Along the Mighty Mekong
A kaleidoscope of Vietnamese & Cambodian diversity
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
Discover the treasures of the Lower Mekong with our exceptional cruise itineraries
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.
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).
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.
Interesting facts about Southern Vietnam and Cambodia
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.