(recently published in Escape)
Luxury cruise lovers are setting their sights on Asia to get more bang for their holiday buck.
Annabel Tidmarsh, first and business travel expert from Flight Centre in Brisbane, has seen a huge rise in interest for Mekong River cruises in the past couple of years.
“I think the Australian traveller these days is more interested in getting off the beaten track, whereas when I started in the industry almost six years ago, people were interested in heading over to Europe or America and hitting those bucket-list locations. Now they’ve been there done that and want to experience something different.
“It’s a really luxury way to travel through Asian countries that are sometimes seen as an adventure destination, but the Mekong cruises make it more of a five-star destination.
“I think the biggest tip would be making sure you picking the cruise line or touring company that’s perfect to fit your style. G Adventures do a great three-star option for the younger adventure style traveller … (but) if you’re used to having five-star everything, and everything included, that’s when you definitely want to go for a Scenic or an APT.”
We found three Mekong River cruises for all budgets.
MEKONG RIVER ENCOMPASSED
$2599 A PERSON (10 DAYS)
Travelling at a languid pace allows opportunity for reflection. It’s in these slowed-down moments along the Mekong, where you’ll cruise for eight days from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Siem Reap in Cambodia, that the opening of eyes, minds and hearts begins.
But it’s during a traditional Khmer meal at the New Hope Vocational Training Restaurant in Siem Reap that you’ll realise you’ll be taking home more than just Instagram moments from this journey. A social enterprise developed and supported by G Adventures, this restaurant provides skill-building opportunities to locals and funds the free community school and health centre.
Of course, you’ll also enjoy many other enriching experiences this pocket of South-East Asia has to offer, like crawling through the Cu Chi tunnels, cyclo riding through Phnom Penh and visiting the floating village of Chnok Tru.
LUXURY MEKONG RIVER CRUISE
$3790 A PERSON (8 DAYS)
Kick off with a Luke Nguyen Welcome Dinner on board as you board in either Siem Reap or Ho Chi Minh City and prepare to be immersed in the local villages that hug the waterway.
Throughout your week aboard the RV AmaLotus, you’ll have the opportunity to take an authentic ox cart ride in Kampong Tralach, visit the holy Cao Dai Great Temple in the village of Long Hoa and appreciate what goes into delicate rice paper in Cai Be.
Close your eyes, open your heart and receive a blessing in the Oudong Temple — the town was the royal capital of Cambodia from 1618 until 1866 — and slip into the melting pot of cultures in Phnom Penh.
In Sa Dec, don’t miss the chance to learn the story behind French author, Marguerite Duras’s best-selling novel, The Lover.
LUXURY MEKONG & TEMPLE DISCOVERY CRUISE
$6075 A PERSON (11 DAYS — 2018 DEPARTURES)
Meandering along the Mekong from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, you’ll be transported from the French colonial splendour of Saigon, to Phnom Penh’s Killing Fields and stop at small silversmithing villages, shiny pagodas and ancient hilltop monasteries along this aquatic artery.
On top of included sightseeing options, five “Enrich” experiences are peppered throughout the itinerary that will see you receiving a blessing from a monk and learning how to pray in a Buddhist pagoda, enjoying a Cambodian circus performance, and witnessing sunrise over Angkor Wat.
After you disembark from your luxury ship, stay on in Siem Reap to discover the temples, ancient hydraulic systems and communication routes of Angkor. The tour culminates in a gala dinner at an Angkor temple with Apsara dancers as the sun sets on your final evening in Cambodia.