The boats that steam week-long cruises along the mighty Mekong between Siem Reap and the Delta beyond Saigon (currently the R/V Mekong and the Jayavarman from our portfolio) offer a window into a world gone by, a time of grand leisurely travel, where your cabin is actually a stateroom, where staff are friendly and attentive, and where the G&T is always perfectly mixed. As well as the chance to relax and soak up the timeless landscape of the Mekong River, you also have excursions with knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides. Typically these will include:
In the heart of the Mekong Delta, Cai Be floating market is everything you expect it to be: colourful, busy, lively and a real slice of Mekong life. Whilst you’re in this area you’ll explore a lot by traditional sampan, taking in the narrow backwaters away from the main channels – where lush green vegetation overhangs the river, and glimpses of village life drift past: people harvesting in the fields, bullocks pulling ploughs, children and dogs playing between wooden houses.
On the border with Cambodia, Chau Doc is a chance to get off the boat and stretch your legs, exploring nearby tribal villages of the Cham people, where you can take a look at their bamboo catfish farms. Chau Doc itself has the slightly raffish colonial air you might expect from a frontier town.
Once known as the “Paris of the East”, you’ll tour the city covering the attractive sights, like the golden Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, some of the excellent museums the city boasts. Of course, Cambodia’s more recent history is darker and a visit to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng prison brings home the real horror of the Khmer Rouge years.
This most picturesque part of the journey takes in the narrow channel of the Tonle River (depending on water-levels, it’s sometimes negotiated by coach). There are more fish farms and vignettes of rural life to enjoy, as well as off-boat excursions to explore visits to local villages and temples.
A provincial capital with French colonial buildings, Kampong Cham is likely to be your base for a couple of days. As well as the town itself, you head off into the surrounding countryside to visit local villages that have changed little in the last couple of centuries. Traditional crafts are still practiced here, like pottery and silk weaving, and golden-robed monks piously pray at wonderfully decorated monasteries.
With your journey bookended by Vietnam’s bustling and fascinating second city, Saigon, and the stunning temples of Angkor at Siem Reap, these Mekong River cruises are an ideal way to link up your odyssey through Indochina, and will undoubtedly be one of the real highlights of your holiday.