Vietnam was officially founded in 2879 BC, making it 4,655 years older than the USA. To put this into historic perspective, Vietnam was an established country over 250 years before Stonehenge was fully built around 2600 BC.
It’s difficult as an American to fathom the depth and history that fills every crevice of such an ancient and spiritually-charged country, which can make it hard to decide which sites to visit in order to get the most out of your trip to Southeast Asia. One of the river cruise options we offer is along the Mekong river, which flows through Vietnam and Cambodia. While each river cruise along the Mekong river will have it’s own itinerary of stops, here are 5 examples of powerful and stunning places to visit while traveling through Vietnam and Cambodia:
- Cu Chi Tunnels – Used by the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, a vast network of tunnels run underground throughout much of the country and were used to transport supplies, food, and weapons from one underground station to another. These tunnels were one of the greatest points of resistance to American military and were heavily booby trapped with hand-made explosives and bamboo spike pits. Travelers can now visit these tunnels, as well as sample a modest meal that the Viet Cong fighters would have eaten, and fire weapons that would have been used during the Vietnam War era.
- Floating villages of Kampong Chhnang – Literally translating to ”Port of Pottery”, Kampong Chhnang is known for it’s beautiful hand-made pots and jugs, all created within a village that is built on stilts – the houses, gas stations, and churches are all floating – and they have all been beautifully painted.
- Angkor Wat Temple – Located in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is an UNESCO World Heritage site and the most recognizable landmark in Cambodia, as well as the largest spiritual monument in the world. Built in the early 12th century, it has been described as being ”grander than anything left by Greece or Rome,” and is filled with linear stone carvings depicting ancient scenes such as the 32 hells and 37 heavens of Hindu mythology, and the Churning of the Sea of Milk.
- River Markets of Cai Be – Local wholesalers paddle to Cai Be with fresh fruit, vegetables, and hand-made artifacts such as clay pottery and garments to sell and barter for goods. These vibrant floating shops can be explored from a small paddle boat, and the nearby shoreline is beautifully accented with canals, fruit orchards, and a massive Catholic cathedral that offers lessons in making rice paper, rice wine, and traditional Vietnamese candy.
- The Fields of Choeung Ek – Cambodia experienced a very dark period in the late 1970’s known as the Khmer Rouge regime, occasionally known as the Cambodian Holocaust, where approximately 2 million people lost their lives due to harsh government policies and genocide. The best known monument for this time period is in Choeung Ek, where a memorial park has been built around the shallow mass graves. Sadly, it is not uncommon to discover the bones or teeth of victims while touring through the National park due to natural erosion by heavy rain fall.
Depending on your personal preferences, other stops can be included in your personalized itinerary such as visits to the Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey temples that are abundant with playful monkeys frolicking among massive Buddha statues, or receive a traditional water blessing from local monks. While floating along the river between land destinations, keep your eyes peeled for Cambodia’s rare Giant Softshell Turtle. It can still be seen along a small stretch of the Mekong, the second-most bio-diverse river in the world, second only to the Amazon river.
For more information on river cruises along the Mekong, or other river cruises around the world, contact your River Cruise Experts at 1-800-737-8100, or get in touch with us on Facebook.