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5 reasons why the Mekong has something for everyone
CroisiEurope cruises in South East Asia along the Mekong River are growing in popularity. As a European cruise specialist, the cruise company has risen to the challenge of offering far-flung cruises, including in Vietnam and Cambodia. Let's find out the 5 reasons why you should choose the Mekong for your next cruise!
CroisiEurope has been offering itineraries cruising the Mekong since 2002, when the first passenger cruise ships were authorised to sail the river. The company has been operating its own ships on the Mekong since 2014. The adventure started with the RV Indochine and the latest ship, the RV Indochine II, which was inaugurated in 2017. The ships were named after the former French colony, as a reminder of the strong connection between this part of East Asia and France. Both ships are entirely made of exotic wood, and have been tastefully decorated. With only 24 cabins each, the small boats are perfect for docking everywhere, from the smallest villages to the heart of huge cities. Passengers can, for instance, directly reach Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city: the ships’ docking point on the opposite bank to the Royal Palace. The ships also take you all the way to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, to enjoy late night strolls or tuk-tuk rides.
Offering an extraordinary view from the river banks, stop-overs in the heart of small Cambodian villages takes you closer to the local population and offer an authentic vision of the country and its culture like no ordinary trip can. One of the villages you can discover is Koh Chen, famous for its high number of artists specialising in hand-engraved, silver-plated copper. Passengers also visit a local school, where they can distribute school books. CroisiEurope invests in the local population, forging special connections and relationship.
The floating villages are also very typical of South East Asia. Long rows of small narrowboats, fishermen and families form a picturesque scene, a million miles away from what we know.
The village of Sa Dec in Vietnam will also stay long in the memory as a special place during a Mekong cruise. A colonial architecture haven dating back to the French colonial period, this city is particularly famous for having been where the French writer Marguerite Duras lived with her family from 1928 until 1932. It is where her first teenage love story took place, as narrated in her famous literary success, The Lover. Reading The Lover and The Sea Wall before you take this trip will allow you to immerse yourself in the very special atmosphere of this part of the world known as Cochinchina, a former French colony.
No trip to Sa Dec is complete, of course, without a visit to the daily market, with its thousands of merchants who come on foot or by motorbike. Selling many kinds of fish, snakes, grilled insects, exotic fruit and vegetable, it is a true delight for the senses to stroll through the busy alleys.
The ship can sail shallow waters, which is ideal to travel along the Chao Gao canal, connecting one of the tributaries of the Mekong to Saigon: a very difficult task for most ordinary cruise ships. CroisiEurope’s passengers are thus lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the intense traffic created by barges of all kinds and boats of all sizes sailing to and from Saigon, carrying huge loads.
The Temple of Angkor in Cambodia is a masterpiece of ancient Khmer architecture. Spanning more than 400 square metres and planted in the heart of a lush jungle, this archeological site has not yet revealed all its secrets. The Temple of Angkor Wat is the largets and most famous: its five towers are now depicted on the Cambodian flag.
The royal palace of Phnom Penh is also an amazing example of Cambodian architecture, inspired by the classical Khmer style. The silver pagoda, made up of 5000 silver tiles, contains precious golden and silver artefacts, mostly Buddhas, given as gifts by believers or foreign royal families. More than 1600 objects have been recorded so far.
In Phnom Penh passengers also enjoy a fantastic traditional Khmer dance show proudly given by a group of children supported by the river cruise company.
The magic of Cambodia is also in brutal contrast with the S-21 unit: this former school was turned into one of the main detention centres in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge era. Visiting this site is a chilling experience. Chum Mey, one of the ten survivors of this prison, tells stories and signs copies of his book Survivor: The triumph of an ordinary man in the Khmer Rouge genocide in the playground of this former school.
A Mekong cruise offers passengers a chance to visit two very different countries. Vietnam, a country that underwent a very swift transformation, has a population six times that of Cambodia and has been compared to a hive that never sleeps. The country’s mountains and breathtaking beaches, its bustling cities and spectacular landscapes, make for one of the most fascinating places in the world.
Conversely, Cambodia is a much calmer and more rural country. Its population is very open and always ready to share. The landscape is made up of rice fields that stretch for miles and miles, beautiful islands, charming medium-sized towns, and under-explored mountains.
What strikes passengers the most are the two very different experiences they encounter when they visit these two countries on one cruise. It is a unique opportunity to compare two civilisations and two national histories that are geographically close, yet culturally far apart.
If you’d like to discover South-East Asia and the Mekong, we’d advise doing so sooner rather than later. This is because the local authorities are thinking of introducing tighter control over visitor numbers to the Angkor temple to preserve the site, which is one of the most visited in the world.
CroisiEurope operates a team of local partners: experienced cruise directors are on board the ships to welcome passengers and offer an impeccable service. Local guides are chosen for their excellent command of English and share their experience of local life with our passengers.