Daily Cruise Blog Cambodia and Vietnam with APT
Cambodia and Vietnam February 2013 - APT/Travelmarvel
This cruise diary has been written by Lucy, one of our cruise consultants at Wexas, our parent company. Lucy travelled with APT River Cruises.
Day 1/2 - Depart the UK
After arriving at the Thai international check in counter and told that we had been upgraded to business class I knew it was going to be a fabulous trip. We enjoyed the lounge after a busy Friday at work, and then boarded our plane to Bangkok. Thai has excellent service on board with comfortable seats. Finally once we got to Siem Reap to join our APT/Travelmarvel Mekong cruise we were met and taken to our hotel for first night at the 3* Sokha Angkor Hotel. My first impressions were definitely not a disappointment as the hotel could only be described as lovely. It was time for bed now as we had an early start in the morning.
Day 3 - Siem Reap
This morning we were up bright and early to watch the breath taking sunrise over Angkor Wat. This is one of many temples located in Angkor Archaeological Park, which we only caught a glimpse of during our time there. Afterwards, we returned to the hotel for breakfast and then had some time to enjoy the hotel facilities i.e. the palatial pool and sunshine.
In the afternoon after the midday heat had died down a little we then ventured out to visit a grass roots orphanage that Travelmarvel support. This was a great place to see how a little can go a long way, and people do appreciate anything that you can do to help. It was then on to visit the Lara Croft temple aka Thar Prom where nature is reclaiming the land back from the temple. In my opinion it was simply breathtaking and soon became a highlight of the trip. After our last temple Bahon we then headed back to the hotel to enjoy our last night in Siem Reap with a spot of night market shopping and a €3 foot massage, which was certainly a fun and interesting experience!
Day 4 - Ship Embarkation
After breakfast we set off on our 5-hour journey south to meet our ship the La Marguerite. Although the journey was long it certainly wasn’t dull, we went past some stunning scenery and got a sneak peek into some of the countryside we would visit along our journey through Vietnam and Cambodia.
We visited a small township en route and were greeted with local delicacies such as KFC (Kamar Fried Cricket) and deep-fried Tarantula, needless to say - as tempting as it was, I didn’t try it. We finally boarded our home for the next 7 nights and, after quickly unpacking we enjoyed our first of many delicious meals on board. After our first meal, it was time to explore the ship with the spacious sundeck and plunge pool to the peaceful haven of the library. In the evening our tour leader, Tom went through what we would be doing over the following 7 days, tantalising our taste buds for a magical journey.
Day 5 - Kamong Chnang, Kampong Tralack, Oudong
This morning we set off for our first full day touring the Tonle Sap River. We first visited a traditional village market with Adam (our guide) demonstrating traditional delights and altogether a different way of life than the city we had just left the day before. The floating village was something to behold as I cannot imagine living solely on the water with many houses that have no electricity and certainly no running water. However it did make me see that you do not perhaps need everything that we have in the western world in order to have a happy life.
It was then back to the boat for lunch and a rest and then back out in the afternoon to visit Oudong where the local Buddhists in a traditional ceremony blessed us. With a fun Ox cart ride around the area of Kampong Tralach. What was most enjoyable about this trip was the fact that local children came out to meet us and then proceeded to follow us all the way to the next point shouting, singing and even some drawing pictures for the people on the carts. Dinner was served on the boat this evening. The food on the boat was very good with plenty of different food options to please many. There was always a dish that had a hint of Asian influence so you never forgot where you were travelling.
Day 6: Chong Koh, Phom Penh
During the evenings the boat was moored, this ensured that you got the best possible nights sleep and were rested and fresh for the next day of sightseeing. In the morning we sailed through breakfast to visit a village, which was known for silk weaving as well as seeing a local school in progress. The children that morning were being taught about the anatomy, and sang us a traditional Cambodian song. In return we gave them a rendition of Waltzing Matilda, although I don’t think they were that impressed by our singing!
We boarded the boat at approximately 11 am and commenced our journey to Phnom Penh where we would be moored for two nights. In the afternoon after lunch we had time to explore the city on our own and get a feel for what the city is actually like. In the evening we had the opportunity to dine off the ship and so decided to venture ashore. Tonight’s dining choice would be the Foreign Correspondence Club overlooking the river, it had been recommended by staff onboard. The roof top restaurant was a hive of activity and served excellent food.
Day 7 - Phnom Penh
Today proved to be an interesting but emotional day for many, as we journeyed on to visit one of the killing fields and the genocide museum of Phnom Penh. It is definitely worth visiting and I found it fascinating and haunting at the same time as this was in the living history of many of the passengers. The trip ended on a lighter note with a trip to the central market so people flexed their bartering skills, including myself, where I picked up a couple of colourful scarves.
After a busy morning we headed back to the boat for a little rest bite from the heat and to re-energise ourselves for the afternoon trip to visit the royal palace. The royal palace could not be mistaken for anything else, it was majestic in appearance and different to many other palaces I have visited as they seemed to have different buildings for difference purposes rather than just a single room. For our last evening in the city we dined on board and then found a lovely rooftop cocktail bar to enjoy the warm breeze as back in the UK it was proving to be a chilly February!
Day 8 - Border Crossing Tan Chau
After a busy schedule so far we were ready for a little bit of rest, and today we would get it. A whole day of sailing was ahead of us with a break for the border crossing over to Vietnam. This proved to be seamless, and we didn’t have to leave the vessel at all. The process for all passengers took around three hours, which was not too bad.
The sun was shining and we got the opportunity to rest on the excellent sun deck with a gin and tonic or two. Something else I should mention is the fact that as part of the cruise on board the ship, soft drinks and local spirits are complimentary throughout the day as well as wine complimentary during meal-times. This certainly added value to the journey as you never had to worry about the bar bill at the end of the cruise.
Day 9 - Tan Chau, Sa Dec
Today was our first full day of touring in Vietnam, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We were also very lucky as it was harvest time so we had the opportunity to witness them harvesting corn (although it looked like sweet potatoes to us all until we got a little closer as it was that orange). The children again were delighted to see us and appreciated the gifts of books and pencils as they had very little. They were also fascinated with my pale skin and red hair and kept pinching and touching me, which was highly amusing. We then went on to visit the local town and took a journey on a traditional rickshaw through the streets, and it was definitely a fun way to see Tan Chau.
Day 10 - Sa Dec, Xeo Quyt, Cai Be
After a morning visit in Sa Dec, we then went on to visit Xeo Quyt a former military base of Vietnamese resistance. I had previously been to the Cu Chi tunnels, which is very well known. This was interesting as it was seen from a smaller operation and less developed for Western tourists so you were able to see exactly how it was for the people who lived there during the regime. We then drove to meet out boat in Cai Be for our final evening on board. This evening a delicious dinner was served surpassing all the excellent food we have been served on board.
Day 11- Disembark Ship, Saigon
Today we left the cruise with heavy hearts, as it had been a trip of a lifetime, excellent service, good quality tours and accommodation. The journey from My Tho to the different world of Saigon took just under two hours. The capital of Vietnam is a million worlds away from the journey we had just taken down the Tonle Sap and Mekong River. With what can only be described as swarms of motorcycles you are bound to get caught in it all.
This afternoon we were left to explore the city and have a little bit of relaxation time by the pool of our hotel the Grand Hotel Saigon. It was a great location right in the heart of the city and within easy walking distance of all the main sights. Again we were given a comprehensive list of restaurants from our Travelmarvel guide and chose a local Vietnamese restaurant to dine in which was good value and very tasty! It was an early night to ensure we were ready for our last full day in Vietnam.
Day 12- Cu Chi Tunnels, Saigon
After breakfast we embarked upon our 2.5-hour journey to the famous site that is the Cu Chi tunnels which is a tunnel network built by the Vietnamese resistance fighters during the Vietnamese War. I had been fortunate enough to visit before, however on a second time around I got to visit other parts of the network that I had not previously visited, thus increasing my fascination with what had actually happened during the war. We then went to a local restaurant to have some excellent traditional food, which was a particular highlight of the journey. It was fresh, tasty, quite unexpected and a welcome addition to the already well-organised trip. Our final afternoon was spent buying some last minute gifts in the central market before our farewell dinner at the hotel.
Day 13: Depart Saigon
Today we said our goodbyes and left for the airport for our onward journey home. It has been a spectacular trip and one that I will not be forgetting in a hurry. The tour was well organised and ran very smoothly, staff couldn’t do anything more for you and the guides were very knowledgeable. The La Marguerite is an excellent vessel and firmly places itself as a leader in good value Mekong cruises. The journey from Saigon through Bangkok to London was very easy and I flew back feeling a little anticlimactic ready to start planning a new adventure.
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