If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, you would be crazy to miss the Mekong River off your itinerary. This incredible waterway snakes its way through China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar and has been of great historical significance for millennia. While each country has its own riverside attractions, some of the most interesting can be found along the section that flows through Cambodia – and we are going to look into this in more detail throughout this post.
Khmer Cuisine and Culture
Away from the busy roads of the cities, the small villages that sit along the edges of the river are perfect examples of traditional Khmer culture. Artisans spend their days weaving, dyeing and sculpting all sorts of items, including kroma – a particular kind of scarf that no Cambodian would be caught without.
From the comfort of your boat you will be able to observe everything that goes on in an unobtrusive manner, listening while your guide explains the history and culture of these local people. Once you’ve spent some time watching the daily lives of these riverside-dwelling people play out, it is time to immerse yourself fully in the Khmer way of life by learning a bit about their cuisine. One of the most popular (and delicious) Khmer dishes is Amok – curried fish covered in coconut milk and spices. Try your hand at creating this meal and a handful of other ones or simply spend a few hours gorging on fresh, tropical fruits.
As you journey along the Mekong you will get the chance to stop off at Cambodia’s two major cities – Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Starkly different to the quaint villages that fringe the water, these cities have their own charm and appeal and are a delight to get acquainted with. Phnom Penh, the capital has a rich and turbulent history, from the early Khmer civilisations right through to the terrible reign of Pol Pot. Now in a state of peace, it is fascinating to explore and understand everything Cambodia has endured over the past several centuries. If nothing else, it will infinitely increase your respect and admiration for this wonderful country. Moving on from the capital to Siem Reap, travellers will be able to spend a day or two wandering around Angkor Wat – one of the most famous ancient ruin complexes in the world. Get there at sunrise to see the first rays of light reflect off the beautiful lily pond for an experience you will never forget.
Tonlé Sap Lake
As the Mekong River continues to flow through Cambodia, a small waterway known as the Tonlé Sap River branches off and travels over 100km to the stunning Tonlé Sap Lake. This beautiful expanse of water has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for over 20 years now and with good reason. You might have seen villages sitting by the side of the water but now you will witness the mind-blowing spectacle of entire villages floating on the water. Mingle with some of the local people and you will get an idea of what it is like to be a resident in a village where even the local school bobs on top of the shimmering lake. Tourism is welcomed here by the people who live on the lake, not only because of the massive boost it gives their economy, but also because Cambodians are exceptionally friendly people and enjoy sharing their culture and lifestyle with outsiders.
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