Day 1: Ho Chi Minh - My Tho - Cai Be (D)
Bird farewell to the hustle and bustle of Saigon as we travel 70 kilometers south by land to My Tho to embark your boutique ship. We will be served a refreshing welcome drink as the ship steadily glides along the Mekong. We will bathe in the fading sunset on the balcony followed by a briefing at the lounge. Later, a welcome dinner awaits us.
When approaching Cai Be, the ship drops anchor to moor midstream where the river is several kilometers wide. Including dinner. Overnight in Cai Be.
Day 2: Cai Be - Sa Dec - Tan Chau (B, L, D)
The day - in fact everyday - starts with an invigorating tai-chi lesson on the sundeck, just as the sun begins its gentle glow. Coffee and tea awaits the early bird.
The day's tour starts with a visit to Cai Be's boisterous and colorful floating market on board a traditional sampan (a flat bottomed traditional Vietnamese wooden boat). During the languid ride, discover breathtaking landscapes along the river and quaff the rustic life on the Mekong Delta.
The cruise will halt intermittently to allow us to observe how rice paste, rice cookies and coconut candies are made, along with the Longan fruit drying process. After touring the canals, we head to an ancient house surrounded by fruit orchards before heading to the ship for lunch.
In the afternoon we cruise to Sa Dec. Upon arrival, we embark a traditional sampan* to tour Binh Thanh Island and its man-made canals. Here, every villager is involved in the process of making rattan mat and this give us the chance to interact with the old local people. We then board the Ship for a tranquil evening cruise towards Tan Chau.
The Ship will moor midstream overnight near Tan Chau.
Day 3: Tan Chau – Border crossing – Phnom Penh (B, L, D)
Welcome to the fish sanctuary of Vietnam. Begin your day with a hearty breakfast at the Indochine Dining Hall or in the quiet sanctuary of your balcony. Brace yourself for a short excursion in Chau Doc, a pleasant town near the Cambodian border with sizeable Chinese, Kinh and Khmer communities. Firstly, the journey takes you to the “evergreen” islands where you will be thrilled to learn the life of the locals.
The inhabitants of these islands live on houses poised on high stilts - a centuries-old tradition in this part of the Mekong Delta.
We stop to visit a fish farm located in the Tan Chau canal - this farm consists of floating houses and the villagers make their living by cultivating fish. You continue by boat to Tan Chau pier, disembark here and stroll around this colorful local market with lots of regional products.
You return to the cruise Ship after your market visit.
Overnight we anchor midstream near Phnom Penh.
Day 4: Phnom Penh (B, L, D)
Phnom Penh was once the Paris of the East. Despite its rapid development, it has retained a lot of its rustic charm and elegance. After breakfast, we will be captivated by a comprehensive lecture on Cambodias modern history. This will be followed by a city tour of this dynamic, historical capital city of Cambodia which has managed to preserve huge slices of its French colonial allure. Sightseeing in the morning will include visiting the dazzling white and gold edifice of the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, and witnessing exceptionally beautiful Khmer craft at the National Museum.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we will visit the Genocide Museum and the Killing Field in town. Be prepared to be heart wrenched by this stark reminder of the genocide that transpired during Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime.
We go back to the ship after our museum visit. Take a rest on your cabin balcony or the lounge and get prepared for an exciting evening event. The evening starts with a variety of cocktail served on the sun deck. Take a seat and enjoy the following Apsara dance performance. Experience the brilliance and richness of this culture, the soothing sounds of traditional music, the calming scent of incense sticks and a barbeque on the sundeck. It is indeed a truly marvelous experience, dining in the open with the stars and the moon as our companions.
Day 5: Phnom Penh - Kampong Cham (B, L, D)
We will depart before the break of dawn from Phnom Penh with a stop at the little known Chong Koh silk weaving village. We will then return to the ship and will cruise past the Mekong's tranquil villages, exhilarating river life and sun-hardened fishermen on their make shift boats.
We will tour the rural Angkor Ban village where time stood still. We are transported back a hundred years into an era unsullied by modernity. The houses here are truly rustic, made by hand and without any concrete. But most of all, we feel overwhelmed by the unbridled warmth of the villagers.
Travelers can take part in the daily activities of the villagers to experience village life first hand. Then, we are back to the Ship to cruise towards Kampong Cham.
Overnight in Kampong Cham.
Day 6: Kampong Cham - Wat Hanchey (B, L, D)
We will wake up in the small hours of the morning, truly energized to embark on a land journey to the pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey. Travelers either take a motor-taxi or climb the 291 steps to the top. Located at the top of a hill overlooking the river, it offers one of the most breath-taking views in Cambodia. Built in the 8th century, this ancient structure, together with a bigger and newer addition underscores the superb architecture of the Chenla Empire which predates the mighty Angkor temple complex. We even get to engage in light banter with some of the monks in the area. We will return to the ship to witness a blessing ceremony performed by orange-clad local monks.
When the tide allows, we will enjoy a surprise sojourn in our zodiacs (inflatable boats) to the nearby beach to swim in the tea-coloured Mekong river, an experience that will, no doubt, dominate dinner conversations in the weeks to come.
We will then cruise towards Kampong Cham to visit Wat Nokor, a wat built within the ruins of an ancient temple which holds a timeless story. On the way back to the ship, we will visit an orphanage. Along the way, we will have to maneuver a 2-kilometer rickety bamboo bridge. Our sense of balance lies in the balance!
Overnight cruise to Kampong Chnnang
Day 7: Kampong Cham - Kampong Chhnang (B, L, D)
Before the sun peeks over the horizon, the cruiser sets sail towards Kampong Chhnang on the Tonle Sap River - an amazingly narrow river - which glides through leafy swaths of the Southeast Asian jungle. We are greeted by cacophonous children who waive enthusiastically early in the morning when they bring their livestock for a bath in the meandering Tonle Sap River.
Then we approach Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia's 'waterworld' where everything is on stilts balanced on rich water rich soil- it's an awesome sight whilst practicing Tai Chi on the deck.
Here we take a motorboat excursion to the landing, followed by a short bus trip to see the Khmer-styled pottery at the Aundaung Russey village. Then, it is back to the river for an adventurous motorboat excursion to the wetlands, floating houses and fish farms in the region.
We then return to the ship for lunch whilst cruising the narrow and meandering Tonle Sap.
Your floating sanctuary will then cruise gently, in the afternoon, along the narrow and meandering Tonle Sap. In the evening, a sumptuous spread will be served. And for the big surprise - bring along your dance shoes and learn to jiggle the Cambodian way with our staff doubling up as dance instructors. (If you can't dance, do not fret. Neither can our staff)
Day 8: Tonle Sap - Siem Reap (B)
This great lake dominates Cambodia and is the largest freshwater lake in Asia with abundant birdlife. This lake is so wide that one can not see its shores from the middle of the lake.
Enjoy the stillness of the water and the quiet tranquility on the way to Siem Reap.
The water level varies a great deal according to the time of the year and the amount of rainfall recorded. Thus, minor changes to the itinerary may occur during different seasons.
Our cruise aboard our Heritage Line cruise liner comes to an end as we reach this city of the fabled Angkor temple complex. We bid farewell to the cruise as our journey comes to a close. But the memories - and the friendships made on board - linger on for a lot longer.
We will cross the Tonle Sap Lake at dawn and at 9:00 am, we will disembark at the Siem Reap Port for onward coach transfer to the drop off point in town.