If you are attached to Cambodia and want to celebrate Khmer New Year, then Wat Khemarangsaram in Sydney, Australia, is the place to be!
This was my first year since 2012 that I wasn’t in Cambodia around Khmer New Year. Although I didn’t miss the noise, chaos and water being thrown at me, I did miss the cultural identity that came with it. Fortunately, there is a strong Khmer community in South West Sydney, and the Khmer temple Wat Khemarangsaram keeps their Buddhist traditions alive.
Located in Bonnyrigg, Wat Khemarangsaram has been around since 1998. The pagoda has been constructed in the traditional Khmer Buddhist architecture style, and is similar to the thousands of pagodas you will see around Cambodia. Wat Khemarangsaram differs from the countless pagodas I visited in Cambodia however, as it is clean and well-maintained. You won’t find rubbish strewn around, piles of construction material or stray dogs and cats. It is obvious that the Monks who live on the premises take care of the pagoda.
We visited Wat Khemarangsaram on the second day of Khmer New Year. Although the pagoda was quite busy, everyone was clearly enjoying themselves. Just as happens in Cambodia, there were older Khmer men chanting over the sound system, Monks collecting rice from worshippers and lots of praying in the lower prayer hall. The large pagoda wasn’t open, however we walked up and had a look around, taking in the atmosphere of this home away from home.
There was a sand hillock erected in front of the pagoda, representing Valuka Chaitya, the stupa where Buddha’s hair a is buried. The traditional prayer stations were set up, and people flocked to pray in their traditional Khmer garments. There were also numerous food stalls set up, serving a combination of Khmer and Western foods. I was happy to snack on a traditional fried banana dish, and we bought some food to take home for lunch and dinner.
So, if you ever need your fix of Khmer culture, head to Wat Khemarangsaram at Khmer New Year. You certainly won’t regret it!
Location: 68 Tarlington Parade, Bonnyrigg, NSW