Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cambodia - A Wedding in Dry Season (Kompong Khleang)

Few weeks back, I was in Siem Reap for my temple hopping. During those time, I noticed numerous colorful tents around the area. It was wedding season according to Moori, my tuk-tuk driver. Oh well, nothing special I thought. What surprised me was when he added that after few months or during rainy season, you would seldom see couples getting married. I was curious because what so special with dry season that local couples would prefer to get married under sweltering heat of the sun whereas in Philippines many would like to become June bride even if this month falls within rainy season. I couldn't help myself thus I asked him. He simply replied that during rainy season, you don't have place to hold any celebration due to overflowing of Tonle Sap river. I beg your pardon?

I was given a brief geographical lecture by Moori. According to him, Siem Reap is near to Tonle Sap river and it swells during rainy season engulfing the fields, open areas, roads and sometimes even downtown Siem Reap. In relation to our friendly discussion, he asked me if I would be interested to attend to his friend's wedding. Curiosity got the best of me. It was a delightful and unforgettable experience to attend a wedding during dry season in Kampong Khleang.

We left my hotel at around 6 AM and fetched his brother. It took almost an hour before we reach the wedding area. On our way, I have noticed the stilted houses and some of them were built on 10 meters stilts. The stilted houses have confirmed what Moori has told me, dry season is truly wedding season at Siem Reap.


the invitation

In all those wedding banquets, colorful decorations adorn the improvised tents. You can even find overhead fans installed inside the tents. Chairs and tables are well covered and arranged for numerous guests. In this wedding, I counted the guests to reach a couple of hundreds. Actually, even without seeing the banquets you will be aware about the wedding due to loudspeakers that blast the ceremony, speeches and the music that will entice the guests to dance after the reception. Anybody can dance, actually it was more of a group dance. As expected, my newfound friends coerced me to join them but dancing was not my turf.

the huge improvised tents
speakers underneath stilted house

The actual wedding ceremony lasted for several hours in one of the couple's nearby house. I was given a chance to take photos and observe the wedding.

Photo shoots of newly weds

if we are using rice in Philippines to wish good luck, here, they are using coconut flowers

While the wedding ceremony is on-going, relatives and friends were preparing the food and drinks. At around 9 AM, we were invited to have a light meal in one of the relatives house. The meal was basic. Plain rice, some local dishes and fruits. I have been accustomed in Arab's way of eating thus it was easy for me to eat the same way the locals eat. You can feel in the atmosphere the closeness and hospitality of these guys.


After the wedding ceremony, reception follows. This is where the action begins. As I remember, 8 courses of foods were served on each table. First was salad and appetizers before the main courses; later on, fish and vegetables cooked in coconut juice was served. Last among the main courses was the soup, similar to Tom Yam soup of Thailand. Finally, dessert or packed wafer cream biscuit were distributed to the guests together with envelopes where the guests can put cash as their gifts to the newly weds; I pitched in with Moori's enevelope. Quite practical isn't it? It was almost similar to a Chinese wedding in Philippines.

Several canned drinks (juices, soda, beers) servers were constantly patrolling and replenishing the drinks on each table. Canned beers were overflowing.

During the reception, the newly weds would approach each table for photo shoots. Our table was the last thus it took some time before they reached us. Unlike in Christian wedding where the bride normally wears white dress the lovely bride here wears a bright and colorful local dress. Both bride and groom have changed their clothes several times.

I am not familiar with their local custom thus I stayed on my chair and simply smiled to to both of them. I don't know how to greet and congratulate them. However, the bride greeted me in Sawasdee posture. A common Buddhist greeting.

After the photo shoots, some area were cleared to give space for dancing. Moori and his friends were the life of the party. They filled the dance floor. Not to mention the joyous atmosphere they created during the party.



After spending a couple of memorable hours in the wedding, it was time for our group to leave. I left the place with a heavy heart for I have found new friends but I didn't know whether I would meet them again. I will treasure them in my memory palace. Moreover, I am very grateful for their hospitality and for accepting me on their wedding celebration.

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