If ever you’ve wanted to visit a country that’s got an incredibly rich history and culture that you can witness, Cambodia is the perfect destination. The history can be traced back to Indian civilization, and you have significant moments such as the establishment of the Khmer Empire, which ruled the lands for years.
And the best thing about it is that you can actually experience quite a lot of these historically significant times, thanks to the numerous temples and monuments that stood the test of time to witness Cambodia’s turbulent past and rich culture. Built on the banks of the lifegiving water of the Mekong River, the best way to visit and experience the temples is by heading on a charter cruise. You’ll also get to see how people in Cambodia live along the way, too, which is a profound experience for many.
So, if you’re keen on visiting this stunning country and want to make the most of it, read on as we discuss some of the must-visit wat s(temples) and places along the mighty Mekong.
In the capital Phnom Penh, Wat Ounalom is a temple that will give you the opportunity to check out the philosophies and teaching, as well as the rich history of Buddhism in Cambodia. Wat Ounalom is actually the oldest, and quite possibly the most prominent of the five pagodas in the country. Not only does it serve as the abode of the Mahanikai’s School of Buddhism, but it’s also the center of Cambodian Buddhism.
The wat was built back in 1443, and it was meant to enshrine an eyebrow hair of Lord Buddha. This is where it got its name from, and the shrine initially housed over 600 monks. To add to this, within the temple you could find the Buddhist Institute’s library, which had over 30,000 titles in its collection. Unfortunately, these were wiped by the Khmer Rouge regime. Buddha’s eyebrow, which was one of the items on display, actually survived, which made it one of the main reasons to visit the temple for travelers from all around the world.
The entrance is free of charge, and the temple itself is located about 10 minutes from the Royal Palace, which makes it the perfect destination if you’re visiting Phnom Penh.
This gorgeous complex is a wat that has been listed in the list of the work’s must-see ancient sites. It’s located near the Mekong River in the town of Siem Reap, which is another popular destination for tourists in Cambodia.
The place is actually an ancient town that dates from 802 AD. It was also one of the largest cities in the world during medieval times and a center of the Khmer empire. Khmer kings loved this place and endeavored the beauty of the construction and its surroundings. From all the buildings that made this town, today only the temples are preserved surrounded by ruins. The surrounding jungle has caused most of it to decay during the years.
The temple in Angkor Wat, the largest and most popular temple in the world, comprises several mesmerizing temples. The whole complex requires one to stay several days in order to thoroughly explore, grasp and understand the Angkorian architectural achievements and experience the sacred temples Ta Prohm, Bayon Temple, Preah Khan and Angkor Thom.
Many tourists are driven here to see the famous temple Ta Prohm used as a location where the Tomb Raider movie was filmed. Those tourists are surprised by how much more they will get to see in Angkor Wat.
Floating Villages on the Tonle Sap Lake
The Tonle Sap Lake is an interesting phenomenon. It flows into the Mekong for the better part of the year, through the Tonle Sap River. But during the rainy season, from June until November, the Mekong River fills up with too much water, swelling up and causing the Tonle Sap River to reverse its flow and flow back into the Tonle Sap Lake. This is why it’s known as the breathing lake, and the maximum depth becomes four times the normal.
The locals, needing to deal with the variable depth, found a rather creative solution – they built their homes on floating platforms that stay on the surface of the lake, regardless of how deep it is. This is an interesting way of life, to say the least, but the locals have been around for ages and have embraced it, and gotten used to it. The alternative are the houses built on wooden stilts, which stay up in the air during the dry season, but it’s the floating villages you need to visit.
If you only have time to visit one floating village, you should head to Chong Kneas. It is about 16 kilometers away from Siem Reap, and it has both stilted houses and floating ones, and the tourism is rather well developed with restaurants and boat tours.