Mighty sights along the mighty Mekong in Cambodia
One of the rivers that evoke images of imperious power, great biodiversity and fascinating history most in the world, the Mekong really is a force to be reckoned with. Charting a course through multiple countries in the form of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Mekong is the 12th longest river in Asia.
Some of the most spectacular bankside views, though, are found in Cambodia. The beautiful French colonial architecture of Kratie – a wonderful place to visit as it is not heavily touristed – and Cambodia’s capital itself are both located along the mighty twists and turns of the Mekong, and within it you may also spot some of the extremely rare freshwater dolphins darting amongst the ripples.
If it fits with your plans while you are on your trip through Cambodia, a night cruise on the river comes highly recommended by travellers. Drifting along the water as the lights twinkle on either side of you is particularly spectacular.
Either way, here are two of the top stop-offs you can make on your journey along what is surely one of the world’s most impressive stretches of water – the name, after all, is translated as Mother of Water.
Cambodia’s capital itself sits right on the riverfront. The spires of the Royal Palace shimmer in the sun like lighthouses signalling along the walkable promenade, and you wouldn’t be amiss to make this your first stop. This series of halls and pavilions is a fascinating visit, as it functions as the current residence of the King of Cambodia. The Silver Pagoda, the central compound containing the throne residence and the Chan Chhaya Pavilion are all open to the public, while the section of the King’s quarters which is closed off to visitors adds an air of intrigue as you wander around.
Once you’ve explored the regal delights of the palace, you can head to the National Museum of Cambodia. The museum takes you through the full span of the country’s history and culture, with over 14,000 items inside. Also worth a visit despite its tragic history is Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former school that was turned into a notorious security prison.
Though smaller than the capital Phnom Penh, Kratie has an equally attractive riverfront. Here, the banks are lined with charming French colonial buildings which make for a lovely vista to accompany an evening stroll. The sunsets here are legendary among travellers who have come to visit the region because of the expansive landscape and the forest which lines the banks, so why not grab a drink at one of the bars and take it all in. Another big string to Kratie’s bow that brings travellers in are the Irrawaddy Dolphins that can be found playing and poking their heads out of the water nearby, about nine miles north of town. On the way to see them, stop off at Phnom Sombok, a delightful temple where you might also spot the family of monkeys that live around the building.