Cai Be has a splendid church built in the French Gothic manner.
There is a busy floating market here most mornings. The city itself,
like all Vietnamese cities is clean and well organized and easy to
Boats cruising to
Cai Be (Upper Mekong)
river saigon cruise
la marguerite cruise
le cochichine cruise
mien tay boat
song xanh sampan
cai be princess sampan
The main jetty is in the town center next to the Victoria Hotel. A
sampan trip to visit the Cham villages is a must to view the cat
fish farms contained in great bamboo vats suspended beneath the
floors of the Cham houseboats.
The town itself retains a 'French' style charm with many old
colonial buildings now housing offices of the Vietnam Communist
Party and its many branches.
The market at Chau Doc is excellent and well worth a wander through.
The town is easy to walk around or you can choose to enjoy a cyclo
ride. There is a rather groovy Catholic church with Jesus, the
Virgin Mary and various saints happily transmogrified with
Vietnamese physiognomies. The Victoria Hotel is a pleasant place for
a drink in its river view bar which not only has a good billiard
table but also wifi!
Cu Lao Gien
Cu Lao Gien became an important Catholic centre and had a mission,
an orphanage, a school, a hospice and a leprosy centre that could
treat 1,000 people. During the Japanese invasion in 1940's the
monastery was abandoned and operations were not resumed again until
1977. Nowadays Cu Lao Gian serves as a retreat for retired nuns
taken care of by novices.
Kampong Cham is an important provincial capital with French colonial
buildings, busting markets and an attractive setting overlooking the
It is only a short minivan trip to the 12th century Angkor period
temple of Wat Nokor is well worth the discomforts of the journey. It
is rare to find a classic Khmer temple so far to the East and it is
remarkably well conserved.
In the countryside the eco village of Cheungkok supported by the
French-Cambodian NGO AMICA is worth a visit as is the Kampong Cham
orphanage, supported by the Pandaw Charity.
There is an old French rubber factory across the river from Kampong
Cham that some of our more nostalgic French passengers are keen to
see. For wifi pop into Joe's Riverside Café - Joe is a friendly
American who somehow never went home.
Situated close to the mouth of the Tonle River, Kampong Channang is
the main center for fishing and trading in the vast wetlands that
surround the great Tonle Sap lake.
The town was an important French provincial capital and the main
administrative center with fine French villas and public buildings a
couple of kilometers inland. Crocodile farming is a local business
activity along with the by now ubiquitous fish farms, mainly in the
hands of Vietnamese settlers. The river port is one of the busiest
on the Mekong with several thousand vessels rafted up to make a
complex river city. Enjoy a stroll up the river bank and see the
amazing stilted houses - some 10 meters off the ground.
Also of great interest is a boat trip into the wetlands where
depending on the season awesome fish traps can be visited - some of
these over 100 meters long. These traps catch the escaping fish as
the lake waters recede each year after the monsoon.
Kratie is a thriving travel hub and the natural place to break the
journey when travelling overland between Phnom Penh and Champasak in
southern Laos.Kratie is a thriving travel hub and the natural place
to break the journey when travelling overland between Phnom Penh and
Champasak in southern Laos. It is the place in the country to see
the rare Irrawaddy dolphins, which live in the Mekong River in
ever-diminishing numbers. A lively riverside town, Kratie
(pronounced kra-cheh) has an expansive riverfront and some of the
best Mekong sunsets in Cambodia. There is a rich legacy of
French-era architecture, as it was spared the war-time bombing that
destroyed so many other provincial centres. It was one of the first
towns to be ‘liberated’ by the Khmer Rouge (actually it was the
North Vietnamese, but the Khmer Rouge later took the credit) in the
summer of 1970.
My Tho is the hub of the Delta. This is a busy commercial port and
currently our ships are wedged between the Foster's Brewery and a
timber yard - certainly giving an industrial flavour to this
economically active area. In central My Tho there is a fine temple
and bustling market area adjacent to the tourist port.
Peam Chi Kang
This village boasts a large wat or temple-monastery. In its grounds
you will find a long shed containing the village racing
boats. Over 20 meters long these come out
at times of festivity and provide quite a spectacle.
Peam Chi Kang offers passengers the opportunity to see Khmer village
life at first hand. Again you can wander in any direction and there
is much of interest including some fine old wood carved houses and a
busy High School just off the main road.
Sailing into Phnom Penh past the Royal Palace and bustling corniche
is highlight to any Mekong voyage. We moor right in the city
centre and you can walk virtually anywhere.
For our individual tourists we have teamed up with a charity 'The
Cyclo Centre' who give training, language instruction and welfare
assistance to often homeless cyclo drivers. These guys are all great
fun and very enthusiastic. You will have your own cyclo, a map (with
ship contact numbers) and you go off and do your own thing! There is
much to choose from in this attractive former French city: the Royal
Palace, the National Museum with its excellent Khmer collections,
the Russian and Central markets, various temples and monasteries, a
drink at the Foreign Correspondents club, or if feeling or better
still the Raffles Le Royale Elephant Bar.
Sa Dec is said to be yet another 'little Venice of Asia' and it does
live up to this name with countless canals bustling with water borne
craft of every size and description. The market is great - a typical
hive of Vietnamese bustle and enterprise. Near the market you will
find the house of Mr Huynh Thuy Le, remembered as the lover of the
French author Marguerite Duras in her classic book L'Amant
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh is the capital of southern Vietnam and after
Hanoi the country's second city. Remarkably despite the boom of the
past ten years much of old Saigon has survived and there is still a
real L'Indochine feel to the place.
It is easy to walk around the central district exploring the broad
leafy boulevards and splendid French colonial architecture - the
Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office and Opera. The Town Hall,
scene of the 'fall of Saigon' on April 30th 1975 is worth a peek as
is the war museum (interestingly the French seem to come off far
worse than the Americans!).
A half day excursion to the Chu Chi tunnel complex is also well
worth it - here the Viet Cong held out against successive carpet
bombing in an underground city. Saigon is a great place to eat with
some excellent French or Vietnamese restaurants.
Siem Reap is the town around which the Angkor monuments are
situated. Modern Siem Reap is about 45minutes from the Tonle Sap and
the port facilities there are very poor - dusty and disorganized -
so be prepared!
The modern town is not very attractive and with the increased
popularity of Angkor as a destination over the past few years
literally hundreds of new hotels have opened. It is a big mess with
congested traffic and even pollution. Such are the benefits of mass
However, the temple complexes are so vast and varied that it is
quite easy to lose the package tour groups and do your own thing.
Explored with discernment, and good planning, many a magical moment
is still to be had. (e.g. Avoid the sunrise from Angkor Wat as this
is what most tourists will be doing). Look to exploring some of the
complexes like Rolous that are further away and less busy. Although
very busy, Angkor remains one of the most important architectural
sites on the planet and is an absolute must!
The Tonle River connects the Mekong main channel at Phnom Penh with
the great Tonle Sap or lake. This section is the prettiest part of
your river journey as the river narrows between Phnom Penh and
Kampong Channang and one passes through villages, woodland and
The Tonle River is of interest as it changes direction twice a year:
with the coming of the monsoon in July the main Mekong channel backs
up and floods the central Cambodian plain. After the monsoon when
the water level drops on the main Mekong channel the river reverses
and empties the lake waters.
As far upstream as we can navigate due to constraints of time and
water levels, Wat Hancheay is a fascinating complex of temples from
all periods of Khmer art history.
A short climb up the hill from the river bank leads us to a large
working monastic complex with a number of contemporary Buddhist
structures. To the south are Cham period brick stupas of some note.
Also of interest here is an Angkor period temple situated at the
foot of the hill 500 meters from our mooring position up the main
highway. This temple has been well restored. The monks have started
a museum of old Khmer agricultural and domestic implements that can
be viewed in a caged hut close to where the main flight of steps
opens onto the hill top.