Take a culture trip along the Mekong River in Cambodia

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 17:05

Mekong River and its connection with Cambodia

The Mekong River is the world’s 12th longest river, crossing through 6 countries. Only until 1994 did the world discover the true source of The Mekong River is from Tibet. Starting from there, it flows through the Himalayas and southern China into Southeast Asia and runs along the borders of Laos, Burma and Thailand through the heart of the Golden Triangle into Cambodia. After reaching the farthest south of Vietnam, its final destination is the big and welcoming East Sea.

In Cambodia, the Mekong enters the country from the north east in the Steung Treng province, at the border with Laos. From there it flows southwest through provinces of Kratie, Kompong Cham, and Kandal before meeting up with the great Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh.

Discover Mekong River’s rich nature through destinations

Tonle Sap Lake

Stretching almost all the way from Phnom Penh to Angkor Wat, Tonle Sap Lake is an ultimate source of water for half of Cambodia's crops, and home to many fish that supplies Cambodia’s population. Adding to that, the lake is also one of the country’s most important transportation links.

A special feature about this Lake is whenever the season changes from the wet season to the dry season, Tonle Sap lake shrinks from a 10.000-square-lake to only a 3.000-square-lake. It’s like the lake is going on a diet. Besides the size, its water flow also changes from northward to southward. Between the 2 seasons, the dry season is suggested for travelling since the water level has fallen significantly, diminishing the risk of overflowing water level. 

Behind today’s fresh-looking Tonle Sap Lap is a whole glamorous history. Looking back into the Angkor era, Tonle Sap was to the Khmers what the Nile was to the Egyptians. Travelling to Tonle Sap now and you can seek the chance to hear stories after stories from the locals.

It will be hard to determine where to start when you’re interested in Tonle Sap Lake. Well, there are four main villages open to tourism on the Tonle Sap lake: Chong Kneas, Kampong Phluk, Mechrey, and Kampong Khleang.

  • Chong Kneas

The most famous and the most visited village among the 4 mentioned is Chong Kneas. Probably because it’s only 15 km away from Siem Reap, which makes it an easy day trip for any curious visitors.

This is the most well-known fishermen village of the Vietnamese minority. They live in floating houses, which are casually moved around according to water levels, thus Chong Kneas is really more like a “floating village”. What’s interesting is that other buildings like church, elementary school, restaurants, police station, shop, football court,… are even built on boats.

You can observe a whole vibrant life going on the water. Most thing, even a small errand is done on the water. They wash, bath, swim and fish for meals. Other than that, there are still many tourist spots from the crocodile farm to the fish farm. If you dare, try climbing to the rooftop of a “floating house” and enjoy the librating view over the village. 

  • Kampong Phluk

30km away from Siem Reap, Kampong Phluk comprises of three villages of stilted houses, all of which are built within the floodplain. You can reach the area by 2 ways: by boat from the Chong Khneas dock or by road in the dry season. Unlike Chong Khneas, the main inhabitants here are Khmer. 

Since not many visitors come to Kampong Phluk, this destination still brings a sense of authenticity. Besides getting into the daily routine of a local, you can also take a small paddle boat into the mangroves to fully enjoy the submerged forest. To end the day, you shouldn’t miss the heavenly sunset view in the middle of Tonle Sap lake. So intense is the colour when the sky changes from bright blue to luminescent orange that many are surprised. 

  • Kompong Khleang

50 km away from Siem Reap is Kompong Khleang. Among the visited villages at Tonle Sap lake, this is the farthest one. Therefore, it will be less crowded and offers visitors many unique experiences. 

Kompong Khleang is also the largest of all the villages, with around 6000 people, ten times that of Kampong Phluk. There are floating houses and fixed ones built on 10m wooden stilts. Many of them are open, so you can see directly inside into the living rooms with all their unique family designs. Not so sophisticated but the scene is rich of Cambodian culture itself. 

  • Mechrey

Another floating village located 30 km southwest of Siem Reap is Mechrey, which is also the newest of the four villages to the tourist scene. But unfortunately, there have been some of the tourist scams spread here. A few opportunists will try to convince foreign travellers to donate or to buy rice to feed the kids at school. They are liars because none of that will go to the children. Other than that, don’t worry too much because the people here are friendly and always willing to help. 

Sopheak Mitt Waterfall

When the Mekong River enters Cambodia, Stung Treng is the first province it encounters. It is around 455 km away from Phnom Penh and approximately 40 km from the Laos frontier. There are a few significant attractions in Stung Treng included the unfathomable Sopheak Mitt Waterfall or Lbak Khaon to hypnotize many visitors with beautiful natural scenery and its spectacular Irrawaddy dolphins. 

Since the finished construction of the new Mekong bridge, Sopheak Mitt Waterfall is not hard to get to like it used to be. To add to its advantages, the waterfall is close to the fresh dolphin banks.

Sopheak Mitt waterfall is around 40 km from the town of Stung Treng, Cambodia. It might be a bit far but believe me, the view is worth all your wait. The Sopheak Mitt waterfall is surrounded with thousands of islands and numerous waterways. A roofed observation deck has been built for visitors to admire the cinematic falls. However, to have the best view of the site, you need to venture on a rough trail to the side of the falls. A bit rough off the start may wear you off a bit but once you get there, you can’t even say words before the magnificently great view of this biggest waterfall along the Mekong River in Cambodia.

Koh Dach

Koh dach, Kandal is a picturesque island found on the banks of the Mekong River, on the upstream of Phnom Penh. Kandal is one of the provinces in Cambodia with a lot to offer from countless sightseeing places to momentous historical sites.

The one thing that is so interesting that a lot of travellers have recommended is to experience life in the local workshops, handicraft centers. Koh Dach is famed as a prominent silk weaving center. The commune of Koh Dach consists of 5 villages, known as Koh Dach, Kbal Koh, Lvea, Chong Koh and Neah village. The centers here show you from start to end process involved in producing silk. 

Try involving in a small part of the process and you will know how meticulous silk weaving is. The more time you spend looking at how skilled weavers, the more appreciation you give them for how patient and skillful they are.