Tomorrow night the streets of Siem Reap will be taken over by giant, glowing puppets in one of the most popular yearly events in town, the Giant Puppet Project parade. The puppets, some of which are as much as fifty feet long, dance down Pub Street and through town in the hands of their young creators.
Giant Puppet Project, Cambodia’s largest community arts effort, is a local NGO that brings together local talent, foreign volunteers and disadvantaged Cambodian children for a month of art workshops that focus on puppet-making. The puppets are made using techniques that are seen throughout Asia in the form of flying lanterns or sky lanterns. The result are giant paper puppets lit with an ethereal glow that is thrilling to locals and tourists alike, who come en masse to see the parade.
In fact, while it may not be apparent as the parade winds its way down Pub Street, the event is most popular with Cambodians, who flood the streets to see the spectacle. Along the way, donations are collected for next year’s parade, and you’ll see children eagerly dropping 100 riel notes into the collection baskets, which is perhaps the best evidence that this is an event that is cherished by the local community in Siem Reap as much as it is by tourists and expats.
The Giant Puppet Project teams up with more than dozen NGOs to both fund the making of the puppets as well as well as identify local children who would benefit from the experience. In addition to the arts training they receive, the puppets are educational, focusing on endangered Cambodian wildlife, Cambodian cultural figures and more. This year, more than 600 children participated in puppet-making workshops and will be part of the parade to show off their work.
The Giant Puppet Project parade will be on Saturday, February 6th in Siem Reap. You can either catch it on and around Pub Street at 7 p.m. when the parade starts, or check this map for the complete route. There is usually acrobatics performance on Pub Street by Phare until the parade starts (unclear if it will be the same this year) and children’s entertainment in the Royal Gardens Park (opposite the Grand Hotel d’Angkor) after the parade finishes. For more information, check out the Giant Puppet Project Facebook page.
Khmer speakers can find out more about the parade with this Khmer-language TV ad.