At Rivers of the World we offer fantastic trips on a range of different rivers all over the world, but perhaps one area that has really grown in recent years is our trips on the Mekong. This Asian waterway runs through the heart of many countries including Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and has a name which can be translated to mean “Khong, The Mother of Water”.
Whilst the proliferation of tourist ships in this part of the world cannot be ignored, some people may be unaware of what our Mekong river cruises would entail. So if you are looking for an alternative to the many , that we have available, here is what you can expect when sailing along this mystical body of water.
As you travel through the Cambodian leg of your journey you are sure to stop in the city of Kampong Cham. Here you will find the Twin Holy Hills known as Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey; two names that can be translated to mean Man Hill and Woman Hill. Not only will you be able to climb to the top of both, taking in the beautiful temples at the summits and the wonderful views that are offered from the pinnacle of Phnom Srey, there is also an interesting legend to accompany this excellent tourist attraction.
It is said that a team of men and a team of women had a competition to see who could create the biggest hill; the losing sex having to always ask the other’s permission for their hand in marriage. The rules were set and it was decided that each group had until the morning star shone to make their hill as high as possible. However, the women had a trick up their sleeve.
From the top of their hill, they hung a lantern which the men mistook for the star and hence ceased their work and went to sleep. Later they awoke to the real morning star and the sight of the women’s hill looming over theirs. As a result, all Cambodian men have to ask for permission from the women’s family before they can marry.
As you continue along the Mekong you will reach one of the most famous cities in Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Any free time you have here can be filled with a variety of different activities that range from museums detailing the country’s often harrowing history to monuments and buildings that show off its modern day beauty.
Among the things to put at the top of your “to-do” list is a visit to the Royal Palace. This building is the official residence of the king of Cambodia and also houses the Silver Pagoda; an extravagant piece of architecture with over five thousand silver tiles in the floor.
As you are likely to be arriving in the city in the evening, there are two things that will definitely make your night an enjoyable one. In an open air theatre, at the National Museum, you will be able to immerse yourself in Cambodian culture by going to see a Plae Pakaa show. These performances showcase traditional dancing, acting and other performing arts and will give you a true taste of the country. Night time also means that the beautiful Independence Monument will be lit up like a beacon and complimented by flowing fountains. It was built to celebrate Cambodia’s independence from France and also honours many people who have died in the country.
As you continue to meander down the Mekong you will swap Cambodia for Vietnam, and one of many interesting stops will bring you to the Cai Be floating market. Here you will be able to witness what the Vietnamese get up to on a daily basis and what life is like for those selling and those buying produce from this bustling market place. As long boats shoot along the side of your river cruise ship, you will immediately get a feeling for how important this place is for the people of the area.
Theirs is so much on sale too. From various different flowers that enrich the market with their vibrant blooms to delicious, ripe fruit and veg and, of course, the local food staple of rice. This part of the river is known as the Mekong Delta and there are so many different openings that feed this waterway and offer the locals the opportunity to sell their wares. Getting the chance to explore the floating market and immerse yourself in the Vietnamese way of life is an experience that you won’t forget in a hurry.
As your Mekong river cruise comes to an end, you will find yourself in the delightful surroundings of Ho Chi Minh City; the largest settlement in Vietnam and a place formally known as Saigon. Whether you only have a few hours before your flight home or you plan to add a couple of days to the end of your trip, there will still be plenty of time to explore your surroundings.
If you are struggling to decide which of the many pagodas to visit during your short time in the city then perhaps the Jade Emperor Pagoda offers the best option. Its ornate and intricate designs are beautifully crafted and the smell of incense in the air will waft over you as soon as you enter.
If you are looking for ways to fill your evening then a great place to start is Lam Son Square. This part of town is a lively and cultured night spot; providing plenty of places to indulge in a bit of retail therapy or enjoy a relaxing drink like the members of the French aristocracy did in the past.
You cannot leave Vietnam without learning about its troubled past, though. A number of museums will help you understand what the people of this country went through not so long ago, but you can choose whether you view this through the medium of the War Remnants Museum or the slightly less macabre Ho Chi Min City Museum.
As you can see, a trip along the Mekong is a great way to discover the culture and traditions of Cambodia and Vietnam. We have a great choice of river cruises on the Mekong from operators such as AmaWaterways and Amadeus River Cruises, so why not ask a member of our knowledgeable team to help plan your trip into south-east Asia. You can do this by calling us or making an online enquiry.
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