Summary : Experience an in-depth expedition along the Mekong River aboard a luxurious vessel, traveling in the wake of the legendary King Jayavarman VII, who sailed the Mekong in the late 12th century to build the grand Khmer empire. Journey from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, down the river to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. Over 2,000 years of human history flow along these waters, from the high Himalayas of Tibet through provinces of China to the equatorial flood plains of Vietnam and Cambodia. It is even said that the rise and fall of the great Khmer civilization that built Angkor Wat was linked to the Mekong's tides. The cultural diversity along the Mekong is as striking as the surrounding topography. Soaring limestone mountains separate Vietnam from Cambodia, providing a natural boundary that splits the two most powerful influences on this region. From India to the west came Hinduism into Cambodia, the state religion of the Khmer Empire at Angkor until the 13th century, while Chinese monks from the north brought Buddhism along the ancient trade routes to Vietnam. Follow experienced and knowledgeable English-speaking guides to discover magnificent carved temples, floating villages, remote sanctuaries, lush landscapes, and rural communities where culture and craft flourishes.
Activities : Child-Friendly, Culture
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Summer Season Rates (30% Off Standard Rates)
$6,615 to $10,325
You will be met at the Phnom Penh TS1 Port for check-in to your 3-story, five star Mekong abode. Welcome aboard! Settle into your floating retreat, where floor-to-ceiling windows confer an endlessly captivating panorama. Enjoy these private Mekong moments on your California king bed, terrace or daybed. Celebrate the onward journey towards the heart of the mighty Mekong with a Khmer apsara performance, an indigenous tradition memorialized on the temple walls of Angkor Wat.
In the silversmith village of Koh Chen, watch artisans producing the magnificent silverware favored by Khmer royalty. Continue to Udong, the royal capital from the 17th to 19th centuries, and learn about a uniquely challenging Buddhist practice at the Vipassana Dhura Mandala, a meditation center. In the afternoon, a walking tour of Kampong Prasat offers an intimate perspective on local lives and their riverside environment.
In the cooler hours, head into the lush countryside to visit traditional potters and palm-sugar producers, astride mountain bikes or chauffeured by shaded tuk-tuk. Pedal into the rice paddies to watch wizened masters scale sky-piercing palms.
Cruise across the glassy water and disembark among the lotuses for an ox-cart ride along the Tonle Sap riverbanks, past lacquered wooden houses where during dry months residents take refuge in the relative cool of outdoor impromptu living rooms.
Admire dexterous Khmer artisans dyeing and weaving kroma, the ubiquitous item no Khmer lives without. Explore the riverbank on two wheels if you wish, past Buddhist temples and thatch houses perched on spindly wooden stilts while white oxen wade just offshore. After lunch, board marine-grade aluminum skiffs and head towards the tamarind trees of Preah Prosop, a remote village little changed over several lifetimes.
Spend the day in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Explore by motorized tuk-tuk – see the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and the National Museum of Cambodia, home to the world's largest collection of Khmer art. You will have the option to visit the Tuol Slen Museum of Genocide and the Killing Field or shop at the Russian Market. Today, you'll bid farewell to the 4-night guests who are disembarking in Phnom Penh and welcome 3-night passengers over custom sundowners like the Salted Watermelon Crush with Thai basil. Together you will celebrate the onward journey towards the heart of the mighty Mekong with a Khmer Apsara performance.
Say "Good morning, Vietnam" today as you cross the border and sail towards Tan Chau, a vibrant border town where you will take a local rickshaw (or 'xe loi') for a trip around town or pedal 11 miles on the peaceful island of Long Khanh. In the afternoon, visit a typical Mekong Delta village called My An Hung and walk through verdant plantations. You will be invited to a local's home to taste local fruit, listen to traditional folk songs performed by villagers, and observe a unique Unicorn Dance. An option to bike is also available for those who wish to explore on wheels.
Begin the day at Binh Thanh, a village known for its woven mats, or opt to visit Sa Dec to peruse the vibrant market and see the famous house of Marguerite Duras' legendary lover, Mr. Huynh Thuy Le. Continue downstream for Cai Be, zigzagging in a sampan past lone fishermen on their long tail boats. Later, your skiff will moor at a wooden pier in Cai Be. Disembark and walk or bike among high-roofed houses with open courtyards—some of which date back more than 100 years. Gracious locals may invite you in to glimpse their property.
Today your Mekong river journey will come to end. En route to Ho Chi Minh City, stop at Vinh Trang Pagoda, one of the largest Mahayana Buddhist temples in the region. You will notice the mixed architectural style and see three large buddha statues plus an impressive collection of bonsai trees.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to weather conditions—and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
2020 Summer Season: 5/1/2020–8/6/2020
2021 Summer Season: 5/7/2021–8/5/2021
What to Expect in High or Low Water Season:
Whether you choose the high water or the low water season for your cruise, traveling aboard the Aqua Mekong extends your options from the very limited dry season in Cambodia and Vietnam (November to February) to almost anytime of the year. Low water and high water season are dictated by the water levels of the Mekong river. In the high season (from mid-August to November), the Mekong receives increased flows originating from the Tibetan highlands and China. During the eight-month low water season (December through to mid-August), the Mekong experiences lower water levels and reduced flows.
The key difference for travelers during the high water season is that Tonle Sap Lake becomes accessible to river cruise ships because the river connecting the lake to the Mekong swells. During this period, guests can visit floating villages and the Prek Toal Bird Reserve. Ships can also dock on the shores of the lake, just 45-minutes away from Siem Reap. During the low water season, Aqua Mekong only docks at Phnom Penh in Cambodia while offering itineraries that still travel upriver to amazing excursions on the Tonle Sap river. Docking at Phnom Penh’s city center allows travelers take a quick 45-minute flight from the capital to Siem Reap if they wish, compared to a back-breaking six-hour bus ride on uneven country road.
Tropical temperatures across Southeast Asia generally fluctuate between 78°F and 86°F. In the warmest months of March and April, this figure may climb as high as 100°F but Mekong River waters flow from the icy Tibetan Plateau, taking the edge off this equatorial swelter and making river travel the ideal way to experience this captivating region. Even when it rains, as it does throughout the year, off-ship and water-based excursions remain extremely comfortable during these usually short cloudbursts. Rainy season arrives with the southwest monsoon in May and lasts through October. This actually creates the high water conditions that allow the Aqua Mekong to cruise deeper into Vietnam’s emerald flooded forest, to Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake, and along otherwise inaccessible yet fascinating tributaries. Despite the name, rain only falls around an hour each day and usually in the afternoon. Excursions are timed so that guests may soak up the timeless romance of rain on the river while comfortably under cover.
Group transfer between vessel and drop off point in Ho Chi Minh City; shipboard accommodations; shore excursions; bike use; laundry service; beverages (non-alcoholic, select premium wines, and national beer); internet with intermittent connection; all meals onboard the ship. Subject to change without notice.
Air transportation; private transfers; passport/visa fees; travel insurance (highly recommended); items of a personal nature; boutique purchases; spa treatments; guide and crew gratuities; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos © Aqua Expeditions