The settlement of Kampong Chhanaan is a traditional Khmer river town located on the edge of the Tonle Lake. This rural port town is home a number of bustling markets and provides an ideal spot from which to admire the tapestry of Cambodian rural life. Kampong Chhanaan is particularly renowned for its fine clay pottery, which is even reflected in the town’s name. When translated from Khmer, Kampong Chhanaan means “Port of Pottery”.
Located on the banks of the Tonle River, south east of central Cambodia, is the town of Kampong Tralach. It is situated 37km south of the provincial capital of Kampong Chhnang and is the site of Cambodia’s former capital, Lovek. It was here that the Siamese King, Borommarcha II, who sacked Angkor in 1431. The site of Lovek, which was chosen as it was deemed more defensible than Ankor, was located on the banks of the Tonle Sap River, halfway between Phnom Penh and the lower end of the Tonle Sap Lake. It soon became a wealthy trading centre, attracting a number of European traders and missionaries between the 16th and 17th centuries.
Along the Tonle Sap River, a mere 24 miles from Phnom Penh is the historic town of Oudong, Cambodia’s former capital. Sitting at the foot of the Phnom Udong Mountain, Oudong is studded with significant religious and historical sites, including Buddhist temples and burial sites of the Khmer kings. Temples include the Wat Kampong Leu which is known for its incredibly beautiful wall paintings. Also a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site, Oudong has a rich history and culture to explore.
On the banks of the Cambodian Tonle River sits the village of Chong Koh, which offers visitors plenty of walking opportunities and the chance to meet friendly locals. The village specialises in silk weaving and it is possible to buy beautiful Khmer headscarves for very reasonable prices.
Along the banks of the Mekong and Tolne Sap rivers is the capital and most populous city in Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Growing into the centre of the nation’s economic and industrial activities and its cultural heritage, Phnom Penh is considered one of the loveliest cities in Indochina. Noted for its beautiful and hugely historical architecture, there are still a number of French colonial buildings surviving French colonial buildings throughout the city.
Flowing through South East Asia, the Mekong is the longest river in the area and flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It is navigable between the latter two nations, and enables cruisers to gain a deeper insight into the ancient Khmer city of Angkor and the elegant former French colonial city of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
From its source in the highlands of Tibet, the Mekong flows through China’s Yunnan province, through deep gorges and rapids to form the Myanmar-Laos border. It then curves through Laos to form part of the Laos-Thailand border. In Laos, the Mekong River descends the Cambodian plain, where it receives water from the magnificent Tonle Sap Lake during the dry season, via the Tonle River. Incredibly, during the rainy season, the floodwaters of the Mekong reverse the direction of the Tonle Sap River flow, causing it flow back into the lake and form a huge 93-mile wide reservoir.
Through a series of distributaries in the Mekong Delta, the Mekong River flows into the South China Sea. This delta is crossed by a number of channels and canals, making it one of the greatest rice-growing areas of Asia. This densely populated area is where you will also find Ho Chi Minh City, one of the most renowned cities in South East Asia. Within this fascinating area, you will find an endless series of towns floating on rafts and rich in river life and activity.
Large vessels are able to cruise along the Mekong River for 217 miles upstream, with Phnom Penh being a designated international port. North of the Cambodian border, the Mekong flows in short sections, as far as the Khone Falls – a six-mile-long series of rapids.
Situated in the Mekong River Delta of southern Vietnam is the town of Tan Chau. This small town is most famous for its Tan Chau silk, which is naturally dyed using fruit. Tan Chau is also very close to the Cambodian border and is a great starting point for further exploration.
Sitting along the Mekong river in southern Vietnam is the down of Sa Dec. The former capital of Dong Thap province, Sa Dec was a river port during the Vietnam War, and site of an American PBR Patrol base. Now a peaceful town, Sa Dec is full of tree lined streets, orchards, colonial villas and flower markets. Sa Dec is also known as one of the flower centres of South Vietnams and its Flower Gardens specialise in the growing of ornamental plants.
Located on the Mekong Delta, the district of Cai Be is known for its colourful and vibrant floating market, where hundreds of motorboats and sampans gather to sell fresh local produce. A walk ashore will take you on a journey to several old houses, which are located in the Dong Hoa Hiep Commune. There are many churches and a colourful port area filled with French colonial buildings and colourful flower gardens.
The inland port of My Tho sits on the banks of the Mekong River Delta, in southern Vietnam, 45 miles from Ho Chi Minh City. It is a transportation and commercial centre for a rich agricultural region and is surrounded by a series of waterways – of which will take you through orchards and immense rice fields. From here, it is possible to visit Nguyen Trung Truc, where you can visit the impressive Buddhist Vinh Trang Pagoda, with its Rajah’s palace style front façade.
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