From the heights of the Himalayas to the coast of the China Sea, over the course of its 4500km journey, the River Mekong irrigates much more than Indochina. Wherever it flows, it captivates man and shapes their lives. From the Delta and Saigon, a town still filled with souvenirs of the French colonial presence, right to the great lake of Tonle Sap and Siem Reap, a city at the foot of the Angkor Sites, the Mekong today has to work hard to maintain suitable water levels, with many dams along its course, and subjected to a regime of more and more extraordinary monsoons.
Day 1 : Siem Reap
We'll meet up at 2:00 p.m. at the port in Siem Reap (located approx. 30min from the city center) to board small local boats to take us to the RV INDOCHINE(1). Welcome on board and cocktail. Introduction to the crew. Settle into our cabins, then a we have dinner. We drop anchor and moor for the night close to the flooded forest.
Day 2 : Tonle Sap - Kampong Chhnang - Kampong Tralach
Breakfast on board and spend the morning cruising to take advantage of the lake crossing(1). After lunch on board, we arrive in the early afternoon in Kampong Chhnang. Located some 90km from Phnom Penh, the town of Kampong Chhnang is one of the largest fishing ports on the Tonle Sap. Here they also have many fish farms. The region is best known for its fine traditional pottery which is a major source of revenue for the entire country, and the region’s very name Kampong Chhnang means “the port of the pottery” in Khmer. Taste some palm sugar from the Thnot sugar palm (a real national symbol) before going around the village afloat small local boats. We return on board and continue our cruise to Kampong Tralach. Dinner on board. Drop anchor and moor for the night.
Day 3 : Kampong Tralach - Koh Chen - Phnom Penh
We have breakfast on board this morning before visiting the beautiful Vihara of the Wat Kampong Tralach Leu pagoda. Cross through the village of Kampong Tralach on an ox cart to reach the pagoda on a small path running perpendicular to the river amidst a magnificent landscape of rice fields. The Vihara dates back to the beginning of last century and has many magnificent wall paintings which are starting to suffer from the effects of time. Completely isolated in the middle of the rice fields, the pagoda is quite unassuming and does not receive many visitors, so its isolation makes it a truly magnificent spot. We return on board for lunch and cast off. Arrive into Koh Chen during the afternoon and visit this small village where the inhabitants are experts in silverwork and copper work. Here they make the ornaments and decorations used during traditional ceremonies in the pagoda or for weddings. Visit Mr thom Umson's private school, a bright mathematics teacher, speaking Fench, but always in need of pens, pencils and copybooks for the children. We return on board and cruise to Phnom Penh where we arrive late in the afternoon.Free time in the capital. We return on board and enjoy an Aspara dance show and dinner on board.Take a “tuk tuk” trip, a motorised tricycle which is the traditional mode of transport in Phnom Penh. Moor for the night in the port of Phnom Penh.
Day 4 : Phnom Penh
Founded in 1434, the capital of Cambodia retaines much of its French colonial charm, thanks to the rehabilitation of part of its architectural heritage. Visit the Silver pagoda, paved over 5000 silver tiles which it owes its name.Constructed in wood in 1892 it was then rebuilt in 1962, and the Royal palace, symbolic heart of the nation and one of the finest examples of Cambodian architecture in classical Khmer style. Then we visit the National museum housing the Fine Arts museum, built in 1917 by the French in traditional Khmer architectural style. Beautiful lapidary museam, which the sublime statue of Javayarman VII sits with the head slightly tilted in a meditative posture. Lunch in a local restaurant and this afternoon we visit the Tuol Svay Prey school S21, former centre of detention, torture and execution used by the Khmer Rouge during the War. There is free time in the “Russian market” – crammed full with all types of businesses. Return on board and have dinner as we continue our cruise through the night to Vietnam.
Day 5 : Chau Doc - Sa Dec
Have breakfast on board and spend the morning afloat. We cross into Vietnam and complete customs formalities at the border. Lunch on board, arriving in the early afternoon in Chau Doc, a town at the border between Cambodia and Vietnam which became part of Vietnamese territory some 300 years ago. Situated in the heart of a gigantic grid of rice fields, the city of Chau Doc embraces both banks of the Mekong and the floating farms overspill into the waters. Chau Doc is a very prosperous town which developed around fishing and farming. Inside the town, a few colonial buildings with their old fashioned charm still remain. The market which surrounds them is the vibrant heart of the city .We transfer by small boat to visit a Cham village, a village of silk weavers and fish farms. We then set off by minibus and visit the top of the Sam hill, an important place of pilgrimage for the Vietnamese where it overlooks the vastness of the Delta and its rice feilds. We return on board and continue our cruise towards Sa Dec. Dinner and overnight stop on the river bank.
Day 6 : Sa Dec - Vinh Long - Cai Be
We have breakfast and continue our journey to Sa Dec, where a few colonial mansions are still in existence. Discover the local market and visit the former dwelling place of Huynh Thuy Le, former lover of the French novelist Marguerite Duras who spent part of her childhood in Sa Dec. Famous for its horticulture, Sa Dec was known as the “garden of the Cochin Chine” in colonial times. Return on board for lunch and continue our cruise towards Vinh Long, located in the middle of the delta region, between two arms of the Mekong and where all of life is organised around the water. Hundreds of boats criss-cross in all directions between houses built on stilts. Set off in boats through the orchards that lead to Caï Be. Here discover the bricks, pottery and chinaware, we see the fruit trees nursery on the island of Binh Hoa Phuoc and also the local traditional craft of rice popcorn, rise wafers for the production of spring rolls, rice alcohol and coconut sweets.All in family context to Delta's economy. Return to the ship and continue our cruise. Dinner and overnight on board.
Day 7 : My Tho - Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Early morning breakfast on board before we visit the near islands of My Tho in small local boats. Renowned for its many vegetable gardens, fruit orchards, the climate here is hot and pleasant all year long. The surrounding countryside includes one of the most luxuriant gardens in Vietnam with coconut, banana, mango and logan trees. Along the maze that makes up the network of small canals, pretty country villages appear and we see the local craftsmen at work.On the largest of the islands, (Thoi Son) we will visit a beekeeping farm where we will taste honey tea and exotic fruits. We return on board for lunch and continue with our magnificent cruise, taking the narrow Chao Gao canal and heading for Ho Chi Minh City. Dinner and overnight on board in the port of Ho Chi Minh City. After dinner the evening is at leisure.
Day 8 : Ho Chi Minh City
We have breakfast this morning before our visit of Ho Chi Minh City, originally named Saigon and built by the French in 1850 at the beginning of French colonial times and the principal port of Vietnam. Take a tour of the city: Reunification palace, Notre Dame cathedral and Central Post office. We have lunch in town and in the afternoon, we visit the National History museum then a traditional lacquer-ware factory. Free time to stroll around the Ben Thanh markets.Return to the ship for our farewell cocktail and gala dinner. Moor for the night in the port of Ho Chi Minh City. After dinner the evening is at leisure.
Day 9 : Ho Chi Minh City
After breakfast, we disembark our ship and devote our morning to visiting Cholon, the major centre of Chinese trade in the capital city. After lunch the afternoon is free. End of our services.