Hopping into a monk parade

By Beth Pollak

Fifteen soon-to-be monks. Fifteen horses. Countless parasols. Two ecstatic, running, American girls.

On the way to our tour of the Tonle Sap lake, the group’s five tuk-tuks were held up in traffic. Siem Reap’s streets are often crowded with vehicles, but coming to a standstill was a new experience – the drivers don’t even usually stop for stop lights or signs.

Up ahead, Elizabeth and I saw a grand procession of people. We were still about 400 yards back, but our fabulous driver sped up and passed other vehicles – by going on the other side of the road, of course, as is customary in Cambodia – to get us right behind the procession.

“What’s going on?” we asked Chhiev, our guide.

He explained that the men on horses were heading to a nearby temple to become monks. They rode horses to emulate Buddha. The parasols that covered them, as well as much of the clothing the paraders were wearing, were the same brilliant orange color that we’ve come to recognize as the shade of a monk’s robes.

“Can we get out?” Elizabeth and I asked Chhiev.

“Of course,” he said, as he stopped the tuk-tuk, and we sprinted out into the crowd, eyes wide and mouths smiling, our cameras snapping constantly.

Each man’s mother carried her son’s future robes on her head on the way to the temple. Four men pranced around in elaborate mascot-like costumes designed to look like large people. Revelers cheered and whooped as an old man yelled the traditional sayings of this type of celebration. All in all, the procession was loud, colorful and joyful.

The main show of my day occurred before we even reached our destination.


1 comment so far

  1. Eric Pollak on

    So they drive like you do? No stopping at red lights! Oh yeah, that’s me! Can’t wait until you get back to American soil, but sounds like you are seeing many unique things.

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