As you’d expect from a civilization that built the Angkor temples, the Khmer Empire was artistically rich, with talented sculptors, artists, dancers, and musicians. Art and sculpture are on display in the elaborate carvings and bas-reliefs on the temple walls and at Angkor National Museum. Nightly Apsara dance performances, accompanied by classical Khmer musicians, are held at dozens of venues around the city. Wat Bo Pagoda is the location of twice-weekly shows of traditional shadow puppetry and musical ensembles, while the Bambu Stage showcases contemporary dance and the big top behind the Museum is home to nightly performances by the quirky Phare Cambodian Circus.
The biggest party of the year for Cambodians is Khmer New Year, celebrated around the same time as Thailand’s Songkran, though less about water fights and more about pagoda activities such as making offerings to the monks, worshipping ancestors, and washing Buddha statues. While the main holiday lasts over three days, Cambodians will take a week to 10 days off if they are able to return to their hometowns. In Siem Reap, it’s the only time of year that Pub Street and Angkor Archaeological Park teem with groups of Cambodian friends and families. Traditional games, dancing, and concerts take place around the park, including in front of Angkor Wat. It’s a wonderful time to visit.