The Mekong River travels from its delta near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) through river villages up river to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. Its Royal Palace is noted for two magnificent pagodas - the Silver Pagoda and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Phnom Penh is 4 hours from the nearest seaport of Sihanoukville, so is best visited by river. Mekong cruises continue upriver to the Tonle Sap lake and on to the fabled Angkor Wat temple complex. See our guide to Mekong River Cruises and Cambodia for more information.
Cruise and tour itineraries combine the Mekong with visits to the main sights of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is a shock to the senses - few cars but hordes of motor bikes carrying goods and people. Beautiful pagodas contrast with French colonial buildings, communist landmarks with thriving markets. Around the Town Square are famous buildings such as the Rex Hotel and the Post Office, and nearby the colourful Ben Thanh Market selling everything from vegetables to fish, electronics to souvenirs.
In Saigon don’t miss a Vietnamese water puppet theatre show, and maybe take an amazing pedal cab ride through the busy streets. Outside the city a major attraction is the Cu Chi tunnels, a huge underground city, base for Viet Cong guerrillas. Not for the claustrophobic or rotund! Smaller cruise ships can sail up the Saigon river to the city outskirts, larger ships dock at Phu My about 90 minutes away.
From Saigon tours may visit Hoi An, an ancient market and trading town on the Thu Bon river. It has fascinating old houses and streets, colourful temples, and a famous Japanese covered bridge built in 1593. Its lively riverside market is a mixture of sights and smells. Hue, the ancient imperial capital has the Imperial Citadel, a World Heritage Site modelled on Beijing’s Forbidden City. Sea cruises may call at Nha Trang, an international tourist resort in a beautiful bay setting, or the port of Da Nang for visits to Hoi An or Hue.
Further north the unified Vietnamese capital is Hanoi, with its old quarter of narrow streets a mix of French colonial architecture and ancient temples, and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. For many, the most amazing sight in Vietnam is Halong Bay, home to thousands of limestone islands of all shapes and sizes. Join a local junk for a close-up view, and maybe an overnight trip around the islands and the floating fishermens’ villages - their permanent homes. Smaller ships may cruise into the bay for an unforgettable memory as the ship threads between the islands.