Zipping along in a cyclo rickshaw on the roads of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, and viewing ancient Khmer sculptures at Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm counted among the many highlights of my first ever cruise. The Magnificent Mekong river cruise, by Viking River Cruises, offered detailed insights into the culture and heritage of south-east Asia and proved an enjoyable way of travelling.
Says Stuart Forster
Journeying as part of a group provided opportunities to chat with people from the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Spending time together meant we were able to forge friendships while travelling along the Mekong by boat and on land by bus, during guided tours to sites of interest around Cambodia and Vietnam.
The guides, who accompanied the group for the duration of the journey, were passionate and knowledgeable. After exploring Angkor Wat with the group I wanted to get up early to see the sunrise over the temple — the guides provided helpful tips that ensured I was able to do that successfully.
Time to explore sites of cultural interest
I’d heard critical comments from couple, who travelled on an ocean cruise with a different company, that they had little time at attractions and that excursions were largely glorified shopping trips. Inevitably, I was unsure what to expect from my first cruise. I’m pleased to say that was not the case at all during the Magnificent Mekong cruise. The tours were informative, provided opportunities to interact with locals and time to photograph at sites of cultural interest such as the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and Hỏa Lò Prison in Hanoi — a place that’s better known by its nickname, the Hanoi Hilton.
Fellow travellers who had already undertaken cruises on the River Rhine, the Irrawaddy and on waterways in Russia said that the cultural insights that they had experienced previously were among the factors that had made them choose to travel along the Mekong with Viking River Cruises.
Insights into the culture of south-east Asia
Lectures aboard the Viking Mekong provided insights into subjects as diverse as the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese marriage customs. They were pitched at an accessible level and included question and answer sessions.
From the moment I first had contact with Viking River Cruises the company made a positive impression on me. Their staff made acquiring the necessary visas straightforward. I was sent a clear and detailed trip itinerary, meaning I was able to undertake pre-trip reading. And the service and food provided by the Viking Mekong’s crew was first class.
Would I recommend this cruise to travellers who enjoy cultural insights and group travel? Absolutely.
Stuart travelled in Vietnam and Cambodia as a guest of Viking River Cruises on the 15-day Magnificent Mekong cruise.
The trip included two nights in the luxury Sofitel Metropole hotel in Hanoi, two nights in the upscale Sofitel Saigon Plaza and three nights in the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra at Siem Riep, in addition to an eight-day cruise on the River Mekong, inclusive of a stateroom with river views. International flights from and to the United Kingdom plus flight in south-east Asia along with meals and tours are included in the price of the cruise. So too are escorted tours and meals. Complimentary beer, wine or soft drinks are served with lunch and dinner aboard the cruise vessel.
The photos illustrating this post were all taken by Stuart Forster during the Magnificent Mekong river cruise.