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From Vietnam to Cambodia

From Vietnam to Cambodia

Down the mighty Mekong

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From Vietnam to Cambodia

The Mekong River meanders over a course of almost 5,000 km from the Tangla Mountains to the South China Sea. Each stretch of river is more breathtaking than the one before. The final part from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh is truly spectacular. Spend 3 days floating down a magical water wonderland.

Day 01

Pagodas and stilt houses

Morning

Cultural melting pot

Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect starting point for a trip on the Mekong River. But before casting off, there is time for a morning stroll. A quick tour reveals that former Saigon has a lot more to offer than just the Vietcong tunnels and other scars from the Vietnam War.

The beautiful pagodas are 100 percent Asian, while the post office, the old city hall and the Notre-Dame Basilica reveal unmistakable French influences.

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Michael Gordon

Afternoon

A maze of water

From Ho Chi Minh City, it takes less than two hours to drive to the town of Cai Be where tour boats depart for the Mekong Delta. As the boat glides through this maze of alluvial clay islands, you are constantly greeted by passing fishermen and rice farmers on shore. Looking for some solid ground?

Anchor the boat at the An Binh Islands and hop on a bicycle to explore the beautiful plantations, pagodas and stilt houses.

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Michael Gordon

Afternoon

A maze of water

From Ho Chi Minh City, it takes less than two hours to drive to the town of Cai Be where tour boats depart for the Mekong Delta. As the boat glides through this maze of alluvial clay islands, you are constantly greeted by passing fishermen and rice farmers on shore. Looking for some solid ground? 

Anchor the boat at the An Binh Islands and hop on a bicycle to explore the beautiful plantations, pagodas and stilt houses.

Evening

Mekong metropolis

Cần Thơ is the metropolis of the Mekong Delta. Locals who don’t spend the evening playing pool – which is also a popular daytime activity to escape the heat – head to the Nguyen Trai Bridge for a sweeping view of the city. This metropolis also has a culinary reputation to uphold. Vịt Nấu Chao Hẻm, better known as ‘Hot Pot Alley’, is packed with restaurants where customers can cook vegetables, duck and fresh fish in a boiling pot of broth. 

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Day 02

Even the houses float

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Morning

Breakfast on the river

Even before the sun rises over the Mekong River, the friendly market vendors of Cai Rang are busy displaying their fresh wares. But don’t expect market stalls at the largest floating market at Can Tho; instead you will find a jumble of packed boats waiting in the middle of the river. Soursop, jackfruit, durians: a myriad of exotic fruits are traded here. Charter a boat and join the charming chaos to cobble together your own healthy fruit breakfast.

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Afternoon

Where time stood still

The shores beyond Cần Thơ are dotted with a few tiny villages that exude local flavour and where modern life hasn’t yet seeped through the cracks of the simple houses. Soak up some history with a visit to the Cham. Having converted to Islam, the Cham are the last descendants of a kingdom that once covered half of modern day Vietnam. 

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Dock at a cluster of fishermen’s houses next to Con Tien Island and feed the fat catfish that are farmed in cages underneath the floating living rooms. 

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Evening

Sacred hill

The river meanders to Chau Doc, a town on the border of Cambodia. Just outside of this town stands the only hill in this pancake flat water world. Many Vietnamese believe that this 230-metre-high Sam Mountain is the home of the goddess Ba Chua Xu. Every year, 2 million pilgrims flock to this sanctuary to honour her. Higher up, you will find a colourful procession of Buddhist cave temples and pagodas. Visitors are rewarded with a panoramic view across the border into Cambodia.

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Evening

Sacred hill

The river meanders to Chau Doc, a town on the border of Cambodia. Just outside of this town stands the only hill in this pancake flat water world. Many Vietnamese believe that this 230-metre-high Sam Mountain is the home of the goddess Ba Chua Xu. Every year, 2 million pilgrims flock to this sanctuary to honour her. Higher up, you will find a colourful procession of Buddhist cave temples and pagodas. Visitors are rewarded with a panoramic view across the border into Cambodia.

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Day 03

Colourful Cambodia

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Morning

Spider on a stick

After breakfast in Chau Doc, it is a short boat ride across the border into Cambodia. Moor at the customs station, stamp your passport and transfer to one of the (fast) boats that will take you to Phnom Penh in just a few hours. Getting hungry? See if you can stomach an array of exotic snacks that are considered delicacies in Cambodia. Deep-fried tarantulas, for example, are a local delicacy since the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge.

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Afternoon

The Killing Fields

In and around Phnom Penh, it’s impossible to escape the legacy of dictator Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Just outside of the city are the notorious Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Perhaps even more gripping and much less visited is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in a school that for many years served as a prison and torture chamber. For a much less harrowing afternoon, shop for souvenirs under the immense art deco dome of the Psar Thmei Market.

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Evening

Until the early hours

As night falls, it is clear that Cambodians – like their neighbours – have lost none of their vitality. Packed with karaoke bars, night clubs and comedy cafés, the capital Phnom Penh is the perfect spot to dive into the local nightlife scene. The illustrious Foreign Correspondents' Club is still a magnet for expats and Western travellers. Want to try something more local? The touring Nerd Night is a hit among locals: a series of hilarious lectures presented in a fun and entertaining setting.

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Bob Henry

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