|After a sumptuous breakfast, we are now at Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia’s “water world”, where everything is balanced on sticks in water-rich soil. It is perhaps the most fascinating cruising spot in Cambodia. We take a local boat to the shore and hop on a mini bus to reach a quite unique, nearby rural village. As we explore the village on foot our guide reveals 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 and taking the local boat back to the ship. In this area along the Tonle River local communities used to live along the shores on floating houses. Their inhabitants were Vietnamese descents who were expelled by the Khmer Rouge and returned after the ruling party was overthrown in 1979. As they had no land to settle on, they have decided back then to live “on the water” until only recently in 2021 the government relocated them on land.
Back on board and with lunch ready in the restaurant, the vessel continues cruising languidly along the Tonle River towards Kampong Tralach. This part of the Tonle River is quite interesting to watch from the terrace as the river at certain points is very, 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.
We are in the middle of Cambodia’s countryside where – surprise – 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 children have had the chance to receive an education here. The “Green School” is a local project supported by Heritage Line in this remote area to support the underprivileged youth. The students, who are dressed in green shirts, are always happy to meet us every week as the principal gives an introduction and updates us on the current situation of the school.
After some additional cruising time back aboard, the boat arrives and docks at the pier of Phnom Penh. Feel free to go out and explore by yourself after dinner. Stroll along the river promenade and watch the locals chit-chatting, selling odds and ends or have a drink in one of the numerous bars.
|After a sumptuous breakfast, we learn more about the education of the young Cambodian generation. Children from the small village of Chiro come on board, always excited to show their skills in music and dance. The Organization for Basic Training (OBT) provides a free, supplemental education in English, maths, and the arts to these local youths. Shower the young performers with applause and in return, you are bestowed upon with the most genuine and happy Cambodian smiles.
With smiles on our faces, we prepare to leave the ship for the 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.
While we sail downstream, lunch is served and afterwards our staff is keen to show you a variety of traditional Khmer fashion the local people still wear on special occasions. Conversely, the ubiquitous Cambodian scarf, the Krama, is a garment worn by people of all ages and walks of life. This multi-functional attire is worn not just around the neck, but also as a bandanna, facemask, belt, swimwear, and even as a hammock to carry children.
Meanwhile we arrive at the island of Koh Oknha Tey. This spot in the middle of the Mekong 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.
After some additional cruising time, the boat arrives and docks at the pier of Phnom Penh. Feel free to go out and explore by yourself after dinner. Stroll along the river promenade and watch the locals chit-chatting, selling odds and ends or have a drink in one of the numerous bars.