Best Places to Visit with Luxury Mekong River Cruises
The mighty Mekong is one of Asia's most well-known rivers, and a river cruise down the Lower Mekong is one of the best ways to experience an authentic cultural and historical journey in Vietnam Cambodia. In this article, we will explore the top 9 must-see attractions in these two beautiful countries on a luxury Mekong River Cruise.
1. Cai Be
Located at the meeting point of three river tributaries, including Vinh Long, Tien Giang, and Ben Tre, Cai Be has become a popular destination for many Mekong Delta cruise expeditions. The star of Cai Be town is, of course, its traditional floating market. Though the marketplace is getting smaller each year since most trading is shifting to the modern markets on the land, travelers can still enjoy the vibrant and unique atmosphere of this market type in the early morning. Another highlight of a Cai Be visit is Tan Phong Islet, a green drop of earth crisscrossed with canals and fruit orchards. Take a sampan or a bicycle along the winding roads, and you will find yourself immersed in the authentic vibe of southern Vietnam.
2. Sa Dec
Different from other stops along the Mekong Delta, Sa Dec is virtually cosmopolitan, with peaceful tree-lined streets and elegant French colonial mansions. Almost all excursions in this town will include a stop at Huynh Thuy Le Ancient House, a French villa built in 1895 right next to the river. This anicent building has become famous since it was used in the 1992 film L’amant – The Lover, depicting a romantic affair between a French teenage girl and a wealthy, older Chinese man. However, Sa Dec is not just known for its historical structures. A stroll through the town's vibrant central market or extensive flower nurseries will be an unforgettable experience on your Mekong trip.
3. Tan Chau
A voyage with Mekong river cruises is all about seeing what life is like along the banks of the Mekong, and Tan Chau is a wonderful place to get an authentic insight into rural Vietnam. Hop on a xe-loi (trishaw) and discover around the pleasant, slow-paced town. You will follow the local paths, which are not typically trodden by most travelers, to visit colorful markets, temples, houses, and domiciles. It’s a great chance to interact with friendly people and meet artisans who make skilled products like silk and rattan mats.
4. Phnom Penh
Located where the enormous Mekong, the Bassac, and the vast Tonle Sap rivers meet, the bustling capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is an alluring gem of Indochina with plenty to see and experience. Walking through French colonial buildings and boulevards lined with trees, you will find impressive Angkorian grandeur, such as the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, National Museum, and Wat Phnom. Phnom Penh is also a genuine oasis compared to other modern Asian capitals, and a cyclo tour around the city will let you immerse yourself deeply in that vibe. Don’t forget to make some stops at local markets and street food stalls to refuel and savor delicious regional specialties.
5. Kampong Chhnang
Nestled along the west bank of the Tonle Sap River, Kampong Chhnang is a pleasant river port town that welcomes many tourists coming for a glimpse into another side of Cambodian life. A boat trip will take you upriver past floating villages like Chong Kos and Kandal. While navigating the maze of waterways, visitors will see brightly painted wooden houses on stilts, floating gardens, and markets, and get a peek at how dynamic and lively local life is on the water. Head outside of the town and pay a visit to the authentic village of Andong Russey, which is famous for pottery products. You can see how to make handmade clay pots and also partake in the process and create your own item.
6. Kampong Tralach
Located southeast of Kampong Chhnang Province, the small town of Kampong Tralach is just an ordinary Cambodian countryside area; however, with the Tonle Sap River flowing roughly north to south across the region, Kampong Tralach becomes a rustic yet charming stop for many Mekong river cruise lines sailing between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The main attraction of this town is taking a local oxcart ride along a small, dusty road. You will see gorgeous stretches of rice fields, and if you happen to travel in harvest season, it’s a great opportunity to behold the yellow rice paddy scenery, witness exciting farming activities, visit idyllic villages along the riverbank, and observe how local life is different from ours.
7. Tonle River
Part of the Lower Mekong, the Tonle River connects the great Tonle Sap Lake to the mainstream of the Mekong from Laos. For many tourists, visiting this place is not only reaching the end of the upstream cruise voyage, but it’s also among the best excursions in the discovery of Cambodian natural and cultural charms. Boat trips will take you close to local floating villages and the wetlands’ biodiversity that feasts your eyes with picturesque water landscapes, exotic floating lives, and an incredible “sea” of plants, birds, and aquatic animals. If you prefer to come ashore for some authentic experiences, take a walk to rural villages where you can visit local families and see how they make traditional goods like Khmer-style pottery and palm sugar.
8. Koh Oknha Tey
Koh Oknha Tey, better known as Silk Island, is a small, lovely island on the vast Mekong River, which is around 18 kilometers to the north of Phnom Penh. As its name suggests, the island is famous for its high-class silk products from Chong Koh, one of the most renowned traditional weaving villages in Cambodia. Tourists are welcome to view the full process of creating traditional textiles, from the silkworms and silk threads to the final premium artworks made of genuine Cambodian silk. Additionally, you can take a short visit to the island’s beautiful temples with exquisite stupas and soak up the tranquil atmosphere of Cambodia’s countryside with stilt houses, lush gardens, and river scenes.
9. Kampong Cham
Often seen as the embarking or disebarking point from Siem Reap, the quaint town of Kampong Cham in fact has a lot to allure travelers to spend a couple of days discovering its laid-back ambience and colonial French charm. Wat Hanchey (7th century) and Wat Nokor (11th century) are excellent temples to marvel at Angkorian architecture in Kampong Cham. Both temples feature elaborate wall paintings showing the country’s past and religious beliefs. Besides, other notable attractions in the region include the Bamboo Bridge connecting Koh Paen Island with the mainland, Wat Maha Leap, and the Organization for Basic Training (OBT), where visitors will learn more about the education of Cambodia’s young generation.
The aforementioned must-see sights should persuade you that cruising along the mighty Mekong is worthwhile. It is an intriguing, exhilarating, and thrilling experience. You get to enjoy not just the natural wonders but also the diverse history and lifestyle of the various places you will visit. Each Mekong River cruise ship will offer distinctive itineraries that consist of different destinations. If you’re interested in some, contact our travel consultants to find the best cruise option that fits your plan.