The Mekong River is one of the longest and most significant rivers in the world. Starting from the mountains of Tibet, it flows down through six different geographic regions in China and the Southeastern countries of Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. Facilitating major irrigation projects, trade and international relations on the way, the Mekong is known as “the Danube of Asia”. The river is a staple of agricultural subsistence and fishery especially for Cambodia, for which the Mekong has long been its life-blood. Small wonder then, that the ancient cities of Angkor and the charming rural settlements of today all are found along the shores of this mighty river, making a river cruise one of the best ways to explore the best of Cambodia.

One of the most charming and popular ways to traverse the great waters about the Ton Le Sap Lake is via a traditional sampan or houseboat. This 20 x 4 meter longboat is usually made of the local “sao” wood (a variant of oak) and is an authentic and integral part of the people who have made their living around and about these waters for generations. The vessels contain comfortable and well-ventilated rooms with facilities for sleeping and dining, as well as their own kitchen and bathroom. They can house up to 30 people at a time, including a five person crew of captain, mechanic, cook, sailor and guide.

The passengers of these river cruises have a rare vantage perspective of the country as they take in the passing montage of golden-green paddy fields, valleys and mountains all fed by the palm-lined waters of the mighty river. A pageantry of rural villages of stilted homesteads with shrimp drying on hammocks can be seen and accessed during these boat tours, where unique handicrafts can be purchased as souvenirs. Of course, the primary attraction of the river cruises are the temple visits such as the brick sculptures of Prasat Kravan and Ta Prohm in its exotic jungle embrace. The largest and best-preserved temple, the Angkor Wat, is indubitably the main draw, breathtaking with its ornate five tiers mirrored in the moat against the rose hues of the dawn and dusk. From the delicate wonder of Banteay Srei to a pilgrimage to Phnom Penh as well as visits to the floating markets and white-sanded islands dotting the river, a cruise on the Mekong yields a vista of unforgettable sights and sounds.

Lest you think that living on a houseboat can get somewhat cramped and restrictive after a while, it should be understood that most meals and evening entertainment will take place in local hotels and restaurants of good quality. A hotel in Phnom Penh is undoubtedly the best access point for an authentic Mekong cruise. The Raffles Hotel Le Royal is a leading luxury hotel Cambodia which provides international-standard service and accommodation for the duration of your Khmer exploration.