Our Latest Dream Trip Of A Lifetime

Mekong River in Cambodia & Vietnam

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There are moments in life that are so perfect, so full to overflowing that it seems like they could never end. And maybe they don’t. Treasured travel moments live within you forever, to be returned to in moments of reverie for the rest of your life.

A trip down the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam will stand near the top of your store of travel memories, a truly enchanted moment in a timeless place. Let me attempt to explain, with the help of photographs that say so much that words cannot express.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia: The Temple of Angkor Wat is one of the most sacred places on the planet. Over the past ten years ruins located in the then tiny town of Siem Reap, in the Cambodian jungle, is now well on the tourist map. But that does not mean that you should not make an excursion to Cambodia. Yes, Angkor Wat has grown tenfold in popularity over the last decade. The little town of Siem Reap is now densely populated filled with hotels, bars, and restaurants. But the main attraction are the ruins of Angkor. Spread over a vast area, the Angkor Wat is an ancient temple in the city. The architecture of the temple reflects traditional ornate and classical design. The temple has five beautiful towers with a lotus shaped dome,which are all carved artistically with models of apsaras . Also known as the temple mountain, this temple is dedicated to a Hindu God, Vishnu. If you are interested in history, this place merits a visit, for its deep historical relevance in ancient dynasties. One can easily spend three to four days exploring the numerous hidden areas of this temple city.

There are numerous accommodations now in Siem Reap. From budget travel guest houses, boutique hotels, and the grand dame, the five star, Le Grand d’Angkor is the Raffles property. Since the early 1930s, a visit to the ancient temples of Angkor has been synonymous with a stay at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. Located in the heart of Siem Reap, a mere 8 kilometres away from the majestic Angkor Wat, this leading Siem Reap luxury hotel offers convenient access to some of the most intriguing ruins of the temple complex.

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AmaWaterways’ Vietnam, Cambodia and the Riches of the Mekong river cruise program begins in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, with a land tour of Hanoi followed by an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay in a traditional wooden junk. Guests are then flown to Siem Reap for two days, with tours of Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm Temple as well as Angkor Thom and Banteay Srei. In Siem Reap you board the river cruise ship for the trip down the Mekong through Cambodia and into southern Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon.

Much of the area can be flooded, but people seemed relatively unfazed by it. The casual attitudes of the people and the houses on stilts were clues that flooding is not uncommon in the area.

At Kampong Cham you boarded the AmaLotus, the floating hotel which will to be a congenial home for the next week or so.

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The ship’s interior is gloriously wooden in construction, with wood floors and paneling and furniture in the public areas and in the guest rooms.

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Every day except days in transit is enriched with shore excursions that will take you into fascinating places alongside the Mekong, some of which are more or less beyond the reach of highways, but accessible from the river.

One of the first shore excursions takes you to the silk weaving village of Chong Koh, where you get a glimpse of the way the local villagers live in small dwellings on stilts.

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The Cambodian countryside where villagers live simply is also richly populated with fantastically ornate temples and religious monuments, astonishing to look at and perhaps even more bewildering in contrast to their pastoral surroundings. They seem to crop up out of nowhere. You will see many of them, more than one can assimilate, and more than can be pictured here.

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, is a major city of more than 2 million population, with major traffic and hundreds of times more cycles than cars. Many of the cyclists are intrepid young women. In most places if you want to cross the street you cannot wait for traffic to stop, because it won’t. You just have to venture out into the street, not fearing the oncoming traffic. Try to get eye contact with some drivers and just continue with great determination across the street.

They will not stop, but they will go around you.

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While in Phnom Penh you visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former S21 detention center, which was one of the horrific remnants of the murderous Pol Pot regime, which ruled Cambodia from 1974 to 1979 until it was deposed by the Vietnamese.

The museum provides grim details of the horrors that went on there, and it’s one of the most sickening stories you will ever hear. Not fun, but important history.

The tour also will go to one of many of the infamous Killing Fields of the Pol Pot regime, which held power from 1975 to 1979 and killed from 1.4 to 2.2 million people.

It is now the Cheoung Ek Genocidal Center, a monument to the victims and a museum showing vivid evidence of what happened there.

On a lighter note, you will see the Royal Palace, the home of the Cambodian king. Most of the palace grounds are open to the public.

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After crossing the border to Vietnam your first stop will be in Tan Chau, a fishing village where the inhabitants live in houses that are open in front and they subsist on fishing.

As you approach the shore in a small landing craft you are welcomed by a group of exuberant, fun-loving and friendly children, all impeccably dressed in colorful, sporty clothes.

They were irresistibly charming and provided the warmest welcome to Vietnam imaginable. The adult villagers too were astonishingly welcoming.

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In Sa Dec visit the former home of Marguerite Duras, author of “The Lover.” It is now a museum.

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In Cai Be visit a local market, a lively and colorful scene humming with fascinating people and activity.

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In Cai Be you will visit a rice paper making mill where they made coconut candy and other delicacies and sold a variety of fascinating foods, including snake wine, which can be good for what ails you.

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Vietnam is easier to get to than ever before. With non-stop flights from LA, and great connections through Seoul and Singapore, there's no reason why this amazing country shouldn't be at the top your must visit list. With calm seas, sunny days and temperatures around 86ºF (30ºC) March is the ideal time.

 Jan & Ken Peterson / Travel Executives - 480.474.8000

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