Today is a holiday, more precisely: Pchum Ben Day (Bonn Phchum Ben, P’chum Ben, Bonn Pchom Ben). It is on the occasion of this holiday that Cambodian Buddhists pay respect to the dead through celebrations and offerings that take place at wats.
The plan for today is to join one such celebration in a wat in Svay Rieng Province with my colleagues. We drive all the way to the Vietnamese border, visit the border crossing at Bavet (Moc Bai) and have a look at the casinos that have sprung up on the Cambodian side of the border. After that we join the Pchum Ben ceremony at a wat not far from the border. Visiting casinos and paying respect to the dead on the same trip seems an odd combination yet Cambodians have a great capacity to accommodate contrasts, tensions and contradictions.