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Journey along the Mighty Mekong
Journey along the Mighty Mekong OverviewRising on the Tibetan Plateau and flowing south-east to its labyrinthine delta, the Mekong may not be the longest river in Asia but it is undoubtedly one of the most important. Traversing Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, this 15-day tour explores the best of the Mekong, allowing you to experience life on the River like a local.
A Journey along the Mighty Mekong
Rising on the Tibetan Plateau and flowing south-east to its labyrinthine delta, the Mekong may not be the longest river in Asia but it is undoubtedly one of the most important. Traversing Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, this 15-day tour explores the best of the Mekong, allowing you to gain a vast array of experiences and experience life on the River like a local.
Best time for this itinerary: November to March
Touring style: Private basis with professional English speaking guide and driver
Day 1: Chiang Rai arrival
Upon arrival to Chiang Rai transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Distance and journey time: 9 km, approx 15 to 25 mins
Day 2: Huay Xai – Pakbeng
Transfer to the border crossing point. Upon reaching the Lao border of Huay Xai, our representative from the Luang Say Cruises will escort you to your shared cruise boat. The cruise takes three days to reach Luang Prabang, with overnight stops made in Pakbeng and at the Kamu Lodge. Late in the afternoon, you will reach the town of Pakbeng. halfway between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang. This small town is lined with wooden houses along a steep street on the hillside. Depending on the river's current, you may reach Pakbeng in time to watch the sunset over the river from the balcony of your room. Overnight at Luang Say Lodge, Pakbeng.
From Chiang Rai to Huay Xai: 112 km, approx 2.30 to 3 hrs
From Huay Xai to Pakbeng by boat: approx 150 km, 6 hrs
Day 3: Pakbeng - Kamu Lodge
This morning enjoy breakfast at the hotel before continuing the river cruise downstream to Kamu Lodge. The Kamu Lodge features 20 private canvas tents. Faithful to local style, each one is protected from the elements by a thatch roof. This allows the Lodges’ grounds to harmoniously blend with surrounding nature. The tents are decorated with bamboo and wooden furniture. They each feature private attached bathroom and toilet with solar powered hot water and electricity. This afternoon you may choose to participate in a variety of different activities. You will be rewarded with a very original Lao experience: Rice planting and harvesting in surrounding rice fields, Gold panning (January to June) in the Mekong, Traditional fishing techniques in the Mekong or visit a local village. Overnight at Kamu Lodge.
Distance and journey time:
From Pakbeng to Kamu Lodge: approx 5 hrs by boat
Day 4: Kamu Lodge - Pak Ou Caves - Luang Prabang
Enjoy breakfast at the lodge before setting off on the last leg of the journey. On the way to Luang Prabang, two stops will be made. The first stop is the village of Ban Baw. Here you will be able to see the processing of traditional rice alcohol. Continue downstream to the Pak Ou Caves. Locally referred to as Tam Ting, these two caves are carved out of towering limestone cliffs and contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues. Luang Prabang is a further 2 hours downstream from Pak Ou. Arrive in Luang Prabang and check in to your hotel. Just before sunset, meet with your guide for a walk to the top of Mt Phousi, 328 steps to enjoy the panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside. Descend to the Mekong side of the peninsula and find yourself in the evening hill tribe market. Here where you may find plenty of local souvenirs to buy such as handicrafts and textiles. Enjoy dinner on the banks of the Mekong. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Distance and journey time: 3 hrs by boat.
Day 5: Luang Prabang - City Highlights
Start exploring this fascinating town beginning with Wat Visoun (Wat Wisunalat), the oldest living temple in Luang Prabang. Visit the nearby Wat Aham before continuing to Wat Xieng Thong, the crowning jewel of all the monasteries and temples in typical Lao art style. From there, stroll down the main street (Wat Street) of Luang Prabang. If time permits, stop at some of the many temples that line its sides, including Wat Sibounheuang, Wat Si Moungkhoun, Wat Sop and Wat Sene. Overnight Luang Prabang.
Day 6: Luang Prabang sightseeing
Begin the day with a visit to a local market and observe the bustle and activity of the early morning. Visit of the National Museum, formally known as the “Royal Palace”, a modest but graceful building which has been preserved as it was when the royal family last lived here. After having visited Wat Mai, a typical Lao style temple, drive by vehicle to the Kuang Si Waterfalls. This multi-tier waterfall tumbles over limestone formations into a series of turquoise pools. Enjoy swimming in the clear water or just relax in the natural environment. On the way back take the chance to visit Ban Tha Pene, a traditional weaving Khmu village. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 7: Luang Prabang to Siem Reap – Temples
Enjoy your morning at leisure for some last minute shopping before your afternoon flight to Siem Reap. Overnight Siem Reap.
Distance and journey times:
Luang Prabang Hotel to Airport: 4 km, approx 15 to 20 mins
Siem Reap Airport to Hotel: 8 km, approx 15 mins
Day 8: Siem Reap – Temples
Start your tour to the most spectacular temples in the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path, a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake.
From here, continue to Bayon Temple in the exact centre of the city. This 12th-century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs.
Continue to Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples.
The highlight: The magnificent Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolising Mount Meru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labour. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolises the soul of the Khmer people.
During sunset, Angkor Wat is less visited and the Apsaras will shine in the most beautiful light. Return to Siem Reap for overnight.
Day 9: Siem Reap to Chnok Trou by cruise
This morning you will depart your hotel and transfer to the meeting point in front of the FCC hotel. Transfer to Phnom Krom, the pier of Siem Reap, and onwards by local boat to the Toum Tiou II for check in. After lunch, you will depart for a relaxing half day crossing of Tonle Sap Lake arriving at the floating village of Chnok Trou where it will drop anchor for the night. Welcome drink and dinner on board this evening. Overnight onboard.
Day 10: Kampong Chnang to Kampong Tralach cruise
After breakfast, local boats come to the Toum Tiou II and pick you up for a visit to the floating village. Almost totally overlooked by tourists because of its remoteness and difficult access, the village is completely self-sufficient. A floating school, factories to make ice for fish preservation, church, pagoda, service stations, pigsty, stores, boat or television repair shops, video club, karaoke bar, police station... everything is on the water. Embark back onto the cruise boat as it heads for Kampong Tralach where it will drop anchor close to the village. Dinner and overnight onboard.
Day 11: Kampong Tralach - Koh Chen / Oudong - Phnom Penh cruise
Depart for Kampong Tralach to visit its wonderful Vihara. To reach this magnificent edifice, we cross Kampong Tralach Krom village along a small road perpendicular to the river, walk along some gorgeous stretches of the rice paddy as we leave the river behind. Return to your cruise boat and have lunch while cruising to Koh Chen, a small village whose inhabitants specialise in silver and copper smiting. They produce ornamental items, including delicately engraved tropical fruit which is used in traditional ceremonies or at weddings.
Return to the boat and continue onward to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 12: Phnom Penh – Architecture
This morning, depart on a city tour of a different kind: Khmer Architecture tours will take you on an interesting journey where you will focus on Cambodian architecture of the late 1950s and 1960s, a vibrant time both culturally and politically. Discover the history of Cambodia from a different perspective as you view the city’s eclectic blend of buildings and structures.
Enjoy lunch at Van’s Restaurant, housed in the historic building of the Indochina Bank built in 1900 and former home of the Van Family. After a tour of the villa, enjoy an exquisite lunch of French delicacies. From here, explore the adjacent French Quarter by Cyclo, a traditional Phnom Penh means of transportation.
The Cyclos will bring you to the Phnom Penh Port, where you will embark on a boat trip along the Tonlé Sap and Mekong Rivers in the best evening light. You will have a wonderful view of the riverfront which is filled with interesting examples of Phnom Penh’s architectural periods. Examples of French colonial architecture stand next to contemporary structures and local pagodas as well as the glittering Royal Palace and the elegant National Museum. The summary of the city’s architectural variety is best viewed on this tranquil boat trip with coconut tasting.
Return to the hotel to freshen before enjoying dinner at the beautiful Bopha Phnom Penh. overlooking the river. Overnight Phnom Penh
Day 13: Phnom Penh sightseeing
This morning, depart with your driver who will take you on a tour of the cultural sights of Phnom Penh. First, visit Wat Phnom, which is situated near the northern boundary of the city. The site contains some good examples of Khmer architecture and statues.
Continue along the lively riverfront to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple, you will view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.
Your next stop is the National Museum, built in traditional Khmer style. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artefacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth.
This afternoon, visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in the former school that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as its main detention and torture centre named ‘S-21’. A grim, but important visit that will allow you to dig below the surface and understand Cambodia better. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 14: Phnom Penh - Chau Doc
This morning you will be transferred to the pier to board the Victoria Resorts speedboat for your trip down the Mekong River and across the border into Vietnam into the town of Chau Doc.
On arrival, you will meet your Vietnamese guide who will transfer you to the hotel. If time permitting, visit Tra Su Bird reserve. The green trees, vibrant colours and dark water along with the deep voice of birds in harmony with nature makes a trip to Tra Su a truly unforgettable experience in the region. On the way to Tra Su Forest, you will also visit a Khmer Village and familiarise with the local techniques of palm sugar producing. Overnight in Chau Doc.
Distance and journey time:
Phnom Penh to Chau Doc by speedboat: 5 hrs
Day 15: Chau Doc - Can Tho
This morning, leave Chau Doc for Can Tho. Board your boat cruise at Can Tho at Ninh Kieu pier for departure downstream of the Hau River. Turning into Nicolai canal, towards the Mang Thit and Co Chien Rivers, rest on the upper deck in a scenery of rice fields, sugar cane, woods on the near banks. The crew serves dinner while the Bassac is cruising Mang Thit River towards her anchorage point for the night. Overnight on board your boat on the Mekong Delta.
Distance and journey time:
Chau Doc to Can Tho: 120 km, 2.50 hrs
Day 16: Mekong Delta - Ho Chi Minh City
Departure towards Cai Be. Arrival near Cai Be, check-out and transfer to a rowing boat for a quiet visit through a small canal. Start your journey by passing by Cai Be’s floating market. Then, continue to a cottage factory market, once a busy place to trade fruits and vegetables and nowadays where ‘pop-rice’, rice paper and coconut candies are made. Return to the boat for the cruise to Dong Hoa Hiep Island; along the way admire the scenery and the daily life of the local villagers.
End of services by mid-morning on shore at Cái Bè where your guide and driver will transfer you to Ho Chi Minh City.
Distance and journey time: Cai Be to Ho Chi Minh City: 105 km, 2 hrs