Happy Birthday
By: H.P. Raingsy. Picture Courtesy of Royal Palace. ( October, 2001 Volume 1 No.5 )

Cambodia this month pays homage to His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk on the occasion of his 80th birthday. On Wednesday, October 31st, just as Water Festival celebrations are also getting into full swing, Cambodians will proffer heartfelt congratulations to His Majesty the King on the propitious occasion of his Majesty's Birthday. And there are many special events scheduled to mark the occasion. The National Cultural Center (NCC) will stage a Bonn Taing Tok (a table display) from October 30 to November 1 in the King's honor. A Taing Tok always features produce from every province in the kingdom and Phnom Penh municipality, as well as from private companies wishing to show or advertise a product, making it the Cambodian equivalent of a trade fair. These events are rare _ the last taing tok was held five years ago _ and bring together the best of all crafts, crops and other produce available in the kingdom, including carvings, silks and textiles and a range of fresh produce. Of course, not all Khmers can travel to Phnom Penh to enjoy the festivities, so provincial towns across the country hold their own feasts and concerts.

Entertainment ranges from comedies to performances of traditional music featuring Khmer instruments such as the cha-pei; a kind of stringed instrument with a long neck, resembling a cross between a guitar and a mandolin. A'yai, which is an intricate exchange of rhythmic songs between performers, as well as modern musical performances and film festivals can also be seen in the provinces during this period, and every pagoda, public office, factory and private business shows respect to the monarch by decorating their offices with Cambodian flags, pictures, banners and fairy lights . Back in Phnom Penh, Veal Preah Mein Square, next to the Royal Palace, will feature an almost continual program of entertainment this year. In front of the Royal Palace, performances of A-yang sbek-touch (shadow puppets) and comedians will take turns. Bands are scheduled to dominate the stage in front of Wat Botum, not far from the National Assembly.
There will be films on show to the public at the giant screen at the twin roads nearly opposite the NCC, and the NCC itself will have a full range of programs to add to the enjoyment the King's Birthday and Water Festival for locals and expats alike. The king will also invite 81 monks to the NCC and offer them food as part of the traditional Buddhist observation of his birthday.