Mekong River Cruise - an Exotic Delight
By Alister Pardew
The Mekong has become a hub for cruise enthusiasts looking for an easy way to explore some of South East Asia’s best locations, offering tourists access to many of the lesser seen highlights of the region.
My recent Mekong river cruise started in the historic city of Phnom Penh. What was once the symbolic stronghold of the Khmer Rouge is now a bustling metropolis and boasts an eclectic mix of slums and opulence as well as old and new. After spending some time discovering the rich history of both sides, it’s clear the combination of the two is what makes the city such a unique destination.
The roads are a high speed maze of trucks, buses and scooters stocked with chickens. Two things I’m always staggered by in Asian countries are the organised chaos of the traffic and the complete lack of road rage.
The vibrancy of the city gripped me in such a way that I’d nearly forgotten that cruising the Mekong was the reason I was here. The wonderful Pandaw river boat offered a sensational first night on the river with an exceptional dinner and an evening of traditional dancing.
Departing Phnom Penh after breakfast we cruised into Vietnam to the city of Sa Dec. Sa Dec is an agricultural and industrial trading centre that thrives on the Mekong Delta. The morning’s itinerary started with a tour of the river and a visit to a catfish farm made up of floating houses with submerged fish farms underneath.
Next on the list was a trip to a traditional fresh food market. Those with a keen sense of smell might want to stick to the spice and vegetable shelves as walking into the meat and seafood sections was pretty tough on the nose. Departing Sa Dec we cruised down river past the floating markets. Here, the canoe is the shopping trolley of choice for locals as they paddle between boats, picking up their groceries.
The next stop on the itinerary was Cai Be. At first glance, it’s hard to see where the city starts and the Mekong River ends. It’s Venice in South East Asia. We visited the local brickworks where workers use waste products from nearby rice farms as fuel for the fires.
At the completion of the cruise in My Tho, we left the river and ventured into Saigon by bus. Taking a cycle through the traffic is one of the best ways to see the city. Saigon is a thriving hub of modern buildings and beautiful boulevards dating back to French colonial times.
The best part of cruising down the Mekong is feeling as though you’re part of the river. The people are hardworking and industrious but never too busy to offer a smile or a wave. Each turn offers something exotic and exquisite but the hospitality of the locals ensures you never feel too far from home.
Today's Cruise Specialist:
Alister has been with Flight Centre Limited for 6 years, managing stores for the past 4. He brings extensive travel knowledge of airfares and touring along with 12 years experience in 5 star resorts and Hotels within Australia. Alister is passionate about all forms of travel be it, sailing Bass Straight, cruising the Mekong or Trekking the Annapurna.
Alister is the manager of Cruiseabout Manuka. The store is located at Shop 2, The Lawns, Bougainville Street, Manuka, Canberra. If you have any questions about cruising the Mekong, visit Alister in store or call him on 1300 101 935.