Why Travel the Mekong River?
Prior to visiting Vietnam, the Mekong River was synonymous with our memories of the Vietnam War, bringing back memories of acquaintances lost, the six-o’clock news, Walter Cronkite, and the uncertain times of the 60’s.
When we returned from our first trip to Vietnam we knew that we would want to return, again and again. One of the things that we wanted to incorporate into a future trip was some time on the Mekong River. We love Vietnam so much and felt strongly about seeing the country in a new way, from the Mekong River and not from its banks.
What’s Remarkable about the Mekong?
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Mekong River is considered the rice bowl of Asia. Fed by the Himalayas, the river flows from China through to Vietnam and biodiversity is one of its hallmarks. The Mekong also accounts for one quarter of the worlds freshwater fish and harbors the worlds largest inland fishery.
Millions of people spread throughout communities in and on the river depend on it for their livelihood and survival, primarily through fishing and agriculture. From floating villages to hamlets just beyond its banks, the Mekong offers a singular way of life for those who inhabit it.
It would be impossible to fully describe the essence of the Mekong River in this post. Fortunately, there are vast educational resources dedicated to the Mekong. Please consider checking them out and learning more about the people, cultures, challenges, and threats to one of the worlds longest and most vibrant rivers.
Pandaw River Cruises
Once we decided to include a river cruise in our 2019 trip to Southeast Asia, we quickly decided on Pandaw. This luxury, small ship cruise line specializes in Asia, specifically the Mekong River, and the company and its history really spoke to us.
Additionally, being able to navigate the river and dock alongside the many villages just off the river was appealing. Equally important were the stunning ships and the small passenger loads.
The Pandaw ships had a lot of open space to experience uninterrupted views of the river and spend time in contemplation.
The entire staff was extremely high-touch focused and provided everything we needed while recognizing that sometimes what we needed was solitude.
Our expedition with Pandaw started in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and we docked four days later in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
How We Spent Our Time
Before we get in to the details, let us say that we were immediately impressed with Pandaws attention to sanitation and cleanliness. Although we traveled pre-Covid, every time we boarded the vessel we were met with the smiling faces of the staff offering hand sanitizer, a cool drink and someone to take our shoes for cleaning.
Once we boarded and settled in to our cabin we set out to explore the ship and meet our fellow travelers.
First, our cabin was stunning. Our home away from home was on the upper deck with expansive views of the Mekong. Immediately outside the doors were teak deck chairs that definitely invited you to sit down and view the river. Our well-appointed cabin had air-conditioning, a screened door to catch the breeze, and was a lovely space to spend the next four days.
Second, our sailing was not full and that didn’t bother us one bit! Besides us, there were about thirty other passengers. Because we spent so much time together we got the opportunity to talk, dine, discuss our respective countries, politics, children and families, and explore the river communities through well-planned outings.
Finally, during the day we went on curated shore excursions or stayed on the ship and read or napped on the deck, all while watching the opposite river bank fade away. One of the highlights for us was crossing the water border between Cambodia and Vietnam.
The ship had a gym and a spa and I spent one afternoon enjoying a massage.
One evening we especially appreciated was listening to local musicians, the music, instruments, and voices were so moving.
We loved our Pandaw cruise so much that we would definitely consider doing it again. We have our eye on the Laos expedition and wouldn’t mind a longer adventure throughout Vietnam and Cambodia.
The attention to detail, the luxurious staterooms and the opportunity to have extended time with passengers from far-flung places appeals to us. Some of the best travel acquaintances we have are from trips just like this one.
We hope you add exploring the Mekong River to your bucket list. You won’t be sorry. We promise!