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12-Day Mekong River Cruise from South Vietnam to Cambodia: From Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap

From Saigon (Vietnam) to Siem Reap (Cambodia) via a Mekong River cruise, visit the iconic cities with an added touch of comfort. With historical sites, art shows, nightlife tours and visits to villages, there’s nothing short of arts, culture and activities for a truly local experience.


Various activities on sites

  • City tour of Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap to learn about its unique history & culture
  • Cruise tour along the mighty Mekong River from Vietnam to Cambodia and learn about the differences of the two countries
  • Joining a remork tour to explore the Angkor Wat Temple
  • Interacting with the local communities living at the rural village of Ta Brak near Siem Reap

Unforgettable moments

  • Crawling the small tunnels of Cu Chi and learn more about the Vietnam/Amerian War
  • Admiring the life of local people living along the riverbanks of Mekong
  • Visit Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and learn about the turbulent history of Cambodia
  • Admiring the beauty of Angkor Wat Temple and understand more about the Khmer Kingdom

Nature exploration

  • The nature of Ho Chi Minh and surrounding area whilst on the way to Cu Chi Tunnel
  • The vivid nature of Mekong riverbanks whilst joining the cruise to Cambodia
  • The nature of the rural are in Siem Reap whilst visiting the village of Ta Brak

Culture experience

  • The bustling culture of Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh with the effect of the western culture waves
  • The peasant culture of people living along the riverbanks of mighty Mekong
  • The friendly culture of people living and Siem Reap and nearby area


Detailed schedule

Day 1 - Welcome to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

Upon arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Sonasia’s guide & driver will pick you up and transfer directly to the hotel in the center of Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is Vietnam at its most dizzying: a high-octane city of commerce and culture that has driven the country forward with its pulsating energy. A chaotic whirl, the city breathes life and vitality into all who settle here, and visitors cannot help but be hauled along for the ride.

Free to stroll around the town for your own exploration.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.


Check out the Ho Chi Minh City travel guide

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Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh City - Exploration - Vespa Street & Eat

This tour begins at 08:30. Start with a visit to the iconic Saigon Central Post Office built between 1886 and 1891. Based on the design of French architect Foulhoux, it is the creation of a unique vaulted ceiling with wrought iron beams and columns reminiscent of industrial architecture, which is now considered a symbol of Saigon and one of its most famous landmarks.

Please note: Look out for Mr. Duong, and stop for a chat with him if he’s available. He enjoys local notoriety for his professional love-letter writing skills.

Walk along Dong Khoi street, formerly La Rue Catinat and pay a visit to Gialong Palace – Ho Chi Minh City Museum for its beautiful architecture and listen to its history through times. Continue to Le Loi Street to meet a local artisan who specialises in traditional engravings.

Next, stroll through the old central market before arriving at the city’s oldest colonial-era apartment.  Built in 1886, see what the young creative Vietnamese are up to with new funky boutiques and coffee shops. Sit down at one of the stylish coffee shops and interact with a local resident who moved here in 1975.

Leave the compound and have a look at the building on the other side, which used to be Banque de l’Indochine (Indochina Bank) during the 1920s. It’s a stunning example of the Indochinois east/west fusion style of architecture that this area is known for. After this last stop, head back to the hotel.

Please note: This is a city walking tour but a vehicle will be available for a transfer if need be.

This evening begins at 18:00. Delve into Vietnam’s nightlife and culinary culture with a fun Ho Chi Minh City Vespa tour. Climb aboard the back of this classic motorbike and zip off through the city’s buzzing streets. See the city come to life as the sun sets and offices close down for the day.

The first stop of the evening is at a rooftop bar. Take in the views of the streets below while enjoying some snacks and refreshments.

Kick-off the mobile aspect of the evening and visit a series of local restaurants and street stalls. The food-loving host will explain each of the items on offer and purchase a selection of sweet and savoury dishes to sample. During the tour, sample a range of dishes from simple satays to more exotic, yet highly popular treats. Raise a glass and toast the night out alongside local diners.

Time to relax at a hidden and quiet café and enjoy a musical performance that will transport one back in time. Enjoy the performance with a drink and ice cream before returning to the hotel.

Overnight at Park Hyatt Hotel.

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Day 3 - Ho Chi Minh - Cu Chi Tunnel

Morning: Cu Chi Tunnel Tour

This tour begins at 08:30. Depart early this morning to avoid the crowds at Cu Chi. Drive away from Ho Chi Minh City, watching the city skyline fade into the distance as the road winds through rice paddies, villages and other scenes typical to southern Vietnam.

Spend a couple of hours walking around Cu Chi’s rugged grounds with a local guide. Hear how the residents constructed an intricate, underground network of tunnels during the French and American Wars. Crawl underground and have a look at the tiny chambers and imagine what life was like for those who lived there.

Hear incredible tales of perseverance – from the unusual foods the residents ate to survive, to the story of a baby being born in the tunnels. Once above ground, see other ingenious items used by the residents to defend themselves such as bamboo traps and camouflaged pits.

Throughout the tour, the guide will explain the impact of war on the local community and the country as a whole. Following this insightful visit, journey back to Ho Chi Minh City.

Overnight at Park Hyatt Hotel

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Day 4 - Embark Aqua Mekong Cruise

After breakfast, be picked up at the hotel and transferred to My Tho Dock for an Aqua Mekong Cruise. Settle into the floating retreat, with endless and captivating panoramic views of the mighty Mekong.

Enjoy these private Mekong River moments on a California king bed, terrace or daybed.

Overnight on board.

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Day 5 - Binh Thanh / Sadec - My An Hung

Begin the day at Binh Thanh mat weaving village or opt to visit Sa Dec to see the vibrant market and the famous house of Marguerite Duras' legendary lover, Mr. Huynh Thuy Le.  In the afternoon, visit a typical Mekong Delta village called My An Hung and stroll through verdant plantations.

Then, visit a local's home to taste local fruits while listening to traditional folk songs performed by villagers followed by a unique unicorn dance. A 17-kilometre biking option is also available on request.

Overnight on board.

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Day 6 - Chau Doc - Vinh Xuong - Ka'Om Samnor Border

Travel by skiff along Bassac Canal to Chau Doc floating market then head off by van to Long Son Pagoda atop Sam Mountain. Ask the monks about their age-old Buddhist practices. Return via the bustling morning market.

An optional 18 kilometers bike ride on Long Khanh Island or a rickshaw ride to visit Tan Chau Market with a chef is available on request.

After lunch, relax by the pool, try a traditional Khmer massage or learn to cook Mekong inspired dishes while crossing the border.

Overnight on board.

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Day 7 - Koh Oknha Tey - Preah Prosop

On this river of time, admire dexterous Khmer artisans dyeing and weaving kroma, the ubiquitous item no Khmer lives without. Explore the riverbank on two wheels, past Buddhist temples and thatch houses perched on spindly wooden stilts while white oxen wade just offshore.

After lunch, board marine-grade aluminum skiffs and head towards the tamarind trees of Preah Prosop, a remote village that has changed little over several generations.

Overnight on board.

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Day 8 - Disembark in Phnom Penh

Disembark from the Aqua Mekong and be welcomed by a local English speaking guide who will accompany you to the hotel for check in.

Phnom Penh was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, and despite its turbulent history and recent development, it still retains colonial charm. Cambodia’s capital is a bustling city, majestically located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap. Wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings reflect the glory days and add to the allure of the city, where Asian and Western traditions meet in a fascinating way.

Today, explore the capital of Cambodia by tuk-tuk, paying visits to the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum of Cambodia, home to the world’s largest collection of Khmer art.

Later, visit the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide, a grim but important reminder of Cambodia’s tragic past, or choose to shop at the Russian Market, one of the best shopping venues in the city. 

Overnight at Raffles Le Royal.


All visitors to Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh are required to wear modest clothing: no short pants or short skirts (knees must be covered) and no sleeveless shirts (shoulders must be covered). See-through clothing will also not be allowed. Visitors who are inappropriately dressed will not be allowed to visit the museum.

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Day 9 - Phnom Penh // Siem Reap

Breakfast at hotel.

Be transferred to the airport for a flight to Siem Reap.

Arrive at Siem Reap airport and be welcomed by a personal English-speaking guide and be transferred to the hotel for check-in.

This afternoon, start the half-day tour to one of the major highlights of Southeast Asia – the magnificent Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolising the Mount Meru, home of the gods.

The divine residence of Vishnu, the King himself was to reside here after his death. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign.

Moreover, Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labour. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolises the soul of the Khmer people.

Overnight in Shinta Mani Angkor- Bensley Collection.

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Day 10 - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat Exploration by Remork

This morning, take an early start to enjoy a sunrise breakfast at Angkor and then explore the temples by local remork (a Cambodian tuk tuk). Begin by escaping the crowds at the picturesque Srah Srang Baray, a “bath” built by the kings of Angkor as a public pool. A multi-tiered landing platform on the west edge of the baray is adorned with naga balustrades and guardian lions, and the sparse remains of an island temple can be seen emerging from the middle of the lake at low water, during the dry season. Here, enjoy a beautiful champagne breakfast overlooking the lake on a luxurious cushion and table set up, providing an incredible and serene start to any Angkorian exploration.

As many visitors are still strolling around Angkor Wat after sunrise,  this is the best time to experience Ta Prohm, the temple made famous by the Angelina Jolie film Tomb Raider, which is otherwise best known for the trees and vines growing atop the temple walls. The temple is a perfect example of how nature has crept in and reclaimed its land after the fall of the Angkorian empire.

Continue to the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8m high wall, drawing a perfect square. From here, continue to Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its murals depicting daily life at Angkor and the 52 towers with enigmatic faces of the Buddha looking out over the vast provinces of the Great Khmer Empire.

Spend this afternoon at leisure for personal shopping at the markets, or simply return to the hotel to relax. There are  also optional tours available below:

Option 1: Quad-Bike Adventure

Ride a quad bike designed for off-road terrain for an unforgettable experience through the beautiful countryside of Siem Reap Province. The guided tour will ride through local villages for a chance to learn about the way of life in rural Cambodia and meet and chat with the wonderful and friendly people. The highlight of the tour is watching sunset in the rice fields.

Option 2: Angkor National Museum

The modern museum showcases artefacts from the Golden Era of the Khmer Empire by use of multimedia technology to portray this interesting historical period. Experience Angkor at its best on a guided visit to the Museum.

Option: After Dark Foodie Tour by Remork

This evening, go on a luxurious Khmer dining and drinking experience. Visit four amazing and intimate eateries and bars and get to taste some of the most amazing and unique cuisine that Cambodia has to offer.

Overnight in Shinta Mani Angkor- Bensley Collection.

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Day 11 - Siem Reap - Local Interaction

Breakfast at hotel.

This morning, take an authentic rural Cambodia tour to learn about life in Ta Brak Village. Meet friendly locals and discover traditional village customs and cultures. Like most villages in Asia, Ta Brak is busiest in the morning hours. Sit down with a local family while observing the activities of the village.

Take an ox cart ride, a traditional countryside method of transporting people and goods. The 30 minute journey passes through the village on the way to the local market. Explore the colourful displays of vegetables, herbs and other locally-grown produce, and mingle with the shoppers who come every morning to buy the fresh ingredients.

Continue on foot through the village, providing ample opportunities to stop and chat with locals and to observe their activities. Depending on the time of year, they may be planting rice, weaving thatch coverings for their roofs, harvesting vegetables, or other similar tasks. For a truly immersive experience, lend a hand and join the locals in these activities!

Before leaving the village, partake in a special Buddhist tradition. Local monks will impart wishes of good luck and success in a solemn, age-old ceremony.
From there, travel by private vehicle to the countryside of Siem Reap Province. First stop to visit the Golden Silk Pheach Farm, a local NGO that helps to revive the ancient Khmer know-how in silk activities and provides job opportunities to more than 100 local staff. The farm area, mulberry trees and weaving ateliers can be seen as part of the guided tour. Golden Silk products are ecologically produced from the yellow silkworm which is unique to Cambodia. Some of the silk products are months, or even years, in the making and each one is unique. This is one for the connoisseurs of high quality craftwork.

Continue to see the ‘gem’ of the Angkor area, the pretty temple, Banteay Srei, which is best viewed in the warm afternoon light. The so-called ‘Citadel of the Women’ remains the best preserved temple in Cambodia. It displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art as this small temple is noted for its truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs. Banteay Srei is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor.

On this last evening in Cambodia, enjoy dinner at the incredible Embassy Restaurant, an exclusive fine dining experience unparalleled in Siem Reap and headed by executive chefs Pol & Sok, known as the ‘Kimsan Twins’. Their experience has taken them to different continents and under the mentoring of Michelin starred chefs they have created one of the most unique five-star quality cuisines that can be experienced in Siem Reap. With a constantly changing menu based around seasonality, savour the skilfully prepared masterpieces from multiple-course set menus, paired with a selection of fine wines.

Overnight in Shinta Mani Angkor- Bensley Collection.

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Day 12 - Siem Reap - Departure

Breakfast at hotel.

If time allows, spend the morning exploring Siem Reap’s colourful markets with the chance to shop for souvenirs or simply observe the vibrant local scenes as people go about their everyday lives.

Visit the workshop of Eric Raisina, located a few minutes’ drive out of town. After growing up in Madagascar and studying in Paris, Eric moved to Cambodia in the late 90’s where he was struck by the startling similarities with Madagascar and inspired to help revive the up market handicraft sector. He has devoted himself to developing new Cambodian silk weaving and dyeing techniques. Eric’s signature products have become a much sought after fabric in Parisian fashion houses. Tour his workshop and see the new designs being created by the skilled team.

Just around the corner is another artist studio, Theam’s House. Lim Muy Theam is a Cambodian artist and designer who draws on inspiration from both Khmer and contemporary international design. For more than 10 years Theam has trained a team of artisan apprentices who work either at the studio or in their home villages. Explore the art studio and observe various works being created such as lacquerware, painting and fine sculptures.

Transfer to the airport for the onward flight.

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In Vietnam, the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Full Moon Festival or Tết Trung Thu, is an occasion for a children’s night out and family reunions. Children enjoy art performances like singing, plays and lion dances, light up the night with colorful lanterns and enjoy mooncakes. 

A long-standing traditional festival that showcases Vietnam’s undeniable charm takes place when nature is at its breathtaking best.

For thousands of years, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been an occasion for family reunions and a children’s night out. It dates back to the Wet Rice Civilization of the Red River Delta over 4,000 years ago.

Back then, rice was harvested before the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The festival falls on the full moon night of Lunar August, the most beautiful night of the year, when the moon is perfectly round and bright, and shines a magical golden hue.

The event takes place in the middle of the eighth lunar month. In 2022, the festival falls on September 10th. For the upcoming year, please find below in the article. Now, let's see more detail and prepare for it.


On the lunar full moon, the townsfolk will celebrate Hoi An's bygone days, reenacting cultural activities and honouring ancestors with offerings to shrines and burning incense. The old quarter is pedestrianized (no bicycles or motorized vehicles until 10pm) and fluorescent lights are banned, adding to the old-world charm.)

This is a truly special night where you can wander the old town while it is lit up with lanterns and watch traditional performances, hear musical renditions, poetry recitals or watch as some of the older townsmen play a game of traditional Chinese chess.


Fresh herbs, hearty soups and powerful, funky fish flavors are just a few of the hallmarks of Laotian food, a cuisine that isn’t widely represented in the world but is showcased at a number of excellent restaurants in some big cities like NYC, Seattle, London, Sydney, or Melbourne.

Papaya salad, beef jerky, sticky rice and laap, or larb, are examples of typical Laotian dishes - there’s a commonality with Northern Thai food that frequently causes the two cuisines to be lumped together. Lao food, though, has unique characteristics that give it a flavor all its own.

Below is our recommended list of restaurants in Laos & some big cities where you can really enjoy the authentic Laos food.


Experiencing all that Lao cuisine has to offer is not an experience for the faint of heart. Laos’ famous fermented fish sauce, padek, has a distinct fragrance. Insects ranging from silkworms to ants and crickets can be found on many menus. Raw and cooked meats from all manner of animals are grilled and served on a stick or sautéed and served with rice. 

Ah, while we are learning about Laos traditional dishes, why don't we take a break and take a bite of Laos food history and culture.

In case you want to move directly to the dishes that you prefer, just navigate via the below table of content.


Sticky rice is the staple food of any Laotian meal. It is called “khao niew” and made from glutinous rice. It contains a higher sugar level than normal rice, which gives it its stickiness.

Despite the name (glutinous rice), Laotian sticky rice is gluten free and therefore great for people with celiac. Sticky rice is steamed and traditionally served in small cute bamboo baskets in Laos called “lao aep khao”.

Sticky rice is a traditional Lao and Thai base dish that is served and paired another delicious main meal. You typically do not eat sticky rice on its own unless it’s been transformed into a dessert that is doused in coconut milk or sugar (if you’ve had Lao food, what I’m referring to here is purple rice). 

Sticky rice is a transparent and opaque rice that requires soaking overnight for preparations. Once cooked, the rice “sticks” to each other, and you use your hands to eat the rice by forming delicious little balls of rice and putting it into your mouth!


Larb! Larb! Larb!

If you have already traveled to Laos, you will realize that it is one of the highlighted dishes of your trip.

Larb is basically a salad - made out of meat. (So, like, the best KIND of salad, right?). It’s a meat salad from Laos that has made its way into Thailand and other areas of Southeast Asia, as well as many countries in the world.

Like other dishes in Southeast Asian cooking, the dish combines savory flavors with fresh ones - fresh herbs like cilantro, scallions, and mint, and fresh lime juice. The addition of toasted ground rice also adds texture and nuttiness to the final dish.

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