Those following our blog know that we are hunting cruises on this Asia trip. This post gives a little insight in our forth and last cruise. It is also the third on the Mekong, the first one upstream, from (almost) Saigon to (almost) Siem Reap.
This was a 660 kilometer extravaganza: 8 days up the Mekong Delta on a 2009 built cruiser with 27 cabins and 5 stars, and more crew members than passengers. The ship’s name is Mekong Explorer, but it is always called Jayavarman, the name of several ancient Khmer kings, run by the Heritage Line.
No matter the category of the boat, our best time is always sitting on deck, watching the landscape passing by, getting a glimpse at the life of those who live on the banks or directly on the Mekong itself: the fishermen, the families in the floating villages, the farmers bringing their cattle (much less water buffalos than in the North) to the river for drinking and washing, the sellers of fruit or wood or hyacinth stems, the ferries (not many bridges over the Mekong), the bulk carriers with sand, the rice factories, the wood factories … No, it is never boring.
The Mekong delta is an immense system of rivers and waterways of all sizes, sometimes flowing downstream, sometimes upstream because of the tide. It is not much different from the buzzing life in Saigon. Every square meter of land is cultivated due to irrigation and there is a lot of boat traffic.
A cruise is not the shortest way from A to Z. A cruise is about seeing and learning. And the Heritage Line does a real good job. We have two excursions every day. Some are about history, but most are about everyday life on and along the Mekong. We visit fish farms (happy are those with a stuffed nose!), weavers and see interesting demonstrations: how the rice pups, how thin a rice paper can be or we follow the life cycle of the silk worm. The trips to the killing fields and the Khmer Rouge prison in an around Phnom Penh were not easy to digest. Too cruel and to close in time these atrocities were done by the Khmer Rouge. The worst for many visitors is the tree where they swung the babies and the little children against. Not centuries ago, only 40 years ago! Our Cambodian guide Adam gave us a lot of facts and explanations, but it is hard to understand how a regime can kill almost a third of it’s own ethnic group. DHH will explain more about all the war scares we came across on this trip in a later post.
We now go back to our luxury cruiser. The cabin with private shower and toilet – and balcony. The food very good – and of course too much. Several indoor and outdoor lounges and decks to sit and read and drink and talk. On the very top even a small pool and two rows of sunbeds – yes, with shade, the sun is strong. Enough space to be on your own or in company with some interesting people from all over the world.
When the water is high our ship can go to the Great Tonle Sap Lake, so you get close to Siem Reap. But, it is the dry season, we have to end the tour earlier and take a bus to Siem Reap.