About Us: Luxury Cruises Along the Mekong Delta

Destination Spotlight: 5 Reasons to Cruise in Cambodia and Vietnam

Here are five reasons to take a cruise from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh city (or in reverse).

1. Spectacular Sights. Pack plenty of memory cards and don’t forget your charger as there are unique and amazing sights every step of the way. Cambodia’s Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire and the world’s largest religious complex. The jewel in the crown is the imposing Angkor Wat temple (it’s well worth getting up early to watch the sunrise). Nearby, almost hidden in the tropical jungle, is Ta Prohm (used in the movie “Tomb Raider”), where tree roots are entwined with the temple buildings.

Away from the main tourist attractions, I took countless photos of everyday street (and river) life, from the fishermen who live with their families in floating houses to bustling villages and crowded cities where street traders sell everything from food to gas syphoned into soda bottles!

2. A Real Taste of Asia. Although the Indochine and larger tourist restaurants serve some dishes adapted for Western tastes, you won’t find the range of international cuisine served on oceangoing and larger river vessels – and that adds to the sense of adventure. Push your culinary boundaries by trying hot soup and stir-fried noodles for breakfast (particularly delicious if you have worked up an appetite on an early-morning sightseeing excursion) and savor the delicate taste of jasmine and ginger-infused rice with lunch and dinner. Dishes are flavored with fresh herbs and spices such as black pepper, lemongrass and basil, and sweetened with palm sugar, and the chefs stock up with fruit, vegetables and regional products along the way. If you want to really dine like the locals, there’s the option to swap knives and forks for chopsticks.

3. Retail Therapy. Take a big suitcase as the shopping opportunities are plentiful – and very inexpensive. Markets are the best (and most fun) places to stock up on souvenirs. Traditional silk scarves (kramas), silk purses, cool cotton pants and tops printed with elephants, wooden carvings and hand-made silver jewelry are top buys. Prices are flexible and some friendly bargaining is the norm (start by offering half the asking price and go from there). I paid $12 total for two pairs of pants and a scarf and $8 for solid silver earrings.

4. A Warm Welcome. Children come out to wave as we pass by and the people we meet have ready smiles. Getting angry is viewed as “a loss of face” so you’re unlikely to hear anyone shouting or getting angry. Begging and hassle is not a huge issue and any pestering from market traders inviting you to buy their wares is light hearted.

5. An Authentic Experience. There’s a real sense of discovery when you cruise on lesser-known waterways. In five days we have only seen three other tourist hotel boats. On the lake and Mekong our path has been criss-crossed with tiny fishing boats and wooden vessels that locals use to get from A to B and take their children to school, and in Cambodia’s capital, Pnom Penh, we saw the exciting spectacle of a colorful dragon boat race. We love sitting out on deck and watching the scenery and local life pass by. A river cruise really is the way to see this incredible part of Asia.