River cruising is the in-vogue travel trend. As Indochina grows in popularity as a tourism destination, exciting tour options available to travelers looking to explore this region of Southeast Asia are growing as well. A rising trend is to journey via river cruise on one of the excellent cruise ships now plying the Mekong and other rivers of the region.
In places where rivers and waterways remain the lifeblood of everyday life for local residents, traveling by cruise ship reveals how deeply the river resource impacts the lives of ordinary people.
Mekong River Cruise - A Floating Hotel
Cruising down the Mekong, a major transportation artery of Indochina, is not as complicated as it might sound. There are a range of options to explore areas along the riverbanks and beyond, making key stops along the way. Two Indochinese capitals – Vientiane (Laos) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia) – both sit on the banks of the Mekong as it flows south through Laos and into Cambodia before fanning out in to South Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and eventually the sea.
A cruise experience on the Mekong will likely feature a variety of culturally distinctive elements. Aside from the traditional highlights of Indochina such as capital cities and Angkorian monuments, cruise ship itineraries will likely include visits to floating markets, colonial landmarks, ancient temples and quiet fishing villages nestled on the banks of freshwater islands. The length and variety of these excursions will largely depend on the amount of time the traveler has and how long the cruise package is, but there is certain to be enough to give travelers a really immersive experience.
Life along The Mekong River
Enjoy Perfect Mekong River Cruises
There can be no tapestry of river life as fascinating and varied as the Mekong River, the life blood of Indochina. Indeed there can be no more striking a cultural contrast as that between the bustling Vietnam delta and the tranquility of Cambodia. And there can be few more relaxing ways to explore this watery hinterland of Cambodia and southern Vietnam than by taking a leisurely river cruise through the verdant delta of the mighty Mekong River, the most bio-diverse river in the world.
For the first-time visitor to Asia, a Mekong River Cruise is a fantastic starting point. A river cruise through the Mekong Delta of Cambodia and Vietnam is quite a different animal from being on the rivers of Europe, where cruise lines enjoy a booming business. That’s not to say business isn’t booming on the Mekong River, but it’s a different kind of cruise for a different kind of cruiser. Two of the most beautiful, historic, and friendly places in all of Asia, dynamic Vietnam and pastoral Cambodia are intriguing studies in contrast. Each possesses its own unique charm and social traditions, its own tragic history and complex past. In many ways, a visit here is less about the sights you see and more about the experiences you have and the people you meet along the way.
Relaxing on Sundeck
The Mekong River is navigable all the way from the busting southern Vietnamese capital of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), via the iridescent Mekong Delta to the Cambodia Capital of Phnom Penh. From here, depending on the river's water levels, you can continue across the vast Tonle Sap lake to visit the ancient temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, or continue up the Mekong to the quaint colonial-era town of Kratie that marks the lower end of a huge and fascinating wetland that stretches 150km south from the border with Laos. This is the home of the rare Irrawaddy freshwater dolphin.
Enjoy Sampan Cruise
The shipping link between Saigon, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is immensely practical for the travelers as it makes it possible to connect three important destinations on one trip with easy plane connections at either end: Saigon, the exotic Frenchified former capital of South Vietnam; Phnom Penh, the quaint Cambodian capital; and the stupendous World Heritage monuments at Angkor. One need no longer check in and out of hotels and endure bumpy roads to visit these magnificent places.
Along the way, passengers will get the chance to visit a number of iconic and fascinating spots on or near to the Mekong river, including temples, villages, local markets and rural countryside, plus… of course… the ancient temples of Angkor, the capital Phnom Penh and the thriving metropolis of Saigon.
If you choose a cruise that continues across Cambodia's vast Tonle Sap Lake where whole communities live in floating villages on the water. Completely self-sufficient, these villages are equipped with floating schools, factories to make ice for fish preservation, churches, pagodas, service stations, pigsties, stores, boats or television repair shops, video clubs, karaoke bars, police stations… everything on the water. You will be able to walk through local markets and visit stilt houses where families still employ traditional methods to weave fine silks, or to make pottery and other traditional handicrafts. You will see fishermen casting their nets, and ferry ladies rowing their boats using their feet.
At times when the water levels in the Tonle Sap at too low for navigation, you can take a cruise further on up the Mekong to the provincial capitals of Kampong Cham and Kratie. There are now several river cruise boats plying this route, some large and grand, and some more boutique.