A perfect blend of old-world mystique and French romance – Aqua Mekong’s expedition through Indochina offers the best of regional culture, heritage, and adventure. There is ample beauty everywhere – in the magnificent backdrops, the architecture of the temples, centuries-old traditions, and lively cities and markets
A river voyage through the Mekong delta is the ideal way to immerse yourself in authentic experiences and make memories to last a lifetime. Whether you’re chasing the echoes of the flourishing 9th-century Khmer empire or discovering the study of Theravada Buddhism in present-day Cambodia and Vietnam, you’ll leave Aqua Mekong enlightened and renewed. Here are just seven of our favorite highlights along the mighty Mekong river.
#1 Shake Your Tailfeather
Wake up at dawn for an excursion to the fragile wetlands of the Tonle Sap Lake, home to the 22,000-hectare Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary. As one of Southeast Asia’s last refuge for large water birds like the spot-billed pelicans, milky stork, black-headed ibis, and the elusive masked finfoot, it is a wonderful opportunity for contemplation as you wind your way along the peaceful hyacinth-clogged waterways.
In the exclusive company of your fellow travelers, our guides, and the knowledgeable Biosphere Reserve rangers, you’ll find yourself completely immersed in your surroundings. Brave the summit of a semi-permanent outpost built high up in trees to watch nesting pelicans and storks – truly a sight to behold.
#2 Love is in the Air
If you’re looking for romance, we recommend grabbing a copy of Marguerite Duras’ L’Amant while on Aqua Mekong. Follow in the footsteps of the author when we rendezvous in Sa Dec, a Vietnamese town which reveals its French colonial past in the beautiful architecture of the vibrant old market, mansions, and merchant homes.
Sa Dec is the original setting of the French author’s tale of illicit love, subsequently turned into a film in 1992. Explore the house of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le – whom the protagonist of L’Amant is based upon – which has been lovingly and traditionally restored. Go on to explore the romantic town which once served as an American Patrol and Swift Boat base during the Vietnam War and boasts famed flower gardens.
#3 Pottering About
Turn back the hands of time and learn about Khmer riverside life in Kampong Chhnang, so-called the ‘Port of Pottery’ because of archaeological discoveries made here dating back to 5000. Visit the families of the little Andong Russei village to meet and watch traditional potters practice age-old craftsmanship and techniques that were all but lost in the recent years of the Khmer Rouge regime. Here, potters excavate clay from the nearby Phnom Dey Meas – which literally translates as golden earth mountain – and fine specks of gold can be seen in the clay’s surface once it has been fired. While the throwing wheel has only been recently reintroduced to the community, clay pots are usually shaped by hand on a palm tree stump and battered into the desired shape with a wood paddle.
#4 Royal Treasure
Most people know about the ancient lost city of Angkor which rose like a zenith out of the Cambodian jungle, but an underrated historical highlight is Udong, the royal capital of Cambodia for more than 250 years. Located at the foothill of the mountains Phnom Oudong (Hill of the Victorious) and Phnom Preah Reach Throp (Hill of the Royal Fortune), the city was the location of many royal coronations.
Legend states that the Buddha located in the Arthaross Temple faces north towards China instead of the traditional direction of east, thereby protecting the country from being conquered by the ancient Khmer kingdom. Take advantage of our knowledgeable expert guides and discover all there is to know about Cambodian history and religion.
#5 Fresh Flavors
While it’s not as well-known as other regions, Chao Doc is a vibrant gateway to many attractions in the Vietnamese province of An Giang, as well as an important commercial center between the border of Cambodia and Vietnam. The floating market is an assault on the senses, with its bustling early morning energy. Jump aboard the local means of transportation – the rickshaw – to the photogenic Chau Doc Market for a walking tour with one of our onboard chefs. You will be introduced to numerous regional specialties – such as dried fish, tamarind paste, coconut, and mango-flavored sweets – some of which are used in Aqua Mekong’s flavorful and Michelin star chef-curated menu.
#6 Wheel Life
Every stop on our Aqua Mekong itinerary offers guided bicycle tours as an optional and fun way to explore the countryside and authentic village life. Our top-of-the-line, all-terrain bicycles can tackle any terrain in comfort and safety, suitable for all riders. No two cycling excursions on our itinerary are the same, so you’ll get to experience a different slice of Mekong life and culture with every ride. Most rides are an easy 10- to 17-kilometer route, winding through meandering roads and paths, over bridges and across rice paddy fields, with the heady scent of frangipani and mango trees hanging sweetly in the air.
#7 National Thread
One thing you will notice while touring along the Mekong is the ubiquity of silk in Cambodian life. It is part of the country’s national garment – the sampot, while golden silk is its national thread. On Koh Oknha Tey, a river island famed for its longstanding tradition of silk weaving, you will be able to admire dexterous Khmer artisans bent over their knotty art form. Learn about the processes of traditional silk production, beginning with the breeding of silkworms to the weaving of the silk weft ikat woven cloth, and of course, buy some as souvenirs!
Plan ahead with our 3-, 4- and 7-night itineraries aboard the Aqua Mekong.