Malaysia Airlines flight 764 lowered over Siem Reap whilst those of us with window seats were awed by the expanse of Tonle Sap Lake – a pre-taste of interesting and amazing sights we were to behold during the next 10 days.
No trains, planes or cars for the rest of the journey – instead, a new adventure for me – a River Ship Cruise interspersed with local excursions on ox carts, cyclos and tuk tuks. I had previously travelled to Cambodia & Vietnam, however, soon realised how much I had missed and the opportunity for a second visit was appreciated.
The river cruise starts and ends with highlights – two amazing city stays, Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City.
Siem Reap is home to the world’s largest temple complex built in the 12th century. A second visit still took my breath away as I tried to understand how a complex so large and intricate could be built without computers and cranes.
After a pre-cruise stay we set sail on our French Colonial stylised river ship. The next 7 days provided a fascinating close up view of village life along the river. Excursions were included and often involved smaller local long boats to enable a closer view and walk around the villages. A cold washer was appreciated as we arrived back on board to wipe the beads of humidity off the brow. A quick freshen up to get to lunch onboard or later; dinner with old and new friends was thoroughly enjoyed. The meals were a variety of Asian & Western cuisine choices. Breakfast and lunch was served buffet style and dinner was a good choice of options from the menu.
When time permitted I was able to relax in the day spa rooms. Treatments were popular and reasonably priced. Time slots booked out early and decisions on what type of pampering to be subjected too, had to be made early in the cruise.
An emotional day is spent in the Capital, Phnom Penh, learning about Cambodia’s history. I must say the guides were exceptional and all had personal experiences they shared with us. Again, I learnt and experienced much more than I had previously.
Rain pummelled down in a monsoon shower the day we travelled to visit a Buddhist temple which actually meant we were able to take some great photos of waterfalls cascading down the stairs and local children having a shower.
The journey ends outside Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). A visit to this busy city included some free time to go shopping at the local markets – a bulging suitcase resulted. An included excursion to Cu Chi tunnels – the amazing labyrinth network of the Viet Cong again was another eye opener.
Verdict – APT does all possible to bring their high standard to Asia. Passengers should remember they are not cruising the Rhine and the included local wines are not European. Cabins are comfortable and most have double balconies on the RV Amalotus. The restaurant staff were friendly and helpful. The local guides impressive. The river life interesting. The journey cultural. It felt like travelling another world in another era. Finally – an extremely effortless way to journey from one destination to another without unpacking!
Don’t forget at Maverick Travel (formerly known as Travelscene Samford) you can redeem your American Express membership reward points to pay for your trip: 10,000 = $100. We are the local team with the most experience 3289 3700.