3 Night Cruise sailing from Phnom Penh to Saigon aboard Aqua Mekong.
Tuesday: MEKONG RIVER – PHNOM PENH – KAAM SAMNOR – CAMBODIA
Welcome to the laid back luxury of the Aqua Mekong. Settle into your elegantly appointed, river facing suite as the vessel begins to cruise and thus begins one of life’s most memorable and photogenic adventures. Ascend to the Observation Deck if you wish, to sip sundowners with our 7-Night guests against the backdrop of Phnom Penh’s skyline.
Join us in the evening for a performance by renowned Cambodian apsara dancers who continue an ancient tradition venerated on the intricately carved walls at Angkor Wat.
Wednesday: MEKONG RIVER – VINH XUONG BORDER CROSSING – VIETNAM
Say ‘Good morning, Vietnam’ as we cruise to the Vinh Xuong border and onward to Chau Doc village, which sits along the Hâu River, a tributary of the Mekong. After breakfast on board, perhaps a steamy pho soup in honor of our arrival, we head to the shore by skiff then by road for a change, about six kilometers, to the 230 meter (755 feet) high Sam Mountain, the highest point in the Mekong Delta, and home to dozens of pagodas that dot the mountainside, some even set in caves.
We make the easy climb to the mountaintop for the most captivating views of the surrounding countryside’s rice fields, and into Cambodia. We won’t be alone up here. As this is border territory, there is a military outpost on the summit. This legacy of the Khmer Rouge era confers a slightly anachronistic aura, which allows us some insights into the tensions of that horrific period, although these soldiers appear far more relaxed. If you ask, they will likely pose for your photos, assuming you have a few cigarettes handy as payment for their impromptu modeling duties.
Still at the top of Sam Mountain, Aqua Expeditions guests have the unique privilege to sit with the venerable Mahayana Buddhist monks at Long Son Tu Temple for a private audience. Enlightened, we head back down at the foot of Sam Mountain, stopping to visit the Temple of Lady Xu, one of the major religious sites of the Mekong Delta. According to a legend, in the early 1800s, villagers found a statue of a lady dating to the 6th century in the forest. In 1820 they completed this temple, originally built of bamboo and leaves, to honor her and in hopes that she would bring them better crops, thus improve their lives. Even today, the marble statue of Ba Chua Xu, meaning “country lady” is worshipped, with Vietnamese coming year round to ask for her protection and benediction.
Our chef heads into the local market here, along with any gourmet minded guests interested to explore an authentic Vietnamese wet market, its copious baskets of the day’s catch from the river, crisp vegetables and luscious tropical fruit.
Thursday: BASSAC RIVER – CHAU DOC – SADEC/MEKONG RIVER – CAIBE – VIETNAM
Though we are in the heart of Vietnam, French colonial architecture stands all around us today as we board the skiffs along the Tien River to a 40 square kilometer riverine island called Gieng Islet. Walk or cycle around this peaceful religious enclave on the Mekong Delta.
Together we visit Cu Lao Gieng Church, built in 1875 with materials imported from France. It is impossible not to admire its imposing bell tower that appears to pierce the sky high above its low-rise neighbors. At the Convent of the Providence Order and Catholic Church, interact with Sisters or Father to learn of the religious influences on the surrounding communities, which we may visit to admire the indigenous pagodas and wooden houses built in the early twentieth century in traditional Vietnamese design and shaded by bonsai trees, as was the local custom.
After lunch on board the Aqua Mekong, we continue our time travels back on shore with a tour on foot around the town of Sa Dec. We roam around the fresh produce and exotic spices on sale at the local market and make our way to the colonial house once occupied by French writer Marguerite Duras. The house, built in late 19th century, is interesting in itself as a harmonious combination of Western and traditional Vietnamese architectural styles.
Perhaps no one has done more to associate themselves with the Mekong Delta than Duras. Born in Gia-Dinh, as Saigon was formerly known, because her parents had responded to a campaign by the French government encouraging people to work in the colony, Duras’ early life here in Sac Dec was one of extreme hardship. Her father fell ill soon after the family arrived here and returned to France where he died shortly thereafter. Her mother remained in Indochina with Marguerite and her two siblings, eking out a meager living as a schoolteacher. It was here in Sa Dec that the teenaged Duras and Huynh Thuy Le, a rich Sa Dec merchant began their affair that Duras wrote about in her most famous work The Lover.
Friday: MEKONG RIVER – CAI BE – MY THO – VIETNAM
Here in the Mekong Delta, people rely on flat-bottom wooden boats called sampan to get around and transport goods to market. On our last morning together, we climb aboard to paddle through Cai Be floating market, where more than 400 sampans gather every day, starting in earnest from 5 a.m.. Each boat has one bamboo stick on the front to display that vendor’s product, be it Vietnamese fish sauce, rice paper for dumplings, or colorful sweet confectionery. We continue our exploration of this area on foot or by bicycle for more up close glimpses of daily life of Mekong Delta dwellers, and even take up the invitation of local friends of Aqua Expeditions to dine in their traditional home.
We return to the Aqua Mekong and continue cruising towards My Tho. Here, we pack up and bid farewell to the crew to take the van transfer to Saigon, stopping en route to visit the Dong Tam crocodile and snake farm about nine kilometers west of My Tho.
Officially known as the Medicinal Plants Cultivation and Research Centre of Military Zone 9, the largest center for snake rearing and snakebite treatment in the Cuu Long River Delta was established in 1979 in an area full of mines and barbed wire left by the United States Army. Since then, the 12 hectare farm has been engaged in scientific research that involves rearing and conserving precious species of snakes, medicinal plants and animals, as well as producing traditional medicines and providing first aids and treatment for people who are bitten by poisonous snakes. Learn about the various types of snakes slithering around the Mekong Delta, watch the production of cobra venom for medical purposes and from a safe distance, admire the center’s efforts to preserve endangered King cobras. We continue onward by air conditioned bus through the Vietnamese countryside and into the bustling metropolis of Saigon.
Note: All itineraries are subject to change, due to weather and other conditions. All times indicated are approximate, and are also subject to change.