Top 10 Reasons to Take a River Cruise
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Truly remarkable journies along the mysterious Mekong River.


An introduction to lesser known Cambodia... equally fascinating, equally enjoyable!
As you begin to read this review on Cambodia, hopefully you've already perused the review on Southeast Asia River cruising along with our review on Vietnam (Check out our Destination Overview of Vietnam's Ha Long Bay!) If not, please take a moment and start there as it will bring all the elements of a Mekong River cruise into the proper perspective, whereas here we are specifically discussing Cambodia.

As we mentioned in the the Vietnam review, most of us are old enough to remember the pain and suffering incurred during the Vietnam and Cambodian conflicts. When you visit the emerging areas of Vietnam and Cambodia you'll still see many reminders of the long conflict, but like Japan the local inhabitants have moved on and while they, too, have memories, they are truly focused on the future and Americans are a vital part of that future and their tourism efforts. As we also mentioned, the people are flat out some of the warmest and friendliest we have met in our many years of travel.

Okay, so now we’ve talked about how cool it is to visit today's Vietnam, now let's talk about the lesser known Cambodia! Ever wanted to fire a rocket launcher or ride an elephant, maybe visit the vast temples of Angkor Wat or shop for some of the best silver jewelry found anywhere? Those activities, accompanied by more “smiling faces” and more delightful sites await you on your visit to Cambodia.

Ancient history, Khmer Rouge, Phnom Penh, the Royal Palace and the 'Old Lady.'
In doing our research we found that today’s Cambodia actually can be traced back to the 1st-century, but we really don’t have the time to go that far back. To say Cambodia has a rather violent past would be a mild understatement, but you probably remember the more modern regimes of the dictator, Pol Pot and the equally devastating Khmer rouge and their notorious “killing fields” from the early 1970’s. The good news is that’s all in the past and today’s vibrant Cambodia is a Constitutional Monarchy and is one of Southeast Asia’s fastest and most demanded tourist attractions — much like China was in the late 1980’s.

During your stay, you'll be able to experience the three most requested areas of the country: the capital, Phnom Penh (funny story to follow), in the northwest, the incredible Siem Reap and, of course, the “mind-blowing” temples of Angkor Wat which truly should be considered one of the world’s great manmade wonders.

The funny story about the capital city of Phnom Penh is — as the story goes — that it was founded by a rich old lady named Penh, who built her own private sanctuary on the hill called “Wat Phnom Daun Penh” which loosely translated means “Old Lady Penh’s Pagoda.” In 1434, the King, Ponheea Yat, tore down the sanctuary, removed the “old lady” and claimed it as his new capital. Oh well, at least it was a quiet insurrection.

Today’s Phnom Penh, is a vibrant, bustling city that lies on the banks of the Mekong, the Tonle Sap and the Bassac. Despite the civil wars of the recent decades, the city retains its traditional and French colonial charm. French style colonial villas along tree-lined boulevards reminds visitors that the city was once considered the "Gem of South East Asia." Given the story we just told you please make sure you visit the picture-perfect Royal Palace which is now near the site of the “Old Lady’s” original sanctuary. It may be one of the most photographed buildings in all of Asia. Wat Phnom, the original site is now a beautiful park area and well worth a stroll through if free time permits. One of the other sites we really enjoyed was the Silver Pagoda constructed in 1892 and restored by Prince Norodom Sihanouk in the early 1960s. It’s extraordinary how they use silver in such an ornate fashion. If shopping is on your mind, try the Central Market for everything from inexpensive works of silver to 1000 year old eggs. Make sure you also allow time to enjoy a local lunch purchased from the numerous street vendors that are nearby. The food is sensational and most speak enough English to inform you of what you will be enjoying; it’s just great fun!

Siem Reap and the ancient temples of Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap literally means "Siam Defeated." These days, however, the only rampaging hordes are the tourists heading to the Angkor Archaeological Park, one of the finest in the world. This once quaint village has become the largest boomtown and construction site in Cambodia. It is quite laid-back and a pleasant place to stay while touring the temples. It is a nice compromise between observing Cambodian life and enjoying the amenities of modern services and entertainment, thanks to a large expatriate community. Since Siem Reap is a major tourist destination, prices in some instances are higher than elsewhere in Cambodia. In addition to the Park, Siem Reap has an eclectic collection of Buddhist temples which for those of you who enjoy taking colorful pictures, are quite inspiring.

There are two truly astounding ancient temple complexes in all of Southeast Asia, one in Burma and the other at Angkor, here in Cambodia. India’s Taj Mahal and the Blue Mosque of Istanbul may be the most widely known “temple” in the world, but the complex at Angkor which was build between the ninth and thirteenth centuries AD, may represent on mankind’s most extraordinary and enduring architectural achievements ever. In all our travels, we’ve never encountered anything that left us so speechless. It also happens to be one of the most photogenic places in the world and if you are able too, take your shots at sunset.

There are many fabled stories of why Angkor was created; from a military fortress, to a religious retreat and even that it was created by extraterrestrials because of the placement of its key temples which some say mirror the stars of the constellation of Draco. It really does not matter how, just ogle at it and take your digital camera. The Angkor Wat complex of temples is by far and away the most impressive of them all. It was erected toward the end of the building period, somewhere around the end of the 12th-century. Should you decide to do this trip on your own, do make sure the ship arranges for a local English speaking guide to take you as it is a bit difficult to drive on their highways.

Regardless of when you go, an exciting vacation to Cambodia
and Vietnam is sure to charm and captivate you!

We guarantee you will return home with a new view of this region and agree that the people are among the warmest and friendliest in the world. The easiest and most luxurious way to explore these two ancient lands is on one of the deluxe river cruise programs offered by AmaWaterways aboard the AmaDara, or one of the fabulous ships offered by Pandaw River Cruises. You can now also enjoy 11 to 22-day all-inclusive cruises aboard a Scenic° and Emerald Waterways Mekong river cruise/tour itineraries. Viking also offers an intriguing 15-day "Magnificent Mekong" itinerary sailing from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City [and reverse] aboard the luxurious Viking Mekong.


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