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+44 1756 706500
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Vietnam and Cambodia Cruise and Tour - A Personal Perspective

Mon 26 Sep 2016

Cruise Specialist Sam recently enjoyed a Travelmarvel by APT tour through Vietnam and Cambodia. Read her exclusive review:

Our trip took us from Siem Reap in Cambodia through to Vietnam, ending in Ho Chi Minh City and the whole trip was organised to perfection. This is a trip I have been looking forward to experiencing for a long time now and it certainly didn't disappoint.

La Marguerite Angkor Wat Floating Houses Along the Mekong Buddhist Monks A Tip: Take Colouring Pencils for the School Children Floating Houses Along the Mekong Panoramic views from La Marguerite Phnom Penh

On arrival at Siem Reap, a private transfer took us to the Shinta Mani Resort for our 3-night stay. The Shinta Mani is a newly renovated boutique hotel centrally located in the French Quarter and only a 15 minute drive from the Angkor Wat. The hotel was really close to the day and night markets, bars and cafes and a traditional tuk tuk can be hailed to whizz you there for the ridiculously small fare of 2 USD. In Cambodia you MUST barter and haggle for everything including setting the price for the tuktuk before clambering in!

We had a wonderful first few days exploring Siem Reap on our own and also participating in the organised excursions to the magnificent Bayon and Angkor Wat temples which are all included in the cost of the holiday. We said goodbye to the Shinta Mani and heading off to start our adventure on the Tonle Sap and fascinating Mekong Rivers, breaking the journey for a chance to sample the local delicacies including tarantula and cockroach!

When we arrived at Prek K'Dam, the lovely La Marguerite was waiting for us and after a welcome chilled drink we were shown to our cabins. La Marguerite is a small vessel with only 46 cabins so I was expecting to find quite a small room but it was bigger than I imagined, with a small outside balcony. It is very traditionally decorated so lots of teak and tiles and artwork in shades of orange and green giving a very oriental feel. The sundeck is a generous space with lots of shaded sun loungers and the pool is a great size - a welcome retreat from the sun and humidity and the perfect place to chill with a complimentary cold beer or G&T on the rocks!

The dining room on La Marguerite is appropriately named the Mekong Restaurant and is a spacious, welcoming room. Lunch was buffet style including freshly prepared spicy noodles, or stir fries. Evening meals are waiter served with a choice of options but the evening menu is available to view earlier in the day and the chefs are happy to offer an alternative. Wine is also served with lunch and dinner and the attentive waiters are always behind you ready to top up your glass! The evening entertainment onboard is relatively low key. The staff did present a short X Factor style show one night which was hilarious and the audience participation was welcomed by all.

However, the main reason Vietnam and Cambodia are such popular destinations is because of the culture and history, which you really get to see in the included shore excursions. The Bayon and Angkor Wat temples are magnificent and I loved capturing shots of the tree roots covering the archways at Ta Prohm where the film Tomb Raider was shot. My favourite excursion was at Phnom Udong where we visited the Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Meditation Centre, the largest Buddhist Centre in Cambodia. We had the opportunity to participate in a special Buddha blessing and afterwards I requested a personal blessing which moved me to tears and was something I shall never forget. On our small tender boat we cruised quietly past the many floating houses on stilts and waved at the children who are always ready to give you a thumbs up!

I can't write about the excursions without mentioning the devastation that occurred at the Killing Fields and S21 Detention Centre (Toul Sleng Genocide Museum). Visiting these places was a very sombre and moving experience, emphasised by the fact that our wonderful tour guide Ry had actually lived through these dark days as a young boy.

When our cruise came to an end we transferred to our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City for a 2-night stay before heading home. The Grand Saigon Hotel is very centrally located and within walking distance of the hustle and bustle of this buzzing city. From the sky lounge we could see clearly the Mekong River and if you looked up you could see to the top of the highest building in HCMC, the Bitexco Financial Tower standing at 262 meters.

My advice us for this trip is to take USD in small denominations as you can use them in both Vietnam and Cambodia. Take a hat or umbrella to shade you from the intense sun, a fan to cool you down and plenty of lightweight cotton clothes. Barter and haggle for EVERYTHING - if they ask for $10, offer them $2 and you will end up paying $4! Buy some pens and pencils or notebooks or small toys from the local markets - you will be helping the sellers' familes and the little children in the remote villages will be your friend forever.

Overall I really enjoyed my time in Asia and it created some lasting memories - I hope I will get the chance to return again one day.

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