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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 06 February, 2024
Expert travel writer: Sue Bryant

A cruise through Cambodia and Vietnam on the Mekong and its tributary, the Tonle Sap, is a voyage that appeals to all the senses.

The bustle of floating markets, dazzling Buddhist temple festivals, the sizzle and aroma of street food and mist hanging over the water at dawn, are all part of the experience. Mekong cruise ships provide a cool, soothing antidote to the humidity and bustle of excursions.

Mekong cruises are bookended by hotel stays in hipster Siem Reap, gateway to the magnificent temples of Angkor, and Vietnam’s dynamic Ho Chi Minh City.

Excursions along the river include visits to temples, craft workshops and rural villages, with most boats overnighting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s riverside capital. Here, the sights are poignant as you learn about Cambodia’s tragic history and visit the chilling scenes of the Killing Fields.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: Min 7 days

Getting there & doing it

Cruise lines generally sell packages including hotels and sightseeing in Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City. Some travellers enjoy the seamless convenience of this but you could book just the cruise sector and make your own arrangements in both. Hanoi and Halong Bay are other possible add-ons.

Boats tend to sail between Kampong Chhnang or Kampong Cham in Cambodia and My Tho in Vietnam. Smaller, lighter vessels, though, like CroisiEurope’s Indochine II, start (or finish) closer to Siem Reap in high water season, crossing the vast, seasonal Tonle Sap lake, a fascinating journey past sunken treetops and floating villages.

In Vietnam, smaller boats can head all the way up the Saigon River into central Ho Chi Minh City, avoiding long coach journeys.

When to do it

The main Mekong season runs from late August to April. August and September are especially hot and humid but travelling in the wet season to Angkor has the advantages of fewer crowds and the hauntingly beautiful sight of the temples in mist and rain.

Who to go with: tour operators

3

Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

CroisiEurope [Mekong]

CroisiEurope [Mekong]

Multiple countries

A river cruise specialist operating a fleet of 50 moderately-priced boats, mainly on European Rivers, but also some exotics like the Mekong and Lake Kariba. Their boats light enough to cross the Tonle Sap Lake in high water season, and sail the Saigon River.

Scenic [Mekong]

Scenic [Mekong]

Multiple countries

Scenic offers one of the most comprehensive tour programmes on the Mekong, with a choice of excursions in most ports.

Uniworld [Mekong]

Uniworld [Mekong]

Los Angeles, California, Multiple countries

River cruising specialist operating a fleet of 21 cruise ships serving the major rivers of the world. They’re one of the most luxurious operators on the Mekong, with a creative excursion programme and land add-ons to complement its all-inclusive service.

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Round-ups that include this experience