The Mekong river flows over 3,000 miles through Asia to the vast Mekong Delta, from its source high in the Tibetan range. This historic body of water provides millions of residents in Southeast Asia a vital lifeline, serving as the means of transportation, commerce, irrigation, and, for some survival. The history and culture of the entire region flow between the banks of this river.
Guests from around the world, flock to experience Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam as intended, from the decks of a river cruise. Join us as we take a look at five must-see destinations on your next river cruise down the Mekong:
- Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia is home to over 2 million residents. The bustling riverfront is alive with restaurants, shops, and nightlife. Historically home to both Kymer and French Colonial influence, the influence of both cultures is on display in the architecture and cuisine in the modern city. The capital houses the Royal Palace, The National Museum, and The Killing Fields and Genocide Museum. The people of Cambodia have not always enjoyed this modern peacefulness of the region and the scars of the Khymer Rouge and the Cambodian Civil War remain present in the national psyche. The contents of these museums provide visitors with important cultural and historical context to understand how Cambodian live today.
- While visiting Phnom Penh guests should visit the Silver Pagoda. Once the walls of this palace were gilded with gems and silver. The Palace fell victim to the madness of the Khmer Rouge, but today the palace stands proudly restored and houses many national treasures of the Cambodian People. Visitors can still see a small portion of the ornate walls as they once were, and the palace has been restored to its original beauty. Inside guests will view the intricate crystal, Emerald Buddha. Another prized display is the gilded and diamond-inlaid Maitreya Buddha, whose diamonds were pillaged during Cambodia’s violent Civil War. Visitors would also be well served to tour the palace grounds and view the beautiful architecture, gardens, and murals depicting the story of Reamker.
- In Vietnam, guests visiting Hanoi should take in a water puppet show. An ancient and fun performance art dating back to the 11th century, each puppet is a work of art and the entertaining performances are an excellent cultural enrichment activity. Modern Hanoi is a bustling urban center that guests can enjoy on foot or from the carriage of one of the city’s colorful rickshaws. The abundance of restaurants and bars also serves as an excellent opportunity to sample the local cuisine.
- The Mekong Delta is a vast, 15,000 square mile region that is a photographer’s dream. Guests can cruise through landscapes of lush fruit orchards, rice patties, and fish farms. The region is alive with activity and a feast for every sense. The local markets and street food are a great way to take in Vietnamese cuisine. A visit to one of the many local shrines or a floating market provides an excellent window into the lives of the people who call the region home.
- Angkor Wat, a massive temple complex constructed in the 1100s, is the largest religious monument in the world and was once the capital of the Kymher Empire. Today the temple ruins are ensnared in the vines and roots of the jungle that has reclaimed much of the grand complex. Guests will learn how modern archaeologists are still discovering ruins beneath the jungle via laser scans. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a powerful symbol to the people of Cambodia. An image of Angkor Watt is still displayed on the nation’s flag.
It is readily apparent that cruising the Mekong river will expose guests to unique, enriching, and life-affirming experiences. Our list is just a sample of the vast array of sites and activities that Southeast Asia has to offer. To get the full experience and see all of the locations on this list, guests should make full use of an experienced Travel Advisor.
The Mekong River is a popular destination with no shortage of cruise lines offering ships to tour the region. Make sure to use every resource at your disposal to plan your cruise or extend your stay into Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, or Cambodia.