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Mekong River Cruises

From its origins more than 16,000 feet above sea level in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet, the Mekong River flows south through precipitous gorges in China before it reaches the Golden Triangle—a geographical point where the borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand meet. From there, it continues its southward course through Cambodia and Vietnam (the region explored by many Scenic Mekong river cruises) before it finally empties into the South China Sea.

Measuring slightly more than 2,700 miles long, the Mekong is the world’s 12th longest river, and it is known by several different names. The Chinese refer to it as the Lancang Jiang, or Turbulent River. The Lao and the Thai call the river Mae Nam Kong, which means Mother Water. And the Vietnamese refer to it as Cuu Long, meaning Nine Dragons. The Mekong in English is derived from the river’s name in Lao and Thai cultures.

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The Significance of the Mekong River

A Scenic Mekong River cruise sails through various parts of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and it provides an enlightening view of how important the river is to the local Cambodian people and to their livelihoods. While it is true that severely fluctuating water levels can make cruising on the Mekong difficult from time to time, much of the region’s fertility is derived from those dramatic changes in the river’s elevation. During monsoon season (May to October), the lower basin of the Mekong often floods, which forces the river to flow backwards, or upstream. Occasionally, these floods will be severe enough to damage villages and destroy crops; however, most of the time these floods have a greater positive impact on the region. Flood waters are often stored and used for irrigation purposes during the dry season later in the year. The annual flood pulses also help to sustain the Mekong’s freshwater fisheries, which are crucial, since some reports indicate that close to 80 percent of the protein found in Cambodians’ diets comes from fish that have been caught in the river.

The Unique Wildlife of the Mekong

On that topic, the Mekong River supports about 1,100 species of fish, but it is also home to an array of rarer and more unique animals. According to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), a 118-mile-long stretch of the Mekong that runs between Cambodia and Laos is home to fewer than 100 Irrawaddy dolphins. These rare river dolphins are not yet endangered, but the WWF classifies them as being vulnerable to extinction; and the Khmer and Lao cultures both regard the species as a sacred animal. The Mekong is also home to Siamese crocodiles (in the wetlands region) and giant species of Catfish, Carp, and Ibis. Endangered tigers can also be found in the forests of the Mekong River valley.

Mekong River Cruising

South East Asia is a treasure trove of culture and color, and the Mekong River offers a unique vantage point from which to soak up the ancient sights. Between the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta and the elegant French colonial capital of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, a mixture of magical temples, wild forests, time-honored cultures and bustling cities scatter the exotic land.

Mekong River Cruising: Cultural Immersion

Like every Scenic journey, a river cruise down the Mekong River provides guests with opportunities to immerse themselves in the local culture and the history of the region. Immersion begins with a visit to Wat Hanchey, a pagoda set atop a prominent hillside near the city of Kampong Cham. The Buddhist temple and monastery was a significant place of worship as far back as the Chenla period in the 8th century. The site consistently fascinates visitors with its bright colors, large fruit sculptures, and a brick Hindu temple from the 7th century that was built in honor of Shiva, one of the three major Hindu deities.

Only a short distance down the river in the city of Kampong Cham itself, travelers can visit Wat Nokor, a religious site that is made up of a colorful, modern Hinayana Buddhist pagoda that has been built inside the walls of a 12th-century Mahayana Buddhist shrine, which was originally constructed by Khmer King Jayavarman VII, a Buddhist ruler who built more than 100 hospitals and many monuments during his three-decade-long reign. 

Unique Experiences On The Mekong River

Other experiences to be enjoyed during a Mekong River Cruise include a lesson on Buddhist prayer with monks at a mountaintop stupa, pagoda, and monastery in the ancient capital city of Oudong; guided tours of local food markets followed by a cooking demonstration of Khmer cuisine in Phnom Penh; and a visit to Tra Su Bird Sanctuary in Tan Chau, which offers guided boat tours through acres of flooded forests that are inhabited by various types of stork, herons, waterhens, kingfishers, and other species of birds.

Those looking to connect with nature in other ways will enjoy an elephant trek to the peak of Mount Phou Asa, which offers splendid views across the Mekong River valley. Those wishing to do a bit more of the exercising themselves can take bicycle tours of nearby villages in Champasak, a province in southwestern Laos. Java aficionados will enjoy a visit to a nearby coffee plantation, where they’ll learn about the process of growing and harvest coffee beans. And, of course, Scenic river cruise guests will have a chance to explore the World Heritage Site of Wat Phou, an ornate Khmer temple made up of pillars, shrines, and palaces (among other edifices). The site also features a natural spring that, according to the local people, emits holy water. Guests interested in exploring Southeast Asia further might also be interested in hearing about Scenic’s Irrawady River cruises.

Scenic Space-Ships: All-Inclusive Luxury Riverboats

Every Scenic Asian river cruise begins aboard one of the company’s boutique vessels or custom-built Space-Ships, so named for their spacious guest cabins, dining, and entertaining areas. Each of these four-deck Scenic Space-Ships includes numerous dining and sightseeing areas, as well as a lounge and bar area that offers panoramic views. Additionally, guests can soak up the rays at the top-deck swimming pool or retreat to the wellness center, which is equipped with a fitness area, beauty salon, and massage rooms. These ships are also noteworthy for their luxury suites, which are outfitted with sun lounges, 32-inch high-definition TVs, and complimentary wireless internet access. 

Scenic’s Mekong River cruises take place aboard Scenic Spirit, a 279-foot vessel that was launched in 2016 and can accommodate 68 passengers in 34 one-bedroom balcony suites, as well as 50 crew members. The Scenic Spirit, which offers an almost 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio, is equipped with a sleek swimming pool, a steam sauna, and an open-air cinema, among other amenities.

Mekong River Cruise

Luxury Mekong

8 days
Siem Reap > Ho Chi Minh City
Venture deep into the heart of South East Asia to discover the treasures that live along the  Mekong River's banks over 8 days across Cambodia and Vietnam.
from $3,095
13+ Day Cruises Fly Free

Luxury Mekong and Temple Discovery

11 days
Siem Reap > Ho Chi Minh City
Cruise along the Mekong on a luxurious 11 day journey. Discover ancient temples, Angkor Wat & witness the alluring Apsara dancers at an exclusive dinner.
from $4,175
13+ Day Cruises Fly Free

Treasures of the Mekong

13 days
Ho Chi Minh City > Siem Reap
Embark on a luxurious 13 day journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap. Cruise the Mekong river on board the all-inclusive 5-star Scenic Spirit.
from $4,925
13+ Day Cruises Fly Free

Highlights of Vietnam, Cambodia & Luxury Mekong

17 days
Hanoi > Ho Chi Minh City
Discover the wonders of Halong Bay, Cambodia and the heaven on earth that is Angkor Wat on a 17 day tour including a luxury river cruise along the Mekong.
from $7,015

Journey along the Mekong

18 days
Ho Chi Minh City > Luang Prabang
Cruise the Mekong on an 18 day journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Luang Prabang on board the lavish Scenic Spirit. Visit Phnom Penh, Siem Reap & Angkor Wat.
from $7,175
13+ Day Cruises Fly Free

Essence of Vietnam, Cambodia & Luxury Mekong

22 days
Hanoi > Siem Reap
Celebrate the cultural diversity of Vietnam and Cambodia on a luxurious 22 day river cruise along the Mekong. Discover Halong Bay, Hoi An and Angkor Wat.
from $10,030

Asia River Cruises

Luxury Mekong

8 days
Siem Reap > Ho Chi Minh City
Venture deep into the heart of South East Asia to discover the treasures that live along the  Mekong River's banks over 8 days across Cambodia and Vietnam.
from $3,095
13+ Day Cruises Fly Free

Luxury Mekong and Temple Discovery

11 days
Siem Reap > Ho Chi Minh City
Cruise along the Mekong on a luxurious 11 day journey. Discover ancient temples, Angkor Wat & witness the alluring Apsara dancers at an exclusive dinner.
from $4,175
13+ Day Cruises Fly Free

Treasures of the Mekong

13 days
Ho Chi Minh City > Siem Reap
Embark on a luxurious 13 day journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap. Cruise the Mekong river on board the all-inclusive 5-star Scenic Spirit.
from $4,925

Luxury Irrawaddy

11 days
Mandalay > Yangon
Cruise the Irrawaddy on the ultimate 11 day river cruise. Discover Myanmar and all of its delights on an all-inclusive luxury holiday on board Scenic Aura.
from $5,955 $5,710
13+ Day Cruises Fly Free

Highlights of Vietnam, Cambodia & Luxury Mekong

17 days
Hanoi > Ho Chi Minh City
Discover the wonders of Halong Bay, Cambodia and the heaven on earth that is Angkor Wat on a 17 day tour including a luxury river cruise along the Mekong.
from $7,015

Journey along the Mekong

18 days
Ho Chi Minh City > Luang Prabang
Cruise the Mekong on an 18 day journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Luang Prabang on board the lavish Scenic Spirit. Visit Phnom Penh, Siem Reap & Angkor Wat.
from $7,175

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