By Vanessa Day
The Mekong River is the lifeblood of Southeast Asia. The beautiful waterway flows through some of the region’s most stunning landscapes and diverse countries. The floating villages and bustling cities of Cambodia and Vietnam feature friendly locals, colorful markets, and intricate architecture. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises shares the beauty and history of these cities, and brings guests face-to-face with the people of the river, making for an unforgettable cruise adventure.
The gateway to the Mekong Delta, My Tho is a significant market town. Visitors can stroll along the river front and explore the town, watching as the locals cultivate rice, coconuts, bananas, mangoes and more, to be sold in the lively market of Trung Trac.
This land and river town is known for its floating market. As boats dock at the water’s edge, travelers will see hundreds of wholesalers hanging samples of their products for trading. You can meet local merchants, sample some fresh fruit, and even purchase some items as a memento of your visit. If you want to step away from the busy market, you can hop a trishaw for a ride through town to see some of the historic colonial houses and hear stories from locals about the traditions of Vietnam.
A peaceful river city, Sa Dec is full of oar-powered sampans, the traditional flat-bottomed boats of Vietnam. Hop aboard one of these for a journey through the narrow canals and inlets, where you can observe the daily lives of the locals as they sell items in the waterfront markets. Travelers will also see buildings and discover scenes made famous by the Marguerite Duras novel, The Lover.
The last stop before cruising over the border into Cambodia, Tan Chau is a secluded area only accessible by boat. The city is known for its rice field and mulberry trees, as well as its silk production. Visitors should take a rickshaw ride through the streets to visit the Cao Dai Temple, where they can learn about Vietnam’s own unique religion.
With wide roads, traditional Khmer pagodas and French Colonial architecture, Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh is a stark contrast to the floating villages seen in Vietnam. The best way to experience the city is on a cyclo tour to visit the sparkling spires of the Royal Palace. Be sure to visit the Throne Hall and Silver Pagoda while you’re there. Then cycle over to the National Museum, where artifacts from Angkor Wat are on display. Another must see stop is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a tribute to Cambodia’s grievous experience under the Khmer Rouge.
This small, yet resilient village showcases the rural life of Cambodia. Gaze upon pastel-painted wooden houses, and aging Buddhist pagodas as you visit with local villagers performing everyday tasks. Before you leave, make a stop at the eighth-century temple where monks will bestow a water blessing on visitors.
One of the largest cities in Cambodia, Kampong Cham is an important trade and transportation hub. While the city is usually used as a stop off point for travelers heading on to Siem Reap or back down the Mekong to Vietnam, it’s still worth a glance. Kampong Cham is not filled with a lot of attractions, but the simplicity and charm of the city is appealing, with enough to keep travelers busy for a few hours before venturing on to the next destination.
A journey along the Mighty Mekong gets travelers up close to some of the most fascinating cultures and towns in Southeast Asia. Uniworld will help you go off the beaten path and experience the cultural treasures of Vietnam and Cambodia from the comfort of a French Colonial-era inspired ship. If you’re interested in the Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & The Mekong cruise, contact a AAA Travel Professional today for more details on dates, pricing, ships, and more.