Come with us to the wonderful kingdom of Cambodia for a unique and unforgettable experience. Most of your time in Cambodia will be spent paddling the mighty Mekong River and the Tonle Sap Lake. You will paddle the back “streets” of a village built on stilts towering over the water, explore an otherworldly ﬂooded forest, and see the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin. You will be camping on islands, staying in remote villages, sleeping in ﬂoating houses, and of course spending a few nights in hotels and a lodge. In addition to the paddling sections of the trip, you will investigate Cambodia’s dark past with the Khmer Rouge, explore the awe inspiring Angkor Wat, and visit a bird sanctuary.
Facts at a Glance
Level of Difficulty: Moderate, paddling up to 20 miles in a day while going down the river. You should be comfortable maneuvering your boat in a light current. You must be comfortable camping for up to 3 consecutive nights with no facilities.
Dates: January 5-19, 2019
Group Size: 4-8
Trip Origination and End: Begin and end in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. For your trip back home you have the option to ﬂy out of Siem Reap on the last day (more expensive), or come with us on the 6 hour drive back to Phnom Penh.
What’s Included: Lodging, boats, gear usage, most entrance fees, airport pick up and drop oﬀ, all ground transportation during the tour, local Cambodian guides/ interpreters, most meals, and all day tours.
What’s not included: Flights, alcoholic beverages, 8 meals, entrance to Angkor Wat, personal travel insurance, and any unscheduled activities.
We will be paddling a Pakboats canoe brought from the USA to haul most of our gear. Most participants will be paddling Alpacka packrafts with minimal gear. To learn more about Pakboats visit pakboats.com and for Alpacka rafts visit alpackaraft.com You are more than welcome to bring your own gear or we will provide boats, paddles, PFD’s, and tents. Sleeping bags, sleeping bag liners, sleeping pads, pillows, dry bags, and ponchos are available. We will mail them to you, but you are responsible for mailing them back to us. You will bring them to and from Cambodia. This helps us to avoid very high airport fees for checking multiple bags.
You need to bring:
- Light weight sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Appropriate clothing for being in the sun
- Full brim hat
- Insect repellent
- Water shoes
- Camp shoes
- Rain gear (minimum a rain jacket or poncho)
- Pack towel
- Wash cloth
- Small Day Pack
- Dry Bags
Vaccinations: For a list of recommended vaccinations visit the CDC website at: www.nc.cdc.gov/travel
After arriving at the Phnom Penh airport, our good friend and city guide Sanghi will pick you up in his tuk tuk and bring you to our hotel. Today is mostly about recovering from your flight and adjusting to the time change, but it’s also a good opportunity to walk around the Central Market and go on a tuk tuk tour of the city. In the evening we will all have dinner and discuss our plans together.
We will wake up early for breakfast before hopping into a tuk tuk to be at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek when it opens to the public. This site provides a moving look into Cambodia’s dark past with the Khmer Rouge and is an important stop to get a better understanding of the country. When we are done in the killing field, we will have lunch in a nearby restaurant before heading back into Phnom Penh to visit Wat Phnom. Keep an eye out for the giant bats which sometimes hang in the nearby trees. Remove your hat and shoes before entering the main building and see the giant golden Buddha surrounded by beautiful paintings on the walls and roof. Time permitting, we will feed monkeys at the monkey pagoda and see some other interesting sites. If anyone would like to learn more about the Khmer Rouge, Tuol Sleng is another highly recommended stop where the Khmer Rouge tortured and interrogated prisoners before sending them out to Choeung Ek for execution. The KR kept good documentation of their prisoners. Many of the confessions and thousands of photos are on display. Of all the prisoners to enter this facility, only seven are known to have survived. If there is time, visiting Tuol Sleng instead of Wat Phnom is optional.
Spend the rest of the evening strolling around riverside, eating in one of the many restaurants, getting a Khmer massage, or exploring the night market.
Today we’ll make the drive from Phnom Penh to Stung Treng where we will stay in a nice hotel with a rooftop restaurant overlooking the river. Here you will meet Yok who will join us for the Mekong leg of the trip as our interpreter, cook, and friend. We’ll have the evening to see the town, wander around the market, or maybe just drink a coconut by the river.
After breakfast we’ll make the short drive to Ou Svay near the border with Laos. From here we will board a motor boat to go further upriver to Khone Falls on the Lao border. As the entire Mekong spills over a fault line it creates the widest waterfall in the world. Keep an eye out for the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin. Only about 80 of these dolphins are left in the Mekong but they are frequently spotted on this stretch of river. We will be dropped off on an island where we will assemble our boats and set up camp. All meals while camping will be prepared by your guides.
Your first day paddling on the legendary Mekong River. We’ll paddle through beautiful flooded forests with massive trees and vines bent over by the river during the floods. We’ll pick our route through several islands and we may decide to explore some of them on foot, eventually choosing one to camp on. Mornings offer good chance to see a variety of tropical birds on this section of river. In some of the more remote sections of the Mekong, it wouldn’t be uncommon for people on the river banks to run away from us as we pass by. Tourists don’t travel to many of the places we’re going. Sometimes the locals will have a strange reaction when they first see us, though they are almost always very friendly with a big smile. While most locals will say hello, some will just stare at us, some start yelling for others to come see, and a few will simply run away.
Continuing our exploration of the Mekong will bring us through more flooded forests and interesting waterways as the river is divided into many braids of varying sizes, curving around countless islands. A section of our route is lined by a small cliff with a deep hole below. If you wish, climb up out of your raft onto the rock wall and jump in for a swim. Todays paddle will end at the cozy Mekong Bird Resort where we’ll spend the night.
On this section of river, exploring the villages by land is exciting and gives a different look into the local way of life. We will arrange for bicycles to be dropped off for us at the lodge and we will ride them down a series of easy trails that pass through small rural villages. As we pedal past, all the children will come running out to say hello. By lunch time we will have made it back to Stung Treng where we will eat in a restaurant. From Stung Treng we will take a motor boat to a small village down river. According to the villagers, the only foreigners to have ever visited are Feral Human Expeditions guides and groups. We are always welcomed with open arms and big smiles. Crowds of villagers will visit with us, and especially children will follow us as we walk through the village. After we share dinner and rice wine, the night tends to get lively with music and dancing. We will sleep in our hosts home which doubles as a small school house. Staying in this village will be a highlight of your entire trip to Cambodia, and the experiences you share with these villagers will stick with you for a lifetime.
More than 100 villagers line up on the riverbank to wave goodbye and wish us luck as we continue our paddle down the Mekong. We’ll stop for lunch on a small island overlooking a pool that frequently has dolphins. The night will be spent on an island in an area where we occasionally see monkeys.
It’s a bit misleading to call the Mekong “a” river and by know you will know why. The river has many faces and you will have seen many of them as it changes in geography and culture along our route. This will be your last night camped on one of the many sandy islands.
After breaking camp we’ll paddle on to Sambor, where we will drink coconuts and eat lunch. This marks the end of our trip paddling the Mekong. As your guides pack up the boats, you can visit Wat Sor Mouy Roy, also known as the 100 Pillar Wat. Here you can learn the interesting story of a young monk who turned himself into a crocodile and the unfortunate events that followed. From here we will travel overland to Kratie, where we’ll stay in a hotel that offers amazing views of the sun setting over the Mekong.
Todays task is to make the drive to Siem Reap. If there is time along the way, we will stop at the Man and Woman hills near Kampong Cham. There are many versions of the story about how these hills were created but they all tell about a competition between the men and women to make the tallest hill before sunrise of the next day. As they worked into the night, the women built a fire in the distance which fooled the men into thinking it was sunrise so they went to sleep, allowing the women to keep working and build a taller hill. Later, the men woke to the real sunrise and realized they had been tricked and lost the competition.
There is another killing field between the two hills, a giant sleeping Buddha, and many other statues and shrines. Keep your personal items close so the monkeys don’t run off with them. Once in Siem Reap, we’ll check into our hotel and start exploring this beautiful city.
Get up early and take a tuk-tuk to watch a beautiful sunrise over the famous Angkor Wat. Spend the day exploring Angkor and the surrounding ruins for an unforgettable experience. Angkor Wat is almost a requisite stop for anyone visiting Cambodia and for good reason; it’s amazing. Built in the early 12th century, it is the largest religious complex in the world and considered one of the seven wonders. You can read more about Angkor Wat at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Wat. It would be wise to read about the surrounding ruins as well and decide which ones you would like to see since one day isn’t quite enough to see it all.Day 13
Today we go to the Tonle Sap Lake where we will launch the boats and paddle into Kampong Pluk. After we navigate our way through a labyrinth of bushes and flooded forest we will enter this amazing village on stilts above the water. Not only do these people live on the water, they have little gardens and livestock on bamboo stilts. We will paddle the back “streets” of this amazing place and see how these water people live in such an unusual environment. After exploring a beautiful flooded forest we will tie our boats to a floating platform and eat lunch in a local restaurant. From there we’ll take a motorboat to the floating village of Prek Toal. This is the largest floating village on the lake with a population of about 6,000, and a crocodile population of around 7,000. In addition to fishing, crocodile farms are one of the primary sources of income. We’ll sleep in a floating house that may even be attached to one of the crocodile farms. While in Prek Toal, all meals will be prepared by an excellent community project restaurant.Day 14
After an early wakeup call and breakfast while watching the sun rise, we will get on a motorboat to the bird sanctuary where we’ll see massive amounts of birds like the lesser and greater adjutant storks, milky stork, spot-billed pelican, and more. For those who are willing, you can climb up into a platform built by the preserve high in the trees. This provides a great view of the birds in the distance which are in such high numbers that when looking at the canopy you’ll see more bird than tree in many places. A spotting scope is also available for a better look. When we return to the floating village we can spend a couple more hours paddling around and exploring the surrounding area at a leisurely pace. When we are ready, we’ll take our motor boat to the floating village of Chong Kneas for a quick look around. In this village you might see some kids paddling in giant tin bowls with snakes on their shoulders. From here it’s just a short trip back to our hotel in Siem Reap. In Siem Reap we’ll eat our last dinner together while watching traditional Apsara dancers.Day 15
Either fly out of Siem Reap (more expensive) or come with us back to Phnom Penh (6 hours driving). If you are flying out of Phnom Penh make sure you schedule an evening flight to accommodate travel time to the airport. We encourage everyone to spend more time in Cambodia and can help you with hotels and travel arrangements if you do.
If you have any questions or you’d like to book this trip, please contact us.
Custom itineraries available to this or any of the destinations we travel to.
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Kutrubes Travel also offers a variety of other tours throughout this region. Contact us for detailed itineraries and descriptions.