Where Does a Mekong River Cruise Start and End?
| Mekong River
Southeast Asia has long been a hotspot for travelers of all ages from across the globe. They flock to this part of the world in pursuit of golden beaches, glimmering temples and mouth-watering food and they find it all in abundance. So, how do you visit one of the most popular places on earth and still make your trip extraordinary? The answer is, you do it by boat. River cruises along the Mekong River offer travelers the perfect opportunity to experience the country from a different vantage point. Instead of schlepping around on buses and trains, the water is your road and the vessel, your home.
But, before you go any further, here is some useful information about where Mekong River Cruises start and end. Below we will only cover Lower Mekong Tours (meaning the portion of the Mekong that covers Cambodia and Vietnam). We also have less common, Upper Mekong tours that typically begin in Laos and end in China.
Where Does a Mekong Cruise Start?
Let’s presume you want to travel downstream. This means you will start somewhere in Cambodia. Most Mekong River cruises start in Phnom Penh, which is the national capital although it may not look it. Unlike neighboring Bangkok and Hanoi, Phnom Penh still has a rural feel to it. The roads are dusty and the atmosphere is relaxed. You won’t see scowling businessmen in suits power walking between meetings. Instead, you will see normal people leading gentle lives.
If your cruise does not begin in Phnom Penh, it will start in Siem Reap instead. Siem Reap is a small town with an intimate vibe that has been thrust into the global limelight thanks to its iconic temple complex: Angkor Wat. This collection of temples and ruins is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and it brings in millions of visitors every year. We highly recommend combing this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site with your Mekong River cruise.
Where Does a Mekong Cruise End?
No matter where you started, your Mekong River cruise will end in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Although not technically the capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is the country’s largest and busiest city. The architecture here bears the remnants of the former French colonial rule and at times you might think you’ve accidentally wandered into Paris. The food is also influenced by French cuisine and it’s not uncommon to see fresh baguettes and croissants in the windows of bakeries.
In Ho Chi Minh City, you will have the opportunity to learn all about the country’s turbulent past, including its time under French rule and the devastating civil war that saw US involvement. You will also see modern Vietnamese culture at its finest as students and young professionals chatter over steaming bowls of pho and market sellers flog vibrant wares in chaotic bazaars.
If you plan on traveling upstream, instead of downstream, your itinerary will be the exact inverse of what has been discussed. In other words, you will start in Ho Chi Minh City and finish in either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Base your decision as to whether you travel upstream or downstream on where your initial and onward travel will take you. Read our blog about How to Choose a Mekong River cruise for more information.