The Mekong River might not be the longest river in Asia, but it is one of the most important and its special significance to millions of people is unquestionable. From its source high up in the Himalayan glacier in Tibet through to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, the river flows for over 4,000 km and shapes the land and the lives of people along its route.
For centuries, the Mekong has been a key trading route in Southeast Asia with people and goods transported along the waterway which runs through China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. The river basin is home to some of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world and has been crucial to farmers and fishermen alike. Sometimes forming a natural border between countries, the Mekong River is known by different names in each of the countries it touches.
Mekong River Cruise
If you visit Southeast Asia, a Mekong River cruise is an ideal way to witness first-hand how this river continues to play such an important role in the day-to-day life of local communities. River cruises arranged by TourChoice provide the chance to see mountain scenery, visit ancient temples and experience the culture of the local people along the course of the Mekong River.
Mekong River Cruise in Laos
Visitors to Laos have the option of taking a Mekong River cruise in the south or north of the country. Both itineraries are packed with cultural highlights and make for a memorable way to experience this enchanting region of Southeast Asia. A trip in the north of Laos can easily be combined with trips to or from Thailand making this an ideal tour to add-on to excursions in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. The Mekong River cruise takes visitors through mountain scenery from Houei Xai to the delightful UNESCO World heritage city of Luang Prabang. Travelling on a luxury river barge, the tour takes in local villages and attractions like Pak Ou Caves which is famous for containing hundreds of Buddha figures.
On the Mekong River in the south of Laos, visit the historic Khmer temple ruins of Vat Phou. This trip also includes Si Phan Don, an archipelago that translates as ‘Four Thousand Islands’ and the impressive waterfalls at Khone Pha Pheng which, in terms of volume of water, are the largest in Southeast Asia.
Mekong River Cruise in Cambodia
One of the many highlights of a Mekong River Cruise in Cambodia is Tonle Sap which translates as the ‘Great Lake’. This body of water forms the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and is of huge importance to Cambodia. It’s estimated that at least 50% of all the fish consumed in Cambodia comes from Tonle Sap and the waters also play a major role in farming. Tonle Sap is unusual because the flow of water changes direction twice a year. The water level also rises and falls with the seasons as water flows to or from the Mekong.
The capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is located at the confluence of the Tonle Sap River and the Mekong. The city has a tragic recent history with the S21 detention centre and the Killing Fields powerful and moving memorials to the victims of the Khmer Rouge. From Phnom Penh, travel onwards via charming riverside villages to Siem Reap and the splendours of Angkor Wat.
Mekong River Cruise in Vietnam
The official name is Ho Chi Minh City, but to many of its older residents it will always be Saigon. Whichever name you prefer, the city in southern Vietnam makes for a fascinating starting or finishing point for a tour that takes in Vietnam and Cambodia. A river cruise between Vietnam and Cambodia is a wonderful way to see the heritage and natural beauty of these two countries.
Saigon is sophisticated and sassy and the French colonial influence is prominent in the architecture and the layout of the boulevards. Saigon is also a city where there are reminders of recent conflicts and a visit to the war museum and Chu Chi tunnel complex provides insights into the conflict the Vietnamese refer to as the ‘American War’.
Mekong River cruises in Vietnam include a visit to the colourful floating market of Cai Be. You’ll get the chance to travel by flat-bottomed wooden boats known as sampans which will take you along backwaters and canals to witness local markets and experience the intriguing way of life along the waterways.