The majestic Mekong River spans more than 2,700 miles and travels through six countries in the heart of Southeast Asia. Along her banks, a treasure trove of nature spectacles, ritualistic cultures and fascinating history await. Traveling these waters through Vietnam and Cambodia on a luxury river ship ensures comfort every step of the way and offers a rare opportunity to visit smaller villages and towns, engage with the locals and encounter a way of life entirely different from our own.
Purpose Built Vessel
The ship for this inspiring journey was the gorgeous Emerald Harmony, purpose-built to traverse the waters of the Mekong, ensuring a smooth and comfortable journey. Unlike other similarly sized ships, Harmony was designed to be able to sail into the heart of Ho Chi Minh City for a rare and breathtaking view of this Asian metropolis. The stunning interiors fuse authentic Asian style with contemporary design, and the spacious suites and public areas ensure you’re returning from your day’s adventures to a chic and serene sanctuary. Carrying just 84 guests, Emerald Harmony has all the amenities you’d expect from a world-class hotel—a spacious open-air pool, a spa and wellness center, and a relaxing lounge and bar area. The food on the ship is a highlight as well—bountiful meals filled with local dishes and ingredients, and onboard cooking classes to help you replicate some of your favorites at home.
Authentic Immersive Experiences
Perhaps the most compelling reason to explore this region by river ship is the ability to easily call on remote villages and hidden temples in Vietnam and Cambodia and immerse yourself in the local culture. Because these countries don’t have the same level of tourism infrastructure as European nations, it can be challenging to navigate on your own outside of the popular tourist areas. It is in these small towns, accompanied by expert tour guides, that you will encounter some of the most meaningful and touching experiences, ones that will leave a lasting impression. Just one example of this is Wat Hanchey—an impressive hilltop religious site outside Kampong Cham, Cambodia—where you will be warmly greeted by dozens of smiling novice and adult monks eager to show you around, teach you a few words in Khmer, and make a personal connection. This scene with the locals repeated itself each day throughout the journey– different smiling faces in different ports – and will leave you eager to return to these countries and the beautiful people who live there.
Expert Local Crew Lead the Way
The entire staff of Emerald Harmony is Vietnamese and Cambodian, from the chef to the maritime crew to the tour guides, who sail along with you to ensure continuity on the ground as well as onboard. Each day as you explore your new port, your expert guides will share the local history as well as their own personal stories about growing up in the region. At times these stories will be entertaining, and at other times somber, as both nations have war and suffering in their recent history. A visit to the Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh offers a harrowing reminder of the Khmer Rouge’s brutal regime. An emotionally challenging experience, it carries profound importance as confronting the country’s dark past is crucial to understanding its present resilience. The gift of these personal connections and relationships you will undoubtedly form with the crew and locals as your visit their countries play an integral role in making this journey one you will never forget.
Achieve Balance and Harmony
Both Vietnamese and Cambodian cultures place a high value on wellness, with intricate and well-established practices designed to cultivate personal and communal well-being. These practices are deeply rooted in the traditions, beliefs, and philosophies of each culture and permeate all aspects of life. The concept of Yin and Yang is central to the Vietnamese understanding of health, and meditation practice is deeply ingrained in the Cambodian culture. I had a chance to enjoy kayaking, swimming, and guided meditation at sunrise, and the spa onboard provides the opportunity be pampered.