Picture yourself setting sail on Asia’s most beloved river, the Mekong. The Mekong River courses for over 4,000 kilometres, affectionately known as the ‘Mother of Waters’ for providing a lifeline for millions of people. Let’s take a look at Avalon’s Mekong cruise in depth. We guarantee that you’ll fall in love with the perfect combination of friendly locals, ancient history and irresistible cuisine when sailing through Cambodia and Vietnam. 

Avalon offers a 7-night cruise sailing between Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with the ability to extend your holiday with nights in Siem Reap and wider Vietnam. The below explains the route taken on the ever-popular 13-day ‘Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong’ itinerary, starting in Cambodia. Throughout this journey, your Cruise Director will accompany you. Once you embark, you will have one Local Guide for the Cambodia portion of your cruise and one for Vietnam.  

Siem Reap 

Banteay Srei temple, Siem Reap
Incredible carvings at Banteay Srei

What better way to start your travels than by diving headfirst into the Angkor complex? Siem Reap is world-famous for its temples here, each one with its own unique style and story. Hop from temple to temple by tuk-tuk with a local guide, a thrilling way to explore. Take in the red sandstone carvings of Banteay Srei; the 200 faces carved into Bayon Temple’s 54 towers; and of course, the largest religious monument in the world – Angkor Wat.  

And after a busy few days of witnessing these grand sights, Avalon have included a delicious three-course dinner of local Cambodian specialties with an Apsara dance performance, as well as some time at leisure to explore hot spots like Pub Street or indulge in a massage. 

Avalon Saigon
Photo by tansx on Instagram

After three days in Siem Reap, you’ll fly to the capital city of Phnom Penh for embarkation onboard the Avalon Saigon. Once you’ve settled into your Panorama Suite and met the friendly crew, the ship will set sail in the afternoon. Over the next 7 nights, you’ll begin to get a real feel for these countries as Avalon takes you into the heart of small, rural villages.  

Wat Hanchey & Angkor Ban 

Water blessing

First up is the tiny village of Wat Hanchey. It is famous for its hilltop temple, dating back to the 8th century with beautiful views across the Mekong. A quick, but steep, walk or minivan ride takes you to the top where you can partake in a traditional water blessing with local monks. After a brief walking tour through the village, you’ll return to the ship for a buffet lunch.  

After lunch, Angkor Ban is your next stop. Meet a local family who live in a traditional Khmer house, walk past small convenience stores, temples and gardens growing fresh produce, and spend time at a school to help students with their English. This will be your first look at houses on raised stilts, built like this to protect them from flooding. 

Kampong Tralach & Konpong Louang 

If you wake up early enough, you may be privy to a brilliant sunrise over the Mekong and Kampong Tralach.  

After a hearty breakfast, you’ll have the chance to learn more about the daily life, traditions and work ethic of a local farming family along with a tour of their house and farm. From Kampong Tralach, take a short bus ride to the silversmith village of Konpong Louang. Explore its rural setting before visiting one of its businesses. Watch in awe as pieces of silver are crafted into jewellery, trinket boxes and more. These make a great gift to take home! 

Phnom Penh 

Slurp up a Cambodian soup or enjoy a fried rice as you sail on to Phnom Penh. The capital city of Cambodia is full of hustle and bustle compared to the tranquil villages of the past few days.  

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh
Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

From making your way around the city on a cyclo to visit landmarks like the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and National Museum, to visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre (respectively known as S-21 Prison and the Killing Fields), your introduction to Cambodia’s history is sombre, yet so integral to this country.  

On the lighter end of the spectrum, children from a local orphanage will come onboard one night to put on an entertaining performance of song and dance. It’s heartwarming to see how much joy these children get from performing for you! 

Chau Doc 

Good morning, Vietnam! Overnight you will have sailed across the border between Cambodia and Vietnam, and arrived in Chau Doc.  

Mekong River boats

Your first day in Vietnam involves seeing firsthand how locals go about their daily lives. A visit to Chau Doc’s market showcases the range of produce, household items, and seafood; before boarding a sampan (a small boat) for a backwaters tour of the Mekong that takes you past houses on stilts, merchants selling items from their boats, interesting scenes and even seeing how talented fishermen fling their nets far and wide to get their daily catch. Your final stop today is Sam Mountain, a revered, religious site in a small village. Pilgrims will walk to the top of the mountain to the main temple (a 2.5-hour walk) or give offerings at the smaller temple at the foot of the mountain.  

Long Khanh A & Cu Lao Gieng 

Cotton material

Long Khanh A is a small Vietnamese village that is famous for its cotton-weaving. As soon as you step foot on the island, you’ll hear the clacking noise of looms. A short walking tour highlights both manual and modern looms, with the opportunity to buy a scarf before heading back to the ship for lunch.  

Conical hats
Photo by shannongb70 on Instagram

After lunch, you’ll discover Cu Lao Gieng by motor cart – a fun, and breezy, way to get around! Not only will you visit one of Vietnam’s oldest Catholic churches, but you will visit a couple of workshops to see how the iconic conical hat (non la) is made from palm leaves and bamboo, as well as how a sampan boat is crafted.  

Vinh Long 

Today is your last, full day onboard the Avalon Saigon. Vinh Long is your final village to be visited along the Mekong River, a tropical paradise with gardens growing flowers, bananas, mangos and vegetables. While rice is an important part of the Vietnamese diet, locals here take it to the next level with a triple threat rice workshop. Watch and learn how these skilled locals make rice paper, rice wine and rice candy. You may even want to try a shot of cobra rice wine, soaked for up to one year.  

View from Panorama Suite onboard the Avalon Saigon
Drink in the views from the comfort of your Panorama Suite

This afternoon will be at leisure onboard as you sail to Ho Chi Minh City, along with a lovely farewell with the crew of the Avalon Saigon.  

Ho Chi Minh City 

Crew of Avalon Saigon
Photo by tansx on Instagram

Your holiday ends with a morning disembarkation and two nights in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is also known. There’s so much to do and see in this vibrant city, so we’ve included the very best of it for you.  

Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office
Central Post Office
Photo by judith_hulsbos on Instagram

Landmarks such as the Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, War Remnants Museum and Ben Thanh Market are visited on a fascinating city walking tour; roll up your sleeves for an entertaining, and delicious, cooking class at Saigon Culinary Art Centre; go underground in the Cu Chi Tunnels; and have one final farewell dinner at a local restaurant with your newfound friends.

We hope this gives you some more insight into what’s included when embarking on a Mekong cruise with Avalon Waterways. Take a look at our website today.  

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