VIHEAR SUOR, CAMBODIA
– More than a thousand of Cambodians gather in a village, northeast of the capital Saturday for annual water buffalo races to end the country’s festival for the dead.The buffalo races mark the last day of Pchum Ben, a three-day festival in which Cambodians believe their dead ancestors emerge to walk the earth.
Prayers at Buddhist pagodas and offerings are made to ease the suffering of the ancestors’ spirits.
Chhun Chheang has been joining the race since he was 12 years old. “I really enjoy riding buffalos, and when I just see the buffalo decorated, I just can’t wait to get on and race,” said a 29-year-old farmer.
The 26 contestants took part to commemorate the Neakta Preah Srok pagoda spirit, said Chhay Sophea, one of the race organizers.
“This year is very much like last year. We celebrate the races, so that Neakta will look after our village and our cattle,” San Sem said.
“The villagers can show off their strong buffalos during the races, so they can make good sales,” said 48-year-old Cheam Pon who has watched the races since the age of 6.
Vihear Sour village about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Phnom Penh began holding the race more than 70 years ago. It is followed by a traditional wrestling match and traditional dancing.