Vietnam & Cambodia

Two amazing countries woven together by the lower Mekong river. Both countries and its might stream
are likely to be Southeast Asia’s most diverse cruise destination in regards of history, culture and scenery.

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Along the Mighty Mekong

A kaleidoscope of Vietnamese & Cambodian diversity

A daily changing Venture

Travelling along the lower Mekong is an unconventional journey that highlights the region’s wide-ranging diversity. The vibrant, evergreen delta region and all its sights and sounds piques visitors’ curiosity and encourages one to observe and discover in detail. The Mekong flows gently around Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, which presents a captivating heritage whilst contrasting its history with modernity. The unknown Mekong River northeast of Phnom Penh and the Tonle river (and lake) - which both live in perfect symbioses - are the essential part of the heartland of rural Cambodia and full of fascinating hidden treasures.

As nature and scenery changes along the river, so do the people and ancient civilizations, creating a kaleidoscope of great sensations.
The Mekong Delta –
An agricultural Powerhouse

Vietnam and Cambodia would be vastly different without the Mekong Delta, which is the primary source of food for its inhabitants. Vietnam produces an abundance of fruits in the delta, including coconut, water melon, durian, jackfruit, rambutan, and dragon fruit, in addition to hosting the world’s largest inland aquaculture industry. This water-rich region is also the only one in Southeast Asia which is able to produce three rice harvests annually. Almost 50% of the country’s total amount of food comes from the Mekong Delta (55% rice, 80% fruit, 60% fish).

The abundance of agri- and aqua-cultural activities are on display every minute of the day making it a fascinating region to visit and see.
Traditional Craftsmanship

Since centuries, people along the lower Mekong, have developed special skills of traditional craftsmanship. Mekong Delta villages take advantage of the world’s fastest-growing free-floating plant, the water hyacinth, by using its dried fibers to weave mats, baskets, handbags, etc. Locals also make various products out of the delta’s ubiquitous coconut, like oil or candy. Other workshops specialize in rice-based goods such as rice wine, rice paper, and the ever-popular, sweet crispy “pop rice”.

On the Khmer side, gifted hands carve wood and stone figures, and Cambodia’s famed silk and high quality garments are produced in villages since ancient times by hand. Another Cambodian handicraft is clay pottery, particular those from ‘Kampong Chhnang’ where techniques and materials have largely remained unchanged since the 5th century.
Simply Delectable Cuisine

Unlike its northern counterpart, many southern Vietnamese dishes are much sweeter due to the growth of sugar cane and coconut, while other spicy dishes are said to be influenced from Cambodia. Many iconic dishes originate from the south, such as the world-famous rice noodle soup ‘Pho’. The local French-influenced baguette sandwich, ‘Banh Mi’ can be served at any time of day. Another beloved southern specialty is fresh spring rolls wrapped in rice paper, ‘Goi Cuon’ (famous in the Delta accompanied with locally made fish sauce).

Cambodia also features some culinary delights, such as Fish Amok (steamed fish in curry and coconut milk) or mouth-watering ‘Bai Sach Chrouk’ (grilled pork marinated with fresh vegetables and broken rice).
A Journey through
Culture & History

Journeying along the lower Mekong is an exhilarating journey through history and culture. The origins of Buddhism can be traced back to over two millennia, deeply influencing people’s character and life until today. The Hindu beliefs are still very present in Cambodian culture, and are often expressed in arts, architecture and crafts (especially during the Angkor era). Conversely, in Vietnam, Buddhist beliefs are often intertwined with Taoism, Confucianism, and worship of spirits and ancestors.

Throughout the past, the two countries have been influenced by the ancient Cham, Khmer and Siam empires; the Chinese and Indians; and western powers such as the French and Americans. Despite their long and complex history, both nations have preserved their centuries-old roots
Three Pearl Cities of Indochina

Traveling the classic lower Mekong route links three of Indochina’s pearl cities: Saigon, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. With a mix of heritage, tradition, culture, warm-hearted people and a dash of colonial legacy, each of these cities has its own distinguishing charm and enchanting allure.

Economically booming Saigon is bursting with modernity and vibrant life mixed with local street flair and colonial architecture. Phnom Penh fascinates with its rustic charm. The city center is situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle rivers, where a promenade offers a European riverside atmosphere and many historic sights are in walking distance. Finally, Siem Reap, home to the world’s largest temple complex, Angkor Wat. The city also prides itself with local art and charming laissez-faire lifestyle.

Available Cruises

Discover the treasures of the Lower Mekong with our exceptional cruise itineraries

7 Nights

Saigon – Siem Reap or vice versa

The most popular and complete Mekong cruise combines opulent world heritage sites in Vietnam & Cambodia with places that are rarely visited.

4 nights

Siem Reap – Phnom Penh or vice versa

The best of rural Cambodia with great landscapes, ancient temples, charming villages and smiling faces offering insights into some widely unknown parts of this amazing country. (3-Nights downstream only).

3 nights

Saigon – Phnom Penh or vice versa

A shorter voyage linking two countries and the two “pearl” cities of South East Asia, Saigon and Phnom Penh, while offering a detailed exploration of the Mekong Delta.

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Insights

Interesting facts about Southern Vietnam and Cambodia

A Magnificent River’s Tail
The Mekong Delta’s fascinating figures
As the longest river in Southeast Asia, and 12th longest river in the world, the Mekong runs through six countries (China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam) and after enduring a 4,500 km journey and splitting into nine arms, or ‘dragons’, in the Mekong Delta, finally discharges into the South China Sea at an astonishing rate of 475 cubic kilometers of water per year – enough drinking water for 400 billion humans annually. A fifth of Vietnam’s 100 million citizens live in the delta, and a vast majority of them rely on the Mekong for agriculture and fishing. This is made possible because the soil is extraordinary fertile, owing to the vast amounts of sediment and nutrients carried by the river all the way down from the Tibetan plateau (an estimated 1 billion cubic meters annually). Roughly 50% of this water is used as irrigation for the delta’s countless fruit, vegetable and rice fields along the banks and areas crisscrossed by a maze of canals and rivers.
The Tonle Lake & River
When one way does not do the job
Joining the Mekong River at Phnom Penh is the Tonle Sap, which is connected to its massive reservoir and Southeast Asia’s largest inland lake. The Tonle River’s claim to fame is that it is the world’s only waterway which flows in both directions. During the dry season (Nov. to May), its waters run downstream. However, as the wet monsoon seasons causes the Mekong River to swell, rushing waters take an alternate path up the Tonle, thus reversing its flow for half the year. The area ranges from of 2,500 sqkm (965 sqmi) during dry season to six times its size at 16,000 sqkm (6,000 sqmi), and at some parts, depths can even rise by 10 meters during the wet monsoon.

Not only does the lake act as a safety valve for the Mekong by preventing floods further downstream, it also contributes 50% of the delta’s water flow during the dry season, allowing for balance to triumph.
The Angkor Empire
A magnificent, but lost civilization
Today, when an outsider hears the word ‘Khmer’, they are likely to imagine the once sprawling Khmer Empire (which is used interchangeably with Angkor Empire), ancestors of present-day Cambodians. The Angkor empire was founded on the banks of the Mekong River at the turn of the 9th century before eventually relocating to Angkor (near modern day Siem Reap). It was here that the Khmer civilization thrived, feeding their population with the Tonle’s abundant fish and irrigated rice fields. At its zenith, the empire encompassed all of Cambodia in addition to much of Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand – and Angkor was also the largest urban center of the world at the time. In 1181, Cambodia’s greatest monarch, King Jayavarman VII (one of our vessels takes its name after him), united his fractured kingdom to defeat the neighboring Cham empire in addition to converting his kingdom from Hinduism to Buddhism (remnants from both religions are still on display). Today, 2 million tourists flock to this UNESCO World Heritage Site annually.
Climate in Southern Vietnam & Cambodia
Wonderfully tropical all year round
Any time of the year can be ideal for visiting the lower Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia. Pleasant temperatures and clear skies can be expected in December, January and February, making these months the best, but also most visited season of the year. March is still a very good month to travel with hardly any rain fall but higher degrees though. From April to May then the weather can get hot with temperatures rising may rise up to 35°C (95°F) degree. Around early June the rainy season usually begins (lasting til October or early November) - the weather is still hot, but thanks to the clouds and rain falls temperatures are pleasantly reduced. Scattered showers can be expected mostly in the afternoon. However, these summer months have their advantages: the vegetation is bursting with vivid greenery, much less visitors, and from Mid-August to Mid-November (approx.) the Tonle Lake has enough water to allow a smooth passage.
Two Record-Setting Countries
Vietnam’s & Cambodia’s top stats
The Mekong River region is likely to be the second most biodiverse in the world (after the Amazon River) with over 1300 species of fish, including the famed the Mekong giant catfish. It also hosts the world’s largest inland fishery, with Vietnam being the leading exporter (1.3 million tons in 2019) of freshwater fish farmed in the delta. The waters of the Mekong are also responsible for irrigating southern Vietnam’s plentiful rice fields and orchards – the country is the top exporter of the exotic dragon fruit and the world’s 3rd largest exporter of rice (after Thailand and India). Further up the Mekong and across the border, Cambodia is home to a very young population. More than half of its population is under the age of 30. And the famous Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world (over 400 acres). Angkor is also featured on the Cambodian flag – one of the world’s only national flags featuring a building.
Understanding local Customs
What one should know whilst travelling
When travelling in Southeast Asia, it is important to understand some local etiquette, though locals usually understand cultural differences and are quite forgiving to foreigners. In Cambodia, because a person’s head is the highest part of the body, it is considered sacred and should never be touched, even if done in a kind and loving manner. Similarly, pointing the sole of one’s foot at another person is considered rude. And, while in Vietnam it is very normal offer your hand as a greeting, instead Cambodians welcome each other with a ‘Sampeah’, where the hands are held together in a Namaste prayer position accompanied with a bow of the head. Some other important customs to be aware of in both countries: Avoid public displays of affection or wearing revealing clothing (especially at places of worship). It is also nice to offer someone an item using both hands as a sign of respect, and when pointing in a direction, use the entire hand rather than your index finger. Finally, take off your shoes when visiting a temple or local resident’s home.
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