A Journey on the Mekong - RV Mekong Prestige II

15 Days - Asian River Cruise

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Cruise along the mighty Mekong River through the heart of South East Asia and explore fascinating water-borne worlds, from floating villages to colourful markets. Step back in time as our journey unfolds through stunning countryside: farmers with conical hats work in fields that disappear into the distance, whilst water buffalo plough the paddies until the sun sets in a blood-red explosion of colour. Observe riverside life and the wooden houses balancing on stilts, as giggling children watch us go by.   We visit Cambodia and Siem Reap, gateway to one of the great wonders of the world – Angkor, once the world’s largest city with a staggering one million inhabitants and an incredible 200 temples. We also stay in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, beautifully located at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap and considered the most beautiful of the ‘French’ colonial cities of Indochina. In Vietnam, the people and landscape are different, and the pace of life is faster. See the legacies of past rulers – the Chinese, Khmers, Portuguese, Japanese and French – in an eclectic mix of temples and pagodas, along with palaces, mansions and neo-classical buildings. Today, the motorcycles and western dress of the industrious youth happily co-exist with orange-clad Buddhist monks and political posters from a bygone era. Now is the time to visit these captivating and colourful destinations while so much of this distinctive heritage remains; and the best way to experience them is from the beautiful arterial waterway, the stunning Mekong River. 

Highlights

  • Gaze in awe at the magnificent city and temples of Angkor, one of Asia’s greatest ancient sights
  • Stay in the heart of Saigon with its bustling waterfront and French colonial architecture
  • Tour Phnom Penh, the ‘Paris of the East’, with its golden temples and palaces
  • See the fascinating Cu-Chi tunnels, a poignant reminder of the US-Vietnam conflict
  • Visit the teeming floating markets of Kampong Chhnang and Cai Be
  • Visit local communities to discover their unique way of life, unchanged in centuries
  • Enjoy delicious Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine
  • All staterooms have private balconies and river views
  • All shore excursions, crew gratuities, meals and selected drinks included whilst on the Mekong cruise
  • Return flights from Dublin via London Heathrow
  • Selected departures in February, September & October 2020

Inclusions

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room/cabin. Single rooms/cabins are available at the relevant supplement. Price includes:
  • Five nights bed and breakfast in four-star hotels
  • Seven nights full board, including non-alcoholic soft drinks, local beer and local wine at mealtimes on the Mekong Prestige II
  • All flights as mentioned
  • All transfers
  • Porterage of one item per person
  • Guided tours of Saigon & Cu Chi tunnels
  • One day entrance and guided tour of Angkor
  • All shore excursions as described whilst on the cruise
  • Gratuities for the ship’s crew
  • The services of a Riviera Travel tour manager
  • Visas not included.

Itinerary

Day 1

You should arrive at the airport for your overnight flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Day 2

After your morning arrival you will be met and transferred to the four-star Saigon Prince Hotel (2018 departures) Pullman Saigon Centre (2019 departures) to stay for two nights with breakfast. Breakfast is available at the hotel this morning after checking in.  We’ll take an introductory tour of the city. Highlights include the Reunification Palace where famously in 1975, a tank burst through its gates in the final defining moment of the Vietnam War. We also see the War Remnants Museum and the lively Ben Thanh market - a fascinating insight into Saigon's daily life, you can find anything here, all at extremely good prices! The colonial-style central post office is a marvellous photo opportunity. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Day 3

This will be a day to remember. We visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels, a complex underground network stretching for 124 miles, which included hospitals, meeting rooms, sleeping quarters and kitchens. Begun during the last years of French rule and vastly expanded during the 1960s, the tunnels provided a base for the Vietcong from which to attack US forces within just 30 miles of Saigon. Our visit here is a fascinating insight into these troubled times: we see the tunnels themselves and examples of the many mantraps and stake pits which protected them. Despite being carpetbombed, the tunnels were never really penetrated and should you wish, you may even try out real period weapons on a firing range. We continue through rural farming communities back to Saigon in the afternoon.

Day 4

Expectations rise during our drive to the Mekong Delta, its coconut groves swaying with the breeze, the countryside studded with pagodas and an amazing network of paddy fields, tended by farmers bent double and almost completely covered by their iconic conical hats; these are some of Vietnam’s most enduring images. Originally called Mae Khong, ‘Mother of all Rivers’, huge volumes of water drain from the hinterland plains and the snow-clad Chinese Himalayas, surging along an epic 3,000-mile journey. Life here revolves around its waterways: the imposing sampans so typical of South East Asia for hundreds of years and the quintessential floating markets of longboats, which almost sink under the groaning weight of colourful vegetables. Your cruise is the perfect way to discover and understand this fascinating and rapidly emerging corner of the world – a serene experience immersing you in its people and customs at a wonderfully gentle pace. After a stop at the picturesque Cholon market and a lacquer workshop, you board the superb four-star RV Mekong Prestige II. Your highly professional crew, imbibed by the unique service ethic you find everywhere here, ensure you settle in to your spacious and beautifully appointed cabin. After an excellent lunch, your journey begins. A wonderful reality soon sinks in with your first glimpses of the amazing stilted villages and teeming river traffic animating the scene seemingly at every turn. As darkness gently falls, take your seat in the restaurant for your first dinner, offering a choice of superbly executed Vietnamese or Cambodian cuisine or international classics. The excellent cuisine is accompanied by tasty and included local wines, beers or soft drinks. Mooring at Cai Be, the day ends with a lovely performance of traditional Mekong music and perhaps a nightcap in the balmy late evening air, bathed by the unmistakable sounds of the East.

Day 5

This morning we sail by local junk along Cai Be’s waterfront and amazing floating market, where wily sellers dangle their wares from long poles to the myriad of smaller boats in a vibrant riot of colour and noisy bartering. We visit the remarkable French Gothic cathedral, a poignant reminder of Vietnam’s colonial past. This afternoon we cruise through Vinh Long to Sa Dec with a guided stroll through the colourful local market – an interesting comparison with this morning. The highlight of the day is the intriguing Cao Dai Temple, centre of a unique indigenous religion, a fascinating combination of Taoism, Buddhism and Chinese Confucianism plus elements of Christianity, Islam and spiritualism. Bizarrely, its saints include Joan of Arc, Napoleon, Shakespeare and Winston Churchill! The temple itself is a striking combination of western and oriental architectural styles and mesmerising brightly coloured statues, overlooked by the religion’s all-seeing Divine Eye – it’s sure to leave you something to ponder after your visit. Another tropical night atmospherically falls as we cruise upstream whilst enjoying another superb dinner and the kaleidoscope of truly amazing sights, sounds and scents, accompanied by the gentle waters lapping peacefully against the hull.

Day 6

One of the great pleasures of river cruising is waking up somewhere completely different, and as dawn breaks, we are berthed in remote Tan Chau near Cambodia. One of the delights of Vietnam is that so many cottage industries still thrive, offering a fascinating insight into the past. This morning we explore Tan Chau, Vietnam’s leading silk centre producing extremely high quality and truly beautiful naturally dyed clothes. Slipping our moorings, Vietnam slowly recedes as we cross into Cambodia and continue into the evening with a chance to enjoy pre-dinner drinks in the lounge, before another tasty dinner. Take a stroll outside, look above and be dazzled by the luminosity of an amazing night sky, unfettered by streetlights and advertising as we cruise to Phnom Penh.

Day 7

Called the ‘Paris of the East’ during colonial times, Phnom Penh has preserved much of its wonderful rustic charm, elegance and French allure. Sightseeing includes an exciting cyclerickshaw ride to the dazzling Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, followed by a chance to witness exceptionally beautiful Khmer craft in the National Museum. In homage to Cambodia’s tragic recent history, we next visit the haunting Tuol Sleng Genocide museum. Phnom Penh has some excellent markets offering fine silks, spices and high quality lacquer work, providing the perfect opportunity to hone your bargaining skills. This evening you will be entertained by a traditional Apsara performance, where talented silk-clad dancers will dazzle you with their graceful poise and intricate hand movements, originally designed to entertain the gods. We moor overnight, enabling easy exploration of the city late into the evening, where the bustling markets, teeming street restaurants and hawkers sell literally anything, enhancing the electric ambience so typical of the emerging Far East.

Day 8

This morning by bus we venture by bus to Kampong Tralach, discovering the charming monastery of Vat Kampong Leu Pagoda, renowned for its extraordinary beautiful frescoe wall paintings, located in the beautiful countryside in an area of rice fields. We then continue to visit historic Oudong, the country’s former capital between 1618 and 1866, exploring the peaceful Vipassana Dhura Centre, a revered place of meditation, nestling at the food of Phnom Udong, a wooded hill with impressive Buddhist spiritual monuments towering above the rea, marking the final resting place of the Khmer Kings. We return on board to Phnom Penh for lunch and in the afternoon we head to the hill Vat Phnom. Ascending the hill to 27 metres you see the picturesque sanctuary dedicated to Mrs Penh who gave her name to the city.

Day 9

This morning we navigate to visit Chong Koh, a delightful silk weaving village, where we discover fascinating workshops. Then, back on board we sail on the Upper Mekong a naturally preserved area.

Day 10

This morning we cruise into the heart of Cambodia which this vast river astonishingly changes its direction of flow between wet and dry seasons. A remarkable ecosystem here is home to 20,000 plant species, 1,200 birds, 800 of reptiles and amphibians, plus 430 mammals – with 1,300 new species having been discovered since 1997. We arrive to Angkor Ban, one of the very few villages that survived and was not burned or destroyed during the Khmer Rouge period. We see traditional houses some more than a century and absorb the peaceful atmosphere where time stands still here as you witness a slice of Cambodian rural life. Back on board we continue navigation to Kampong Cham, discovering this afternoon by bus the temple of Wat Nokor. This twelfth century Buddhist temple built on the ruins of an ancient temple is unique to Cambodia.

Life on board

  Cost per person: €3,771pp
  Number of nights: 14
  Dates available from: Sep 2020

Tour supplied in Partnership with:

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  Call:  01 905 6300

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