Wat Hanchey & Angkor Ban Village

Jan 20, 2019 - Jahan


After three days exploring the 10th to early 13th century temples and learning about the Angkor Empire, we gathered back on Jahan for cocktails and a sunset cruise as we departed the city of Kampong Cham.

This morning, we experienced our first sunrise on the waters of the Mekong River. At this time of year, one can see the teams of local fishermen netting to catch the trey riel. This local staple forms the basis of fermented fish paste, called prahok, which is a key ingredient for almost every sauce in Cambodian cuisine.

During breakfast, Captain Quy and his crew docked Jahan at Wat Hanchey, The sounds of a Buddhist ceremony carried into the Mekong River and guided us as we made our way toward the Hanchey temple complex. Wat Hanchey is a modern Buddhist pagoda situated at a point high over the Mekong River. Here are the standing remains of a pre-Angkorian 7th century brick temple tower, devoted to Shiva, “Lord of the Mountain.”

The modern temple beside those remains is the center for an important Buddhist activity: The induction ceremony of twelve young boys to become novices at the temple. Family, friends, dressed up for the occasion, and volunteers filled the space to witness the various ceremonial stages. An inductee’s “novitiation,” which may span from a few months to a couple of years, brings great merit to the family of the boy.

After a Buddhist blessing ceremony for our journey on the ship, we continued down the Mekong River towards the village of Angkor Ban. Photo instructor Emily Mount taught us how to incorporate photography into our voyage, and guests also learned about historical aspects of the Mekong River and concerns about recent dam constructions.

In the afternoon, we arrived in Angkor Ban, taking time to wander through this beautiful and traditional village, meeting local farmers and children along the way.

Reading and learning about Cambodia is one thing, but life in these villages takes on a whole new meaning when you are on the ground, experiencing the culture firsthand.

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About the Author

Paula Swart

National Geographic Staff

Paula Swart is an expert on Asian culture and history, and has been a museum curator for more than 20 years. She is currently Adjunct Curator (Asia) at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Canada. A popular expert on more than 30 prior National Geographic Expeditions, her travels have taken her to Vietnam and Cambodia numerous times. Paula holds degrees in archaeology, Asian art history, and Chinese history. 

About the Photographer

Emily Mount

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Emily grew up in Niwot, Colorado and Pullman, Washington. Her love of nature began as a child during family vacations spent hiking, camping and exploring the mountains and deserts of the west. In contrast to her outdoors interests, Emily pursued an intensive young career as a classical violinist, culminating in degrees in history and music performance at the University of Washington.  

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