Day 1: Siem Reap – Kampong Cham
We greet our guests in the morning at our welcome lounge in Siem Reap. With a last glance back, we bid farewell to the iconic sights of Angkor and travel southeast over land to the town of Kampong Cham, where the ship awaits us (approximately 4.5 hrs transfer time including rest stop) To keep you entertained during the ride, our expert guides share interesting insights about Cambodia and the region we journey through.
Kampong Cham is an important trade and transportation hub. The highway connecting the town and the capital of Phnom Penh is among the best maintained in Cambodia, and the country’s first bridge across the Mekong (Kizuna Bridge) was built here in 2001.
When moving into your staterooms upon boarding, your first inclination might be to step on your balcony to watch the ship set sail for a southbound journey on the mighty Mekong.
This afternoon you learn more about the education of the young Cambodian generation. Children from the small village of Chiro come on board, always excited to show their skills in music and dance. The Organization for Basic Training (OBT) provides a free, supplemental education in English, maths, and the arts to these local youths. Shower the young performers with applause and in return, you are bestowed upon with the most genuine and happy Cambodian smiles. With smiles on our faces, we prepare to leave the ship for a bus excursion to a nearby spectacle only present during the Mekong’s low water season (December to May). The Koh Paen Bamboo Bridge connects the mainland with Koh Paen Island and is re-built by the local community every November when water levels drop.
We continue our land journey to the enchanting pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey (7th century). Formerly built to honor the Hindu god, Hirahara, the complex is now a Buddhist temple, a testament to the country’s past and present religious’ beliefs. This small complex sits on a hilltop with breath-taking views over the Mekong. Many young, novice monks live on the compound of Wat Hanchey, and we have the chance to observe a bit of their daily lives: eating simple meals, praying, studying, or hanging out and making conversation while in their saffron-coloured robes.
Back on board you have some downtime before dinner. If you are feeling restless from all the excitement during your first day on the Mekong River, there is a cinema in the lounge showcasing classic movies and interesting documentaries on a nightly basis.
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Day 2: Kampong Cham – Oknha Tey – Kampong Chhnang
Wake up early to witness the spectacular scenery at the break of dawn. To make the experience complete, join our daily morning Tai Chi class. Afterwards, a rich breakfast buffet awaits, or if you prefer, we can serve breakfast directly to your room.
Today, the small village of Angkor Ban is our first destination. The village is famous for its unspoiled community and beautiful, traditional houses. It feels like being transported back a hundred years, into an era unaffected by modernity where villagers are characterized by their unbridled warmth.
Back on board, a monks’ blessing ceremony delivers spirits and wishes for health and prosperity for us all. While we sail downstream, afternoon tea is offered at the bar. Our staff is keen to show you a variety of traditional Khmer fashion the local people still wear on special occasions. Conversely, the ubiquitous Cambodian scarf, the Krama, is a garment worn by people of all ages and walks of life. This multi-functional attire is worn not just around the neck, but also as a bandanna, facemask, belt, swimwear, and even as a hammock to carry children.
Meanwhile we arrive at the island of Koh Oknha Tey. This spot in the middle of the Mekong owes its fame to manufacturing high-class silk products. We go sightseeing along the island’s roads a bit via tuk tuk before arriving at the village’s workshops and witnessing the curious process of making silk, starting from a tiny silkworm larva to cocoon, then dyeing, spinning and weaving the fibres into high-quality Cambodian silk.
After some additional cruising time, we pass the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Rivers, and the boat anchors near Kampong Chhnang for the night.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Kampong Chhnang – Kampong Tralach – Phnom Penh
After a sumptuous breakfast, we are now at Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia’s “water world”, where everything is balanced on sticks in water-rich soil. It is perhaps the most fascinating cruising spot in Cambodia. We take a local boat to the shore and hop on a mini bus to reach a quite unique, nearby rural village. As we explore the village on foot our guide reveals the village’s specialties – Khmer style pottery and the process of making of palm sugar from the Cambodian “skor t’not” palm tree.
We drive back to the shore where our local boat starts an exploration of nearby floating villages and the surrounding wetlands. Although we are still in the heartland of Cambodia, the residents of these floating villages are actually of Vietnamese descent who were expelled by the Khmer Rouge and soon returned after the ruling party was overthrown in 1979. No longer having land to settle on, they have since lived “on the water”.
Back on board and with lunch ready in the restaurant, the vessel continues cruising languidly along the Tonle River towards Kampong Tralach. This part of the Tonle River is quite interesting to watch from the terrace as the river at certain points is very, very narrow. The boat glides through leafy swaths of this jungle-like landscape. We reach Kampong Tralach, where laughing children wave enthusiastically at our arrival.
We are in the middle of Cambodia’s countryside where – surprise – traditional ox carts are still a common means of transportation. Our ox-powered vehicle takes us on a journey along the riverside and through back roads lined with rice-paddy fields until we arrive at a tiny village. Beginning a few short years ago, local children have had the chance to receive an education here. The “Green School” is a local project supported by Heritage Line in this remote area to support the underprivileged youth. The students, who are dressed in green shirts, are always happy to meet us every week as the principal gives an introduction and updates us on the current situation of the school.
After some additional cruising time back aboard, the boat arrives and docks at the pier of Phnom Penh. Feel free to go out and explore by yourself after dinner. Stroll along the river promenade and watch the locals chit-chatting, selling odds and ends or have a drink in one of the numerous bars.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4: Phnom Penh
Welcome to Phnom Penh – the city once named Paris of the East. Despite its rapid development, it has retained its rustic charm and elegance. It is an amazing town with centuries of incredible history and culture which can still be felt at many street corners.
We start with a full sight-seeing tour right after breakfast. By bus, we visit the Killing Fields outside the city and afterwards the centrally located prison “S21”. Both historic sites display the sad and cruel chapter of the country’s history when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia with terror and oppression. Those places have not changed much since this horrific time back in the early seventies and it can be quite heart-breaking. Alternatively, you may explore the city on your own in the morning before re-joining the group.
We have a lunch at a well-renowned restaurant in town and experience the elegant air Phnom Penh’s top addresses are known for. Our exploration of Phnom Penh continues with the cultural highlights of the city’s heritage. The golden edifice of the Royal Palace with its Silver Pagoda and the exceptional Khmer crafts at the National Museum top the list of the city’s must-sees. The day trip ends with a “cyclo” ride along the bustling streets of downtown Phnom Penh and back to the ship.
Take some rest or join fellow passengers at the bar for refreshing drinks. Today’s evening is a special one: let us invite you to a wonderful open air gala featuring a barbecue dinner feast. The dinner is accompanied by a classic Apsara dance performance along with other folklore dances.
As the evening unwinds, enjoy your supper with a good glass of wine and marvel at the skyline of Phnom Penh and the calming flow of the Tonle River.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Barbecue Gala Dinner
Day 5: Phnom Penh – Border Crossing – Tan Chau
The lounge is set up for an eye- and ear-catching lecture about modern Cambodian history, held by our friend and local expert, Mr. Jean-Michel, professor from the Royal University of Phnom Penh. He has studied the subject extensively and is more than happy to share his first-hand knowledge and surprising insights. The lecture takes about one hour before we set sail southbound towards the Vietnamese border.
The rest of the morning and the whole afternoon is at your own disposal. From here, even the last passenger turns on their cruise mode and hopefully experiences the relaxing cadence this mighty river emanates. The afternoon is perfect for massages, relaxation on a terrace deck sunbed or private balcony kick-backs. Conjure up a spell to merge with the river and float into a state of mild bliss.
You also may like to visit the bridge, as the captain always has a little story to share about “his” river. Or, if you are curious to learn more about Khmer gastronomy, join a culinary workshop to sharpen your knowledge about local cuisine.
As you sip drinks and nibble on treats during afternoon tea, we approach the border and finally arrive in Vietnam. From here it is just a short distance to Tan Chau, a pleasant, slow-paced border town with a sizeable Chinese, Kinh and Khmer community. We moor near the city with views on the riverbanks.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6: Tan Chau – My An Hung – Sa Dec
Once arrived on-shore, we hop on “xelois” to see Tan Chau’s vibrant town-life. A “xeloi” is a local vehicle which is still used as a taxi in this area. Your personal xeloi driver slowly navigates through the streets to observe all the workshops, houses and shops while feeling the laid-back vibe of this place. We stop at the colourful, local market near one of the town’s temples. This is a great opportunity to interact with the vendors of this friendly town and try your hand at bargaining with them.
To see what Tan Chau is famous for, we board local boats and head to a floating fish farm. You are about to get an exclusive look into the world’s largest inland aquaculture industry. Each of the floating structures has netting hanging down into the water to enclose the fish, which are raised and fed on a daily basis. The region’s specialties are tilapia and the Basa catfish, or Pangasius, which is unique to the Mekong River basin and rapidly gaining popularity on the international seafood market.
Back on board and before lunch is served, you may take a dip in the pool. After the meal, our expert guides offer a presentation about life in the Mekong Delta as the ship continues to My An Hung near Sa Dec province.
My An Hung Village is a wonderful example of a real local village in the Mekong Delta. Time stands still here and we receive wonderful insights into the private household of a local family and visit the seasonal vegetable fields to see what they are currently cultivating. We are invited to their house for a Vietnamese tea tasting. Vietnamese tea is often bitter, so locals sweeten it with honey, a regional delicacy also produced by our hosts. The family then presents a huge variety of fruits growing in the delta, freshly cut from the tree. And as an artist group performs a traditional, artistic dragon dance, we snack on these “vitamins bombs”.
The sun sets and the light now bathes everything in a golden hue. The surrounding natural beauty is a perfect backdrop for a riverbank gathering with cocktails and dancing with the crew in this remote, secluded location.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 7: Binh Thanh Island – Cai Be – My Tho
This morning the vessel arrives at one of the larger islands in the vast stream of the Mekong, Binh Thanh Island. Several communities have settled here and make their living by growing water hyacinths.
We exclusively visit one of these untouched areas. By wandering through the village, we get a deep understanding of native life. One of the local artisans, for example, demonstrates the entire process of traditional mat making. You can try weaving yourself. We also meet a local elderly couple who share their story of living on this island. They are always happy to chit-chat with our guests
Back on the ship lunch is served and we sail towards Cai Be. Cai Be is a charming town which is famous for its Catholic French church and the manufacturing of traditional crafts and food products. The once enormous floating market of Cai Be gets smaller year by year since trading on the water is continually shifting towards modern markets. However, you can still see boat-to-boat trading of local goods, such as fruits and agricultural products and imagine what this must have looked like on a larger scale. We learn from our guide about the long-lasting trading culture and how each boat has a special marker to let buyers know what goods they are selling.
By local boat, we sail along the green canal network and watch the farmers working in the fields. A visit ashore of a workshop shows us the manufacturing of rice paste, rice paper, rice cookies and rice wine. Cai Be’s surrounding areas are covered by palm trees, which is why the region is also famous for the production of coconut candy.
Back on board our crew invites you to a farewell event and to enjoy some cheerful moments before dinner, including music and Cambodian dancing together with the team. Savour your final dinner aboard and relive the week’s adventures in your mind’s eye with a glass of wine at the open bar.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8: My Tho – Saigon
Enjoy your last breakfast aboard your floating home. We disembark the ship after breakfast and take a bus transfer from My Tho to Saigon. It is only around 70 kilometres on the highway, and you arrive in Saigon by mid-morning.
We hope you enjoyed this fascinating river cruise, just as our crew does every single time. Moreover, take the enchanting memories and friendships along with you and share the stories of this amazing river – the Mighty Mekong.