Ho Chi Minh City
Because Ho Chi Minh City is the beginning and ending point for many Mekong River Cruises, you certainly want to spend some time exploring this vibrant Vietnamese capital. If you are interested in Vietnam's war history, you don't want to miss a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels, located in the Cu Chi district. If you only have about four hours to explore the city, take a taxi and begin with a visit to the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Next door, you can check out the Central Post Office, a prime example of French Colonial period architecture. You only have to stroll two blocks up the street to see the city's Independence Palace, which was a former seat of power for the South Vietnamese.
Best Time To Visit Many people like to visit Ho Chi Minh City from December through March when it is not as rainy. If you want to enjoy Ho Chi Minh City when it is more festive, choose to go during the Tet Festival or Vietnamese New Year, which takes place in the latter part of January or early February.
You Should Know Ho Chi Minh City has two seasons – the northeast monsoon period, which goes from November through April, and the southwest monsoon months covering May through October. The area's humidity averages around 75%, but is higher in the monsoon areas during the wet season
The Mekong Delta
On your luxury cruise down the Mekong River, you will also experience the Mekong Delta, which lies directly west of the capital, or Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy the floating markets, the expanse of rice paddies, and the stilt houses of the locals. Local artisans show off their skills, crafting paper or sweets from the region's local rice crop.
Best Time To Visit Most people like to visit the Mekong Delta between November and April when it tends to be drier and more temperate. However, accommodations may be harder to find, as this is considered the high season. Many people also like to visit during the rainy season, from June to September, as they often can find lodging – something that is not as easy to do during the drier season from November through April.
You Should Know In ancient times, the Mekong Delta was an ancient Khmer land and was primarily marshland and woods. The landscape changed when Nguyen Lords took over the area, building a series of canals to facilitate travel. While many people visit the Delta on an organized tour, travel to little-visited areas is possible if you prepare for your trip and visit the Delta on your own.
The capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is another delightful highlight of a Mekong River Cruise. People who visit the city are immediately impressed with the pairing of French architecture and Indochinese designs. You might say this part of Cambodia is the country's core and stronghold – the heartbeat that causes the country to thrive. The capital which spreads along the banks of the Mekong River and Tonle Sap is home to broad boulevards and thin alleyways – a metropolis where the ancient and new collide. Visitors to the city frequently make a stop at the National Museum of Angkor as a prelude visit before continuing to the nearby Angor Wat. Other sights to see include the Tuol Sleng Museum, a site that provides an insight into the terror experienced by residents under the Khmer Rouge regime. The killing fields of Choeung Ek are another reminder of Cambodia's sobering history.
Best Time To Visit Travel experts advise that you see Phnom Penh from November through April, or during the drier time of the year. While Phenom Penh lies in the southcentral region of Cambodia, you can enjoy splendid temperatures on Cambodia's southern coast, which averages around 68-degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.
You Should Know If you wish to see the temples when they are the quietest, choose to see Phnom Penh during its rainy season, or from May through October. At this time of year, the landscape is lusher and greener, and cruise travel is easier, as the water levels are higher. Similar to Thailand's tuk-tuk, the remok, in Phnom Penh is comprised of a passenger carriage that is pulled by a motorbike. It is the most common mode of transportation for tourists, as it can hold four or more people at one time.
Angkor Wat and the Temples of Angkor – Cambodia
Dating back to ancient times, or the seventh century, the Angkor Wat complex was built over a time spanning 6 centuries. Angkor Wat is located in Siem Reap, which is part of Northern Cambodia. This site is considered to be one of Cambodia's most important archeological destinations as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All the temples at the site feature their own unique features and characteristics. Therefore, you will not tire of visiting the different buildings.
Best Time To Visit Normally, you can see the attraction in the wet season or dry season. However, the time of the day you go should be carefully planned. If you go early in the morning, you will miss most of the visitors who journey to the facility shortly after breakfast. If you want to see even fewer people, plan to go during lunch when the sun is at its peak and everyone is lunching in the shade.
You Should Know The Angkor temple is shown on Cambodia's flag. The Angkor Wat is notably the largest religious monument in the world. Built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century, the Angkor Wat was erected to pay tribute to the Hindu god named Vishnu. While it features Buddhist designs, the Angkor Wat also includes a tall tower in its center – meant to represent Mount Meru, which is a mount that was woven into the Hindu explanation of heaven and hell.
Luang Prabang – Laos
One of the must-see excursions on a Mekong River cruise is a trip to Luang Prabang in Laos. Also known as the "Jewel in Laos's Crown," the city still has an old-fashioned charm that is replete of any modern vibe. What is nice about Luang Prabang is that you can see most of the sights on foot. Therefore, make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes. You can also take your time visiting the surroundings. If you like to hike, this is the place to go, as can also hike outside the town center and visit beautiful cascades and limestone caves.
Best Time To Visit Usually, the best time to see this attraction is when it is drier, or from November to March, as hiking can become treacherous when it rains. If you go during January, book ahead for accommodations or be prepared for crowds, as festivals are held this time of year.
You Should Know The town is home to 33 Buddhist temples. Pak Ou Caves, in Luang Prabang, is filled with 4,000+ Buddhist icons, believed to have been housed there for thousands of years. Two caves are found in limestone cliffs where the Nam Ou River meets the Mekong River. The Tham Ting, a lower cave, and the Tham Theung, an upper cave, serve as shrines to Buddha and the spirit of the river.
The capital of Laos, Vientiane is a quiet city with unique sights and attractions. One of the major attractions is a gold-covered Buddhist stupa, Pha That Luang, which is located in the city's center. The Buddhist monument is both a national symbol and monument. It was constructed around the third century and has undergone several renovations due to foreign conflicts. The most recent remodel was made in the 1930s.
Best Time To Visit The best time to see Vientiane is from November through March when it is drier. Be prepared to pay higher prices during the drier season.
You Should Know Wat Si Saket, in the city, is the only Laos temple that was left standing after a Siamese invasion annihilated most of the city in 1828. The temple features 10,000+ Buddhist sculptures of various sizes and designs. You will want to take a photo of the temple's ornate tiered roof. Be sure to plan to visit the Vientiane Night Market, which sets up around sunset. You will avoid the crowds if you visit the market before its peak hour of 8:00 p.m. Some of the popular items include Buddhist paintings, backpacker-friendly clothing, and inexpensive sunglasses.
This sleepy village in Laos is the ideal way to see Laos's rustic side. Not only can you visit some quiet Buddhist temples, but you can also enjoy the local flavor and see, up-close, how the village locals live. While you won't be able to shop at malls or enjoy 5-star cuisine, you will get to see Laos the same way that local villagers do.
Best Time To Visit It is best to visit Pakbeng from November through March, or during the drier time of the year, as you will participate in a lot of outdoor activities.
You Should Know The most famous wat or temple in Pak Beng is the Wat Sin Jong Jaeng, which dates back to French colonial times. Visit the temple around sunset when you can see some stunning views from the temple's hillside location. One of the best restaurants in town (Hashan) is known for its delicious Indian cuisine.
Located in Northwest Cambodia, Siem Reap is a popular resort town that leads to the Angkor ruins and temples. It served as the seat of the Khmer Kingdom from the 9th century to the 15th century. Its historic temples make Siem Reap a favorite starting point or destination of anyone traveling on a Mekong River Cruise.
Best Time To Visit Try to visit Siem Reap when the weather is rainier, as rain showers usually do not last more than 30 minutes at one time. Therefore, travel to Siem Reap from May through October, as it is easier to access this area from the Tonle Sap Lake. Otherwise, you may have to find another mode of transport.
You Should Know Besides the Angkor Watt temple, Siem Reap also is home to the Bayon Temple. Built in the latter part of the 12th century and early part of the 13th century, the temple stands in the middle of Angkor Thom. The main feature of the temple is its smiling faces of stone, which can be seen on many of the towers that project from the temple's upper terrace and sit along the center of the fortress. Another temple of note is Ta Prohm, which sits east of Angkor Thom.