Our first full day abord the Jahan saw us cruising down the Mekong River in the cool morning air. Early risers gathered on the upper deck for Tai Chi, as the distant banks of Kampong Cham province drifted by. Our morning excursion took us to the quaint, rural setting of Angkor Ban, a village that features some traditional vernacular architecture. Some of these old wooden houses are remarkably preserved, considering they were built several generations ago, and some are still occupied by relatives of the first inhabitants. As we walked up the concrete, reinforced riverbank, we encountered the village monastery and had a chance to meet novice monks in their morning class. Many Cambodian males join the monastery at some stage in their lives. It is not a lifelong commitment, and for many, it offers better educational opportunities than the free public schooling system. As we explored Angkor Ban and met some of the villagers, we got a firsthand sense of their rural life. Chickens and geese wandered about, and cows were tethered underneath stilt houses. When we returned to the Jahan, the village monks came aboard to give us and our journey a blessing.
As we cruised downstream, naturalist Patrick MacQuarrie told us about the hydrology of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap basins. Photography instructor Linda Burback introduced us to iPhone photography. In the afternoon, we started to see the high-rise buildings of Phnom Penh on the horizon. We headed ashore at Koh Oknha Tey, a small island in the Mekong River. Only a 45-minute drive from the Cambodian capital, this island is a popular day trip spot for picnickers and those seeking some peace and quiet in a semirural setting. The island is also home to numerous small silk weaving businesses. At a silk farm, we saw how this fine art is still created by hand. As tuktuks took us through the farmland, we saw various crops and vegetables being cultivated. Later, as the afternoon sun sank in the west, the Jahan cruised past Phnom Penh and the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, where we saw the meeting of the waters. Next, we travelled upriver towards the Great Lake to explore another aspect of the incredibly diverse ecosystems. After a fine dinner, the evening program took a turn as cultural specialist David Brotherson took us through the Cambodian wedding experience.