By: H.P. Raingsy ( November, 2001 Volume 1 No.6 )

Mooncakes on the rise Cambodia defied one worldwide downward trend this year. Mooncake sales are on the rise in the Kingdom, according to local manufacturers. Mooncakes heavy round cakes in the shape of an ice hockey puck, filled with sesame, lotus or nut pastes are the traditional celebratory fare of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, a lunar festival which fell on October 1 this year. The festival is a traditional dedication to the moon goddess. But while manufacturers in most other countries including China reported a drop in sales as observance of the festival drops and modern tastes rule the cakes out as too heavy and too sweet, Cambodian sales were up.
"Sales were good and they are getting better every time. I've seen an increase of 20 per cent annually since 1996," said Mr Chan Bunthan, owner of Apsara Bakery. "There were less than a dozen bakeries producing them in Cambodia this year though," he added. An average mooncake costs about US$1. They are also sometimes kept and given as gifts for Christmas and Khmer New Year. Many consumers believe the rise in mooncake sales here represents the willingness of Cambodians to embrace the holidays and customs of all cultures.
Cambodia, which is officially Buddhist, has around a month of every year designated as official holidays. About four per cent of 12 million Cambodians, belong to ethnic minorities, including people of Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham (ethnic Muslims) and Khmer Leu (hill tribe) origins. Despite the Chinese population suffering heavily under the Khmer Rouge, with nearly half the ethnic Chinese population killed, the culture is still an important one in Cambodia, with some 70 Chinese schools, for instance. Many Khmers also claim Sino-Khmer family origins. claim Sino-Khmer family origins. Phnom Penh's party Phnom Penh celebrated its 567th anniversary on October 27 - a celebration municipal authorities say was just a taste of things to come when all scheduled renovation work is completed. Authorities are beautifying the city in an effort to attract more tourists to the capital and encourage them to stay longer.

A pagoda was first built at Wat Phnom as early as 1373, but Phnom Penh dates its foundation as a city from 1434 when King Preah Bat Ponhea Yat made the city his base after Angkor had been abandoned. Special concerts and events were held around the city including a photographic exhibition about Phnom Penh at Wat Phnom and a religious ceremony when 567 Buddhist monks will be offered food. Current ongoing beautification and development projects include work on the Chroy Changvar Peninsula to turn it into a promenade and tourist area, construction of a convention center in the same area in time to host the Visit Cambodia Year tourism conference in 2003 and a facelift for the Tonle Bassac riverside area.