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 : HO CHI MINH CITY (Saigon)
Program depending on your time of arrival in Ho Chi Minh City. Program as follow if your flight lands beetween 6AM and 11AM :
Built by the French in 1859, at the beginning of the colonial era, Ho Chi Minh Cityt has retained some of its French atmosphere which characterises it. After lunch in a local restaurant, we will tour the city: Reunification palace, Notre Dame cathedral and Central Post office. We board our ship the R/V INDOCHINE and then have a welcome cocktail and dinner. Overnight on board in Ho Chi Minh City.
DAY 2 : HO CHI MINH CITY (Saigon)
After breakfast, we devote our morning to visiting Cholon, whose name means “Great market”, a district crawling with people, where almost half the population of the city lives and where trade reigns supreme. We visit the market and the Thien Hau Pagoda, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea. We have lunch in town before our afternoon visit of the National History museum then a visit to a lacquer-ware factory. This is followed by free time in the local souvenir market. We then return on board and set sail for the navigation channel of Chao Gao. Dinner and overnight on board and we drop anchor.
DAY 3 : CHAO GAO - MY THO - VINH LONG - CAI BE - SA DEC
Very early this morning, we continue our cruise to My Tho along the magnificent Chao Gao Canal, which passes from the Saigon River to the Mekong Delta. The Delta is made up of four main arms and thousands of canals, both large and small. We have breakfast as we arrive in My Tho. The town is named after the river My Tho which means “beautiful reed”. It is peaceful and prosperous. Known for its many vegetable gardens, and its 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 longan trees. 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 our cruise to Vinh Long and Caï Be. The town is located in the middle of the delta region, between two arms of the Mekong. We set off in small boats through the arroyos and gardens which lead to Caï Be. We discover the brickyards, pottery and the fruit trees nursery on the island of Binh Hoa Phuoc. We also ha ve a look at the local traditional craft of rice popcorn, rice wafers for the production of spring rolls, rice alcohol and coconut sweets. All in family context to Delta's economy. We then set sail for Sac Dec. Dinner and overnight stop at our mooring point.
DAY 4 : SA DEC - CHAU DOC
Early this morning we visit Sa Dec, famous for its horticulture and known as the “Garden of the Cochin Chine” in colonial times. We have a tour of the small town 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. We return on board for a hearty breakfast and continue our cruise to Chau Doc, a town at the border between Cambodia and Vietnam which became part of Vietnamese territory some 300 years ago. We have lunch on board and arrive in Chau Doc in the early afternoon. 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 and a multitude of colours.Transfer by small boat to visit a fish farms. If the weather permits, visit to the top of the Sam hill. Back by the city of Chau Doc and visit to the pagoda Phat Thay Tay An and to the temple Ba Chua Xu. Dinner and overnight stop.
DAY 5 : CHAU DOC - PHNOM PENH
We spend the day afloat today, first heading for the Cambodian border, where we complete customs during the morning and continue our journey. Lunch and dinner are taken on board as we arrive towards the end of the day in Phnom Penh. “Tuk tuk” trip, a motorised tricycle which is the traditional mode of transport in Phnom Penh in late afternoon. We moor for the night in the port of Phnom Penh.
DAY 6 : PHNOM PENH
Founded in 1434, the capital of Cambodia retaines much of its colonial charm, thanks to the rehabilitation of part of its architectural heritage. We visit the Silver Pagoda, constructed in wood in 1892 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 built in 1917 by the French in traditional Khmer architectural style. We have lunch in a local restaurant and this afternoon we visit the Tuol Svay Prey S21 school, former centre of detention, torture and execution used by the Khmer Rouge during the civil war. There is free time in the market - crammed full with all types of businesses. As we get back on board, we will enjoy an Apsara dance show by student dancers and musicians. Dinner and overnight on board, in the port of Phnom Penh.
DAY 7 : KOH CHEN - KAMPONG TRALACH - KAMPONG CHHNANG
We set sail early morning, have breakfast on board before we visit Koh Chen, a small village where the inhabitants are experts in the work of etched and silvered copper. Here are made the ornaments and decorations used during traditional ceremonies in the pagoda or for weddings. Visit the private school of Mr. Thom Umson, a bright mathematics teacher.We have lunch on board and arrive in Kampong Tralach to visit the beautiful Vihara of the Wat Kampong Tarlach Leu Pagoda. We cross through the village of Kampong Tralach by oxcart 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 and continue our cruise to Kampong Chhnang. Dinner and overnight stop.
DAY 8 : KAMPONG CHHNANG - LAKE TONLE
We have breakfast on board and then visit 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. We taste some palm sugar before a visit to a traditional pottery. Next we visit a floating village using small local boats. All the buildings here are afloat - the school, the shops and so on, and life develops along the canal network. We return on board for lunch then continue our cruise to lake Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in southeast Asia which forms the heart of the hydraulic system of the Mekong. Cocktail and gala dinner tonight. Overnight stop.
DAY 9 : SIEM REAP - ANGKOR
We spend the morning cruising, taking breakfast on board. Depending on the water levels, we cross the Tonle Sap lake on board the RV INDOCHINE(1). We arrive in the port of Siem Reap and are welcomed by our local guide. We transfer to our hotel and check-in before taking lunch. In the afternoon, we visit the famous temple of Angkor Wat, masterpiece of Khmer architecture. This is the most famous and most imposing of all the monuments in Angkor and its five towers have become the emblem on the national flag of Cambodia. We return to Siem Reap. Dinner and overnight in the hotel Lotus Blanc 4* NL or similar.
DAY 10 : SIEM REAP
After breakfast we set off very early to visit the jewel in the crown of classic Khmer art - the temple at Banteay Srei. The site was cleared from creepers and the forest in 1924 by H. Parmentier. Banteay Srei, which means “the citadel of women” or “citadel of beauty”, is known for the intricacy of its fine carvings. On our return, we stop in a village. Then we visit the temple at Ta Prohm, dating back to 1186 and dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman II. Today nature has taken over the site and the result is stunning: trees spring out from the temple buildings and thick roots now cover the temple. Lunch. This afternoon we explore Angkor Thom, a huge architectural masterpiece accessible through five monumental gates with the mountain temple of Bayon at its centre. Bayon temple is famous for its towers with 172 faces of Buddha. We have a wander in the heart of the ancient Royal palace where the sanctuary of Phimeanakas is located, then we visit the terrace of the Elephants and the terrace of the Leper King. This evening we have dinner with a show of Khmer royal dancing (the Apsara dances). After dinner, we will take some time to visit Angkor night market, a nice place to wander and enjoy the cooler temperatures of the evening (market is open from 4PM until midnight). With more than 100 shops and stores, it offers crafts, souvenirs, clothes, books, etc. Overnight in the hotel Lotus Blanc 4* NL or similar.
DAY 11 : SIEM REAP
After breakfast at the hotel this morning, we leave very early to visit the “Senteurs d’Angkor” (or perfume workshop), where they make candles, soaps and prepare spices. Afterwards, we visit the workshops of the “Artisans d’Angkor”, where young Cambodians are trained in the art of traditional wood carving and stonework based on long-standing Khmer craftwork traditions. After lunch in the hotel, the afternoon is free to wander, or perhaps do some last-minute shopping in Siem Reap. End of our journey.