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Cultural Connections on a Mekong River Cruise

Experience an authentic slice of Vietnam and Cambodia at a relaxed pace via the mighty Mekong. With our wide-ranging itineraries and Insider Experiences, there’s plenty of choice to go at your own pace and tap into life along local inlets and islands. Here, we’ve elected to sit back and sail up-river from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap.


The Mekong, one of the world’s great rivers, starts life deep in the mountains of Tibet before meandering more than 4,300 kilometres into the South China Sea. Its lower reaches are lined with traditional villages, fields, farmers and the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. This mighty river is also a transport super-highway but it grows quieter and more serene the further you travel upstream on your Vietnam and Cambodia cruise aboard the RV Apsara.
external view rv apasara, vietnam and cambodia


It’s smooth sailing on the RV Apsara through Cambodia and Vietnam with seven nights aboard in French colonial elegance and sporting every modern comfort on our 12 Day Essential Vietnam and Cambodia Cruise. One of the delights of Mekong cruising is the time spent out on deck, taking in daily life along the riverbanks under open skies. The ship’s Sun Deck offers the perfect venue to watch the world go by from reclining loungers, the pool or with a cold drink in hand from the bar. 
rv apsara exterior sundeck mekong vietnam and cambodia
Below deck, every suite enjoys private indoor and outdoor balconies so you’re always surrounded by a sense of space, with ensuites and all mod cons. Wherever you go on board you’re invited to relax and enjoy: in the ship’s air-conditioned lounge, the rejuvenating spa or dining venues where onboard chefs are ready and waiting to create a wide variety of Western and local fare each day.


Before departing Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) for your river cruise, visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, a multi-level underground labyrinth used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. The tunnel complex is more like an underground village, complete with kitchens, bathrooms and communal areas, which allowed people to hide out in this underworld for days on end. Dip into one of the tiny tunnels to appreciate the resilience, brilliance and cunning of those who constructed them.
View across the lake towards a huge temple, Cambodia
In Phnom Penh, admire architecture of the more traditional kind by visiting the Royal Palace near the riverfront. The splendid structure features classic Khmer lines and ornate gilding. When the trip ends at Siem Reap, pull on your most comfortable shoes to explore the vast moat-framed temple complex of Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s biggest drawcard. The Angkor Archaeological Park incorporates other highlights such as the 216 carved faces adorning the 12th-century Bayon temple.


In Siem Reap, take the opportunity to watch a performance by graceful Apsara dancers. This Khmer classical dance, known as Cambodia’s royal ballet, was almost wiped out under Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime. The dancers make their hand gestures, with fingers and wrists flexed and flared at extreme angles, look easy but it takes years of training. Apsara dancing incorporates 1,500-plus hand gestures in a repertoire of stories that illuminate the origins of the Khmer people.
Hands receiving a buddhist blessing, Cambodia
As you cruise the Mekong, learn about other traditions, visiting open-air copper and silk workshops that dot the route. You’re also invited to join a significant local ritual, a Buddhist blessing in Oudong, Cambodia’s former capital. In Ho Chi Minh City sample a taste of political history as you dine on classic Vietnamese cuisine at The Chopsticks Saigon. The restaurant is housed in the former home of Tran Van Huong, briefly the president of South Vietnam before it surrendered to communist North.


This trip starts and finishes in two of Southeast Asia’s most fascinating cities. Make the most of your free time in Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap by venturing out with a plan. From Ho Chi Minh City’s centrally located Fusion Suites Saigon, head to Reunification Palace, where Communist tanks arrived in 1975. From Siem Reap’s Shinta Mani Resort in the city’s French Quarter, dive into the markets or the Angkor National Museum. If it gets too hot to stroll back, simply flag down a passing tuk-tuk.
Mekong floating fisherman, Vietnam
In between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, life revolves around the Mekong. Much more than one of Southeast Asia’s great ‘rice bowls’ it’s where local communities, ecosystems and agriculture thrive. From floating markets to artisanal workshops, religious rituals to traditional artforms, the best way to experience grass-roots Mekong culture is along its waterways. It’s where life has played out for millennia and now it’s your turn to discover the region’s rich history and traditions.