Amanda Sloan, tour manager on the Mekong River Cruise, has filed the below report.
We have just returned from the most wonderful tour through Vietnam and Cambodia including a cruise on the “MV Mekong Pandaw” along the Mighty Mekong Delta.
We started our tour in Saigon with 2 nights at the luxurious Sofitel and then boarded the MV Mekong Pandaw for a relaxing 7 night cruise. The staff looked after everyone so well, the food was wonderful offering everyone the chance to try the local cuisine. To be able to sit on the top deck with a gin and tonic in hand, watching life on the Mekong was the perfect way to travel.
On the Mekong Delta we saw smiling Vietnamese farm workers wearing cone-shaped hats and working in the rice paddies. Often their homes are right on the edge of the river. The Mekong deposits enough nutrients in the Delta to make its name as “the rice-bowl of Vietnam”. Gently undulating rice slopes stretch as far as the eye can see, an amazing agricultural scene. Local villagers work the fields by hand, and wave as you pass. One of the best features of this tour is that it is not overrun with tourists, which enables you to soak up and enjoy the atmosphere.
Shore excursions on The Pandaw included all our sightseeing tours visiting so many towns and villages along the Mekong. When you arrive at the villages the children are so delighted to see you and are always keen to practice their English with you. They love to follow you around and show you their village. One of the visits was to an orphanage in Cambodia where you have the opportunity to meet the children and see the wonderful programs they have including a great arts program. You are able to purchase their work, of course the children are keen to proudly show you which is “their painting”. Three of the staff on the Pandaw have come from the orphanage.
We visited Phnom Penh and had a cyclo tour (someone else does the peddling) around the town visiting the museum and the Palace. The tours also included a visit to a local school and we spoke to the children in their English class as they were so keen to learn. After 7 days of luxury we were transferred to Siem Reap to the magnificent Le Meridien hotel that is set in the most beautiful grounds with an amazing pool that you would normally dream about. We then spent the next two days visiting the temples at Angkor. For hundreds of years these temples lay forgotten, and in many places were reclaimed by the surrounding forest. It was only in the 1800s that French naturalist, Henri Mouhot, brought them to the world’s attention. Angkor Wat was obviously a highlight and should be on everyone’s must do list. The Cambodians have to be the nicest and friendliest race of people in the world.
This is one of the remaining unspoiled accessible travel destinations. The friendly welcome received from the villagers along the Mekong, the leisurely pace, the close look at their culture all make for an excitingly different holiday.
To see details of the latest Travelrite Mekong River Cruises departing in 2011 see the details here.