrior spirit of Cambodia in Pusat. Spending three days traveling was a memorable experience as it was only a happy moment, but when I came back to Siem Reap, it was raining cats and dogs, so it was really difficult to see the road clearly as my glasses were covered by the drops of rain, and truly, I cannot drive without glasses. I really considered it as a life lesson that life is both a sad and joyful experience.