“Mekong”, this name rings like a call for adventure; spreading all over Cambodia this river is an integral part of the Khmer identity and requires minimum one trip.
Between the rainy and the dry seasons its course varies by a dozen meters, landscapes change constantly as well as the lifestyle of the people living on its banks.
From August to November the Mekong is at its highest level, big and strong, swollen with the monsoon waters, thick with alluvia, it is chocolate-coloured and carries whole tree trunks in its mad race towards the China Sea.
From November onwards, after the Water festival, it starts to drop in level and the Tonle Sap Lake then releases its waters which go back into the Mekong right in the middle of Phnom Penh.
The Mekong subsides then and as the dry season advances, it becomes clearer, lowers on a daily basis and uncovers its banks where farmers plant various vegetables.
Huge sand banks and islets are set free from the water where it is great fun to stroll and swim. At the very end of the dry season, the river is completely clear and flows between its seasonal islands.
Forget about cruises on the Nile, the Niger, and other Danube rivers… The mythical Mekong river, the « Mother of All Waters » now stretches her many arms towards you.
For more than 30 years, it has been banned, forgotten, because taken hostage by wars. Its ochre silt-filled waters, its never-ending vast open spaces, its magical colours, its rapids, its fresh water dolphins, its old sleepy colonial villages… are now offering themselves to you.
Follow the tracks of Francis Garnier and his Mekong Exploration Mission, we re-open for you the old « Compagnie des Messageries Fluviales » !
The Khmer boat at your disposal has three cabins where 6/7 people can sleep plus some more can « camp » on the upper deck. For all inquiries regarding prices and availability, please contact us.
The cruise towards Kratie takes five days and four nights (four days and three nights on the way back to Phnom Penh), it is brightened up by many visits on the way. It is perfect to discover Cambodia in families, with friends or …for a romantic holiday!
End of April, early May, Koh Dach and Koh Okhna Tey islands are traditionally used to take boats in drydock, a small naval shipyard is improvised there every year for wooden and steel boats.
Beaches, Swims or strolls are waiting for you in the dry season on Koh Dach Island where many craftswomen weave silk kromas and sarongs.
In the loop following Koh Okhna Tey island, at about 28 km along the river left bank is located the village of Preah Ta Kung where traditional plaits are weaved using coloured rush, the village is getting organized and starts to create plaits with many patterns and colours.
Kompong Cham, Wat Nokor an Angkor era temple, and the great bamboo bridge in the dry season.
Beyond Kompong Cham, beautiful sandy beach then Phnom Ang Chey with a small pre-Angkor era temple, the site is however more and more spoiled by the monks who transform it into a kind of Disney Land inhabited by colourful characters made of cement staging the life of the Buddha, tigers and other animal all daubed with paint, however, from the top of this hill, we dominate a magnificent Mekong for several kilometres.
On the island facing Ang Chey beautiful villages living off Tobacco can be found, there we can observe big drying kilns made of clay.
From Stung Trang, on the right bank, big cliffs which go all the way to Boeung Ket.
In Boeung Ket, big rubber plantations, a rubber processing factory with a very active port selling rubber trees to brick factories downstream. One can still distinguish some achievement dating back to French era, an old stone bridge where a small market has been set up on, the planter’s house has been destroyed, there are only signs here and there, tombs, the tread of a stair and foundations, not much really and difficult to find out in the increasingly invading vegetation.
The view from the top of cliff above Boeung Ket is nevertheless spectacular.
Walking around in Boeung Ket is not exactly a good idea, it is like diving in a tropical « Germinal »… this port and people working in there are going to look at you in a weird way wondering why you come among these simple and poor workers who are not there for the fun of it.
A couple of km from Boeung Ket, still on the right river bank, stuck in a crack of the cliff is located the pagoda of Preah Kuk, a stair starts from the river, goes through a park up to a split in the cliff where a small temple has been arranged, water seeps from the walls and drips into embedded jars.
It is a rare opportunity to cleanse you and wipe your slate clean, the water of this cave is famous for being magical and splashing yourself copiously with it brings happiness and prosperity while getting rid of your sins. A modest offering to the monks and a few incense sticks to the spirits and here we go for another year of excesses !
While going back down towards the river, at the foot of the bank on the left, don’t forget to visit the seer who practises in a small wooden shack on stilts. One could believe that he was installed there on purpose by the department of tourism, disguised and advised by a rave communication agency, however, nobody ever comes here and he is a self-made man!
Our seer wrapped in a leopard skin imitation bedspread, a small wig proudly put on his bald head, he foretells the future, in a heavy atmosphere, cross-legged in the middle of weird objects which the Mekong laid as a present at the foot of the cliff and which are reminiscent more or less of some snakes, or a Buddha…
Contrite with respect and anxiety, you can observe him rolling his eyes and get in touch with spirits who he exchanges with, using incoherent and clipped ramblings in Lao or Khmer.
Then as a bolt from the blue, no money this year, or on the contrary, prudential financial fallout which grows even when you sleep, a wedding? Children ? He can answer anything.
It is a good idea to reward his predictions with a small donation before leaving, the reliability of his prophecies can be doubted but the show is guaranteed, « Madame Soleil » can go back to sleep, dressed in leopard skin…
Then Chhlong, Kratie, the dolphins, Wat Roca Kandal (pagoda) and the wreck of the river gunboat « Le Francis Garnier », sunk in 1945 by the Japanese army and which is visible at the end of the dry season (April, May), north of Kratie less than a kilometre from the roundabout on the same bank.