Departing by Air
Duration 15 days
Available Until November 2017

The mighty Mekong River flows through the heart of South East Asia. Our journey along this amazing natural marvel explores its fascinating water-borne worlds, from floating villages, stilt houses and colourful floating markets to the thousands of local boats plying its mud-coloured waters.

Price Includes

  • Experience a seven night river cruise on board the luxurious 4-star RV Mekong Prestige II
  • Gaze in awe at the magnificent city and temples of Angkor, the greatest ancient site in Asia
  • Stay in the heart of Saigon with its bustling waterfront, French colonial architecture and wonderful cuisine
  • Visit and tour of Phnom Penh, the ‘Paris of the East’, with its golden temples and palaces
  • See the fascinating Cu-Chi tunnels, a poignant reminder of the US-Vietnam conflict
  • Visit the teeming floating markets of Kampong Chhnang and Cai Be
  • Enjoy numerous stops at local communities en route to discover their way of life, in harmony with their surroundings and unchanged in centuries
  • Experience the delights of exquisitely presented Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine, plus international classics
  • All shore excursions and crew gratuities included
  • All meals and selected drinks included whilst on the Mekong cruise
  • All staterooms are outside cabins with balconies and river views
  • Escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
  • Stay in 4-star hotels with breakfast included
  • Return scheduled flights from London Heathrow

Itinerary

DAY 1 – DEPARTURE

You should arrive at the airport for your overnight flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

DAY 2 – ARRIVAL IN SAIGON

After your morning arrival you check into the four-star Novotel Saigon Centre Hotel for two nights with breakfast. After some time to relax, we’ll take a short introductory walking tour around our hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.

DAY 3 – SAIGON

This will be a day to remember! We visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels, a complex underground network stretching for 200 kilometres, which included hospitals, meeting rooms, sleeping quarters and kitchens. Begun during the last years of French rule and vastly expanded during the 1960’s, the tunnels provided a base for the Vietcong from which to attack US forces within just 30 miles of Saigon. Our visit here is a fascinating insight into these troubled times: we see the tunnels themselves and examples of the many mantraps and stake pits which protected them. Despite being carpet-bombed, the tunnels were never really penetrated and should you wish, you may even try out real period weapons on a firing range.

We continue through rural farming communities back to Saigon. In the afternoon our city tour covers all the major sights including the colonial-style central post office, the cathedral and the Reunification Palace where famously in 1975, a tank burst through its gates in the final defining moment of the Vietnam War. We also see the War Remnants Museum and the lively Ben Thanh market – a fascinating insight into Saigon daily life, you can find anything here, all at extremely good prices!

DAY 4 –  BOARD THE RV MEKONG PRESTIGE II

Expectations rise during our drive to the Mekong Delta, its coconut groves swaying with the breeze, the countryside studded with pagodas and an amazing network of paddy fields, tended by farmers bent double and almost completely covered by their iconic conical hats; these are some of Vietnam’s most enduring images.

Originally called Mae Khong – “Mother of all Rivers”, huge volumes of water drain from the hinterland plains and   the snow-clad Chinese Himalayas, surging along an epic 3,000 mile journey.   Life here obviously revolves around its waterways; the imposing sampans, so typical of South East Asia for hundreds of years and the quintessential floating markets of longboats which almost sink under the groaning weight of colourful vegetables. Your cruise is the perfect way to discover and understand this fascinating and rapidly emerging corner of the world – a serene experience immersing you in its people and its customs at a wonderful gentle pace.

After a stop at the picturesque Cholon market and a lacquer workshop, you board the superb four-star RV Mekong Prestige II and your highly professional crew, imbibed by the unique service ethic you find everywhere here, ensure you settle in to your spacious and beautifully appointed cabin. After an excellent lunch, your journey begins. A wonderful reality soon sinks in with your first glimpses of the amazing stilted villages and teeming river traffic animating the scene seemingly at every turn. As darkness gently falls, take your seat in the restaurant for your first dinner, offering a choice of superbly executed Vietnamese or Cambodian cuisine or international classics. The excellent cuisine is accompanied by tasty and included local wines, beers or soft drinks. Mooring at Cai Be, the day ends with a lovely performance of traditional Mekong music and perhaps a nightcap in the balmy late evening air, bathed by the unmistakable sounds of the East.

DAY 5 – CAO DAI TEMPLE

This morning we sail by local “junk” along Cai Be’s waterfront and amazing floating market where wily sellers tantalisingly dangle their wares from long poles to the myriad of smaller boats in a vibrant riot of colour and noisy bartering. We also visit the remarkable French Gothic cathedral, a poignant reminder of Vietnam’s colonial past.

This afternoon we cruise through Vinh Long to Sa Dec, with a guided stroll through the colourful local market and an interesting comparison with this morning. Highlight of the day though, is the intriguing Cao Dai Temple, centre of a unique indigenous religion, a fascinating combination of Taoism, Buddhism and Chinese Confucianism plus elements of Christianity, Islam and spiritualism. Bizarrely, its saints include Joan of Arc, Napoleon, Shakespeare and Winston Churchill! The temple itself is a striking combination of western and oriental architectural styles and mesmerising brightly coloured statues, overlooked by the religion’s all-seeing Divine Eye – it’s sure to leave you something to ponder after your visit!

Another tropical night atmospherically falls as we cruise upstream whilst enjoying another superb dinner and the kaleidoscope of truly amazing sights, sounds and scents, accompanied by the gentle waters lapping peacefully against the hull.

DAY 6 –  TAN CHAU

One of the great pleasures of river cruising is waking up somewhere completely different and as dawn breaks, we are berthed in remote Tan Chau near Cambodia! One of the delights of Vietnam is that so many ‘cottage’ industries still thrive offering a fascinating insight into the past. This morning we explore Tan Chau, Vietnam’s leading silk centre producing extremely high quality and truly beautiful naturally dyed clothes. Slipping our moorings, Vietnam slowly recedes as we cross into Cambodia, continuing into the evening, a chance to enjoy pre-dinner drinks in the lounge, exchanging your experiences with your like-minded fellow passengers before another tasty dinner. Take a stroll outside, look above and be dazzled by the luminosity of an amazing night sky, unfettered by streetlights and advertising as we cruise to Phnom Penh.

DAY 7 – PHNOM PENH

Called ‘Paris of the East’ during colonial times, Phnom Penh has preserved much of its wonderful rustic charm, elegance and French allure. Sightseeing includes an exciting cycle rickshaw ride to the dazzling white and gold Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, followed by a chance to witness exceptionally beautiful Khmer craft in the National Museum. In homage to Cambodia’s tragic recent history, we next visit the haunting Tuol Sleng Genocide museum.

Phnom Penh has some excellent markets offering fine silks, spices and high quality lacquer work, so for anyone not wishing to take this visit, this is the perfect opportunity to hone your bargaining skills! This evening you will be entertained by a traditional Apsara performance whose talented silk-clad dancers will dazzle you with their graceful poise and intricate hand movements, originally designed to entertain the gods. We moor overnight enabling easy exploration of the city where, late into the evening the bustling markets, teeming street restaurants and hawkers selling literally anything enhance the vibrant and electric ambience so typical of the emerging Far East!

DAY 8 – PHNOM PENH

After another delightful breakfast, we arrive at Koh Chong, a delightful silk weaving village visiting a particularly impressive pagoda and a local school before returning to Phnom Penh for an afternoon at leisure. You can explore its intriguing corners such as Wat Phnom – symbol of the city, perhaps the remarkable Russian market, just relax and catch up on some reading or simply absorb the teeming river life.

DAY 9 – OUDONG

This morning we cruise into the heart of Cambodia on the Tonle River, a Mekong tributary which astonishingly changes its direction of flow between wet and dry seasons! A remarkable ecosystem here is home to 20,000 plants species, 1200 birds, 800 reptiles and amphibians plus 430 mammals – with 1300 new species having been discovered since 1997. Next we visit historic Oudong – the country’s former capital, nestling at the foot of Phnom Udong, a wooded hill with impressive Buddhist spiritual monuments towering above the trees, marking the final resting place of the Khmer kings. This afternoon we visit the peaceful Vipasssana Dhura Pagoda, a revered place of meditation followed by the charming monastery of Wat Kampong Leu, renowned for its extraordinarily beautiful wall paintings. We return by traditional local ox cart, experiencing the leisurely pace of life still pervading this wonderfully beautiful country.

DAY 10 – FLOATING VILLAGES

Kampong Chnang is a busy rural port town noted for its bustling markets and mesmerising canal network. Boarding traditional long tail boats we visit its picturesque floating village where life is conducted entirely astride the river before a stroll through the picturesque market, a cacophony of sounds, smells and vibrant colours. This afternoon, our final cruise crosses the enormously varied Tonle Sap (Great Lake), in the rainy season South East Asia’s largest lake and critical to Cambodia’s biodiversity, with its fish staggeringly supporting 3 million people. You may see crocodiles and turtles plus a huge variety of birdlife. Adapting to the seasonal climate, fascinating “floating villages” have evolved where homes and markets plus workshops, schools and surgeries amazingly rise and fall with the water level. Because of these changes our own itinerary from day 9 to 11 may vary (the cruise described above is based on a high-water itinerary – see note at the end of this brochure).

DAY 11 – SIEM REAP

Early this morning the Mekong Prestige glides to a final halt, berthed in Siem Reap at the head of this stunningly beautiful lake. We say our fond farewells to the splendid crew as you continue your exploration of Cambodia, where you stay for three nights at the four-star superior Borei Angkor Hotel with breakfast. It’s extremely comfortable with two restaurants, a large pool and spa. The rest of the day is at leisure.

DAY 12 – ANGKOR

Today we see the haunting soft morning light over the eerie temples of Angkor. Encircled by verdant steamy jungle, shrouded in mist and with a tropical dawn chorus reverberating in the air, this is something you will never forget! We visit the huge fortified 13th century city of Angkor Thom, with its five monumental gates, and 300-foot wide moat – its centre containing one of Angkor’s most astonishing sites, the temple of Bayon. Crowned by over fifty towers, each with four colossal carved heads looking out in every direction, this is an extraordinary masterpiece of Khmer art.

One of the most intriguing sites is the smaller temple of Ta Prohm which has been left in its natural, un-restored state, with giant tropical trees bursting through the ruins, their roots entwined like vast tentacles across the moss-covered, weathered walls and roofs. Late in the afternoon we see the immense temple of Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious structures in the world.

The main entrance faces due west to catch the rose-red glow of the setting sun, a truly magical time of day.

DAY 13 – SIEM REAP FREE DAY

Our last full day in Cambodia is at leisure for you to enjoy the swimming pool and facilities of your hotel or to explore the excellent markets and restaurants of Siem Reap.

DAY 14 – RETURN FLIGHT

At the appropriate time you transfer to the airport for your flight to Bangkok, from where you connect with your return flight to the UK.

DAY 15 – ARRIVE HOME

You arrive home.


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