Explorer Cruise (5 Days)

Cruise Line: Aqua Expeditions
Ship: Aqua Mekong  |  1 Review
Siem Reap, Cambodia to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tour Segment  Cruise Segment
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Chong Kneas, Cambodia

Arrival at the Siem Reap Meeting Point. Your guides will greet you and our porters will collect your luggage for delivery to your Design Suite onboard the Aqua Mekong. Board our air-conditioned bus for the scenic 45-minute countryside ride to the dock on the Tonle Sap Lake. Welcome to the laid back luxury of the Aqua Mekong. Settle into your elegantly appointed, river facing suite as the vessel begins to cruise and thus begins one of life's most memorable and photogenic adventures. Ascend to the Observation Deck if you wish, to take in the view of the southern end of the Tonle Sap Lake, among the most fascinating eco-systems on earth. Often called the "heart of Cambodia" because millions of Cambodians depend on its waters. Over the next four nights, the Aqua Mekong sails from here along the one of the world's great rivers towards remote natural and cultural destinations visited by only a few. First however, we begin with a Safety Drill followed by a briefing on the Observation Deck in the air-conditioned Indoor Lounge with the cruise director and hear from our expert guides about your Mekong adventures ahead. We begin our cruise today along the Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. This great lake covers an area of around 250,000 hectares in the dry season. Listen carefully as our expert guides explain the unique hydrological phenomenon of the Tonle Sap: when the monsoon begins, the swollen waters of the Mekong River force the Tonle Sap River to reverse its flow northwards, feeding the lake and submerging the surrounding floodplains under up to ten meters of Mekong waters for several months every year. Fortunately for us, the vast wetland area resulting from this cycle is home to an extraordinarily high biodiversity, both in terms of variety and abundance of species. Year round as well, the Tonle Sap is rich in bird life, including Brahminy kites, pied kingfishers, and blue-tailed bee-eaters. The Lake is also one of the most productive captive fisheries in the world, providing around 60% of the protein intake for the entire population of Cambodia.

Prek Toal, Cambodia
Prek Toal Biosphere Reserve, Cambodia
Prek Toal, Cambodia
Moat Khla, Cambodia

Today we board Aqua Expeditions' comfortable excursion skiffs for your first adventure. Life jackets, ponchos, and plenty of cold potable water are always available for you onboard the skiffs. We head off after breakfast into the 22,000-hectare Prek Toal Core Bird Reserve on Tonle Sap Lake, one of the largest freshwater bodies in Asia and the last refuge in Southeast Asia for large waterbirds like the spot-billed pelicans, milky stork, black-headed ibis, and the elusive masked finfoot. You may be surprised to see that although most communities on the Tonle Sap are quite isolated, even ones like Moat Khla boast floating 'convenience' stores stocked with fishing tackle, cooking utensils, rice, beer, candy, fruits, and vegetables. Along the water, there are also small merchants like fresh egg vendors, women selling bamboo stalks stuffed with sticky rice, and even divers hired to search for lost objects. Moat Khla is the last village in Siem Reap Province on the southeastern end of the lake and is accessible only by water. The community is largely of Vietnamese descent, owing to its settlement long before the nuances of international borders. Aqua Expeditions has made special arrangements for our guests to attend the blessing ceremony conducted at Moat Khla's Buddhist temple, home to only four monks.

Chhnok Tru, Cambodia
Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia

We continue exploring remote communities around the Tonle Sap River, an ecological hot spot designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1997. Today we head by skiff to Chhnok Tru, as photogenic as it is remote and thus completely self-sufficient. Here we "slide" into an ice factory, the importance of which will be obvious after even just one day in Southeast Asia. As local factory workers explain how they make and use the ice for fish preservation, our expert guides translate and get answers to your questions about this livelihood so different from ours. Also be on the lookout in this lake village for floating schools, riverside churches, and pagoda, and even the karaoke bar and police station. Literally everything and everyone in Chhnok Tru travels by small boat through the intricate network of canals crisscrossing this tiny town. Later in the day, we continue exploring Khmer riverside life in the floating village of Kampong Chhnang, meaning Port of Pottery. Archaeological findings here link this now sleepy area as far back as the Dvaravati kingdom, dating to the 6th through 11th centuries when Kampong Chhnang was an important coastal stop on the trade route linking China and India. Colorful shrines with gilded Buddhas, villagers sporting conical hats more often associated with Vietnam, and simple houses on bamboo stilts are among today's striking sights along the waterfront.

Koh Chen, Cambodia
Koh Oknha Tey, Cambodia

Today, we board our skiffs to visit Koh Chen, or 'Chinese Island' in Khmer. The inhabitants of this riverside village are renowned throughout the region as silver and coppersmiths. They purchase the precious metals in Phnom Penh and return here to make ornamental items such as the cups, boxes, and delicately engraved tropical fruits used in Buddhist ceremonies and marriage blessings. Each family member carries out an aspect of these ancient methods and the intricate, beautiful workmanship belies its humble origins. Purchase whatever catches your eye before we continue on to the pagoda. If the monks are in residence, we will experience an authentic Buddhist blessing ceremony. We begin our Cambodia adventures with a visit to Koh Oknha Tey – a beautiful island on the Mekong. Here we will explore by tuk-tuks, heading to one of the villages where renowned weavers have invited us to wander freely among their looms, admiring their skills as they work at this knotty art form. Witness the entire process, learning how silk starts with the worms, see silk thread being looped and dyed, then admire and purchase, if you wish, the final shimmering Khmer silk accessories. A biking option is also available for those who wish to explore deeper into the island.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Shifting gears from the sleepy countryside to this country's political and economic capital, we sail into Phnom Penh where Art Deco buildings still stand in the shadows of ever-rising skyscrapers and vintage cyclos cruise alongside imported European sports cars. Buddhist temples, French colonial villas, and the Royal Palace provide photogenic backdrop to international business and a new generation of boutique hotels, chic shopping and cosmopolitan nightlife. Today's urban adventure by two wheel motorized tuk-tuks take in this historic city's most important sites including the 1866 Royal Palace that is still home to the reigning monarch and its Silver Pagoda, the royal compound's most famous attraction, so called because in 1962 then Prince Sihanouk ordered the floor inlaid with 5,329 genuine silver tiles. Today the pavilion houses many jeweled statues and images, including the 17th-century Emerald Buddha, made of Baccarat crystal, and a life size gold Maitreya Buddha adorned 9,584 diamonds, the largest of which weighs 25 carats. Just next door, the National Museum of Cambodia houses the world's largest collection of Khmer art, much of it removed from Angkor Wat to prevent looting. Here we can linger among the linga, representations of the Hindu deity Shiva, and thousands of other artifacts including an imposing 11th-century bronze sculpture of a reclining Vishnu that is considered a monumental example of Khmer statuary. We return to the Aqua Mekong to pack up and disembark.

Explorer Cruise map

What's Included


  • All meals while onboard

    All excursions

    All beverages(alcoholic and non-

    alcoholic with exception of premium brands)

    Transfers to/from vessel when arriving on recommended flights

Not Included

  • Air tickets to and from port(s)

    Guide and crew gratuities

    Bar and Boutique purchases

    Boutique purchases

About Us

Celebrating a decade of success in 2017, Aqua Expeditions has achieved global recognition as a leader in luxury small ship river cruising. Discover Peru’s legendary Amazon River aboard the architect-designed, custom-built 16-suite Aria Amazon offering professionally guided nature-based adventures combined with gourmet cuisine and sophisticated 5-star hotel accommodations that incorporate the latest technology. Similarly, Aqua Expeditions’ newest luxury vessel, the 20-suite Aqua Mekong sails the historic Mekong River between timeless Cambodia and contemporary Vietnam.

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