After a full day of fascinating excursions on land nothing feels more surreal than the enactment of the engravings seen of the Cambodian temples on board The Jahan or Jayavarman. It will be a very unique evening for our guests, animated by the “celestial dancers” – the Apsaras.

Apsaras are omnipresent in Khmer culture, carved by the hundreds in the stone walls of the most famous and oldest temples of Cambodia. Originating from Hindu mythology, they are beautiful female creatures that descended from the heavens to entertain and sometimes seduce the gods and kings with their dance.

The enactment of the mythology by real dancers is a very old tradition and was, in ancient times, reserved only for the eyes of the royal court. The great king Jayavarman VII loved the show so much that he was said to have 3000 Apsara dancers in his court and would have spectacles of such gargantuan proportion, they were only worthy of the god-king. Through time, the Apsara dance did spread to other layers of the population and by the 19th century, the first travelers who visited the mythical city of Angkor were welcome with this traditional dance. Which is why to this day it became one of the most iconic part of the Khmer cultural heritage.

The choreography itself, with the gestures and positions holds great beauty, however there is more than meets the eye, since every single hand execution and pose made by the performer holds a meaning to it. Essentially, the Apsaras are not only captivating the spectators with their dance, they are also gracefully telling stories that are deeply rooted in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

With their fingers and arms twisting elegantly to the traditional music and the grace of their movements amplified by the gold, silk and the colorful costumes, the performance is a tribute to the gods and a wonderful sight for the audience on our Mekong cruise.

Find out more about our Mekong program here.