Day 1: Phnom Penh (L,D)
Our staff offers a friendly welcome aboard in the earlier morning hours as you check-in into your luxurious “home” for the next few days.
Welcome to Phnom Penh - the city once named Paris of the East. Despite its rapid development, it has retained a lot of its rustic charm and elegance. It is an amazing town with centuries of incredible history and culture which can still be felt at many street corners. We start with a full sight-seeing tour right after breakfast. By bus, we visit the Killing Fields outside the city and afterwards the centrally located prison “S21”. Both historic sites display the sad and cruel chapter of the country’s history when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia with terror and oppression. Those places have not changed much since this horrific time back in the early seventies and it can be quite heart-breaking. Alternatively, you may explore the city on your own in the morning before re-joining the group.
We have a lunch at a well-renowned restaurant in town and experience the elegant air Phnom Penh’s top addresses are known for. Our exploration of Phnom Penh continues with the cultural highlights of the city’s heritage. The golden edifice of the Royal Palace with its Silver Pagoda and the exceptional Khmer crafts at the National Museum top the list of the city’s must-sees. The day trip ends with a “cyclo” ride along the bustling streets of downtown Phnom Penh and back to the ship.
In the early evening, the lounge is set up for an eye- and ear-catching lecture about modern Cambodian history, held by our friend and local expert, Mr Jean-Michel, professor from the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Receiving first-hand knowledge from our lecturer who has studied the subject extensively and in-person is a highlight of this cruise.
Take some rest or join fellow passengers at the bar for refreshing drinks. Today’s evening is a special one: let us invite you to a wonderful open air gala featuring a barbecue dinner feast. The dinner is accompanied by a classic Apsara dance performance along with other folklore dances.
As the evening unwinds, enjoy your supper with a good glass of wine and marvel at the skyline of Phnom Penh and the calming flow of the Tonle River.
Day 2: Phnom Penh - Kampong Tralach - Kampong Chhnang(Tonle) (B,L,D)
Before the sun peeks over the horizon, the cruiser sets sail towards Kampong Tralach on the Tonle River. This part of the Tonle River is quite interesting to watch from the terrace as the river at certain points is very narrow. The boat glides through leafy swaths of this jungle-like landscape.
We reach Kampong Tralach, where laughing children wave enthusiastically at our arrival and traditional ox carts are still a common means of transportation. Our ox-powered vehicle takes us on a journey along the riverside and through back roads lined with rice-paddy fields until we arrive at a tiny village. Beginning a few short years ago, local underprivileged children have had the opportunity to receive an education at the “Green School”, a local project supported by Heritage Line. The students, who are dressed in green shirts, are always happy to meet us every week as the principal gives an introduction to the students and the school.
While we sail upstream, lunch is served and afterwards our crew displays a variety of traditional Khmer fashion locals wear on special occasions. Conversely, the Cambodian scarf, the Krama, is a garment worn by people of all ages and walks of life not just around the neck, but also as a bandanna, facemask, belt, swimwear, and even as a hammock to carry children.
Later in the day, the ship cruises along the narrow Tonle River towards the most fascinating cruising spot in Cambodia, Kampong Chhnang’s “water world”, where everything is balanced on sticks in water-rich soil. We take a local boat to the shore and hop on a mini bus to reach a nearby, unique rural village to explore the village’s specialties – Khmer style pottery and the process of making of palm sugar from the Cambodian “skor t’not” palm tree.
We drive back to the shore where our local boat starts an exploration of nearby floating villages. Although we are in the heartland of Cambodia, the residents of these floating villages are actually of Vietnamese descent who were expelled by the Khmer Rouge and soon returned after the ruling party was overthrown in 1979. No longer having land to settle on, they have since lived “on the water”.
Once we are back on board, relax until dinner is served and take in the beautiful countryside and its gentle evening sounds.
Day 3: Tonle River - Koh Oknha Tey - Kampong Cham (Mekong) (B,L,D)
In the early morning, we sail from the lower Tonle River towards the Mekong passing their confluence at Phnom Penh. We arrive at the island of Koh Oknha Tey, which lies in the middle of the Mekong and owes its fame to manufacturing high-class silk products. We go sightseeing along the island’s roads a bit via tuk tuk before arriving at the village’s workshops and witnessing the curious process of making silk, starting from a tiny silkworm larva to cocoon, then dyeing, spinning and weaving the fibres into high-quality Cambodian silk.
Before lunch, our expert guide holds a presentation about the geography of the Mekong River and Tonle Lake along with the unique attributes of the area. Afterwards, a monks’ blessing ceremony delivers spirits and wishes for health and prosperity for all.
The ship sails towards the small Angkor Ban village up in the Mekong River. The village is famous for its unspoiled community and beautiful, traditional houses. It feels like being transported back a hundred years, into an era unaffected by modernity where villagers are characterized by their unbridled warmth.
The sun sets and the light now bathes everything in a golden hue. The surrounding natural beauty is a perfect backdrop for a riverbank gathering with cocktails and dancing with the crew in this remote, secluded location.
We continue cruising while dinner is served and the boat finds its overnight spot at the riverbank of Kampong Cham.
Day 4: Kompong Cham ( Mekong) (B,L,D)
After a sumptuous breakfast, we leave the ship for enchanting pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey (7th century). Formerly built to honor the Hindu god, Hirahara, the complex is now a Buddhist temple, a testament to the country’s past and present religious beliefs. This small complex sits on a hilltop with breath-taking views over the Mekong. Many young, novice monks live on the compound of Wat Hanchey, and we have the chance to observe a bit of their daily lives: eating simple meals, praying, studying, or hanging out and making conversation while in their saffron-coloured robes.
After returning to the ship and partaking in lunch, we stop at the tranquil monastery of Wat Nokor. Although not massive in comparison to the vast complexes of Angkor Wat, Wat Nokor is the largest of its kind in Kampong Cham Province and is distinctive from other temples with its black sandstone walls. Here, we might have the chance to engage in light banter with some of the sociable monks living in the area.
As it is low water season, we may be fortunate enough to visit a nearby spectacle only present during the Mekong’s dry months (December to May). The Koh Paen Bamboo Bridge connects the mainland with Koh Paen Island and is re-built by the local community every November when water levels drop.
We cruise further up the Mekong to visit a local school and learn more about the education of the young Cambodian generation. Children from the Organization for Basic Training (OBT) are provided a free, supplemental education in English, maths, and the arts, and they are always excited to show their skills in music and dance. Shower the young performers with applause and in return, you are bestowed upon with the most genuine and happy Cambodian smiles.
Day 5: Kampong Cham (Mekong)- Siem Reap (B)
Enjoy your last breakfast on board our floating sanctuary. We disembark the ship for a transfer by bus to the drop off point in Siem Reap.
Kampong Cham is an important trade and transportation hub. The highway connecting the town and the capital of Phnom Penh is among the best maintained in Cambodia, and the country’s first bridge across the Mekong (Kizuna Bridge) was built here in 2001.
The transfer takes approximately 4.5 hours including rest stop. To keep you entertained during the ride, our expert guides share interesting insights about Cambodia and the region we journey through. Snacks are provided during the trip. You will arrive in Siem Reap in the early afternoon.
We hope you enjoyed this fascinating river cruise, just as our crew does every single time. Moreover, take the enchanting memories and friendships along with you and share the stories of this amazing river - the Mighty Mekong.