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AmaWaterways river cruise review: Charms of the Mekong

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We have just returned from one of the most amazing holidays we have ever had, a 16-day 'Charms of the Mekong' tour with AmaWaterways.

We flew via Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City for a two night pre-cruise stay at the excellent Sofitel Saigon Plaza. The first afternoon we walked around the city to get our bearings, and the next day we enjoyed a morning tour of the city highlights and an afternoon visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels used during the Vietnam War.

The following day we transferred to the AmaDara, a beautifully appointed river ship with friendly staff and excellent food throughout the cruise.

AmaWaterways - AmaDara on the Mekong

Excursions during the cruise up the Mekong to Prek Kdam included visits to local markets, where we declined to buy the skinned rats and KFC (Kentucky Fried Crickets!), rice paper and silk workshops, tri-shaw rides, tuk tuk rides, ox cart rides and a blessing at a Buddhist Monastery. We also had some fascinating views of local life in the stilted and floating villages.

Floating village on Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

The visit that affected us all the most was the trip from Phnom Penh to the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. It was so humbling to hear what so many of the population had gone through during Pol Pot's rule, and at the prison (now the Museum) we met a delightful old gentleman of 87 who was one of the very few survivors.

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After we disembarked in Cambodia, we transferred by coach to Siem Reap and stayed at the beautiful Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort. The highlight of this section of the trip were the Angkor Temples and we got up at 4am to witness the sunrise over Angkor Wat, which is a 'must do'. Unfortunately the gods were not with us and it was cloudy, but still very atmospheric as it gradually became lighter and Angkor Wat was revealed.

Sunrise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We also visited the school that AmaWaterways support. It was lovely meeting the children who go there to learn English and we took some supplies from home as had been suggested as gifts for the school. The children were so keen to practise their English but the most asked question was "How old are you?"! Lots of the children wore English football shirts, and as we were the only English people on the tour they were very keen to talk football.

On to Hanoi and another excellent Sofitel. The traffic in Hanoi is unbelievable and our guide would shepherd us across the roads calling out "Sticky rice, sticky rice" so that we all stuck together, as none of the traffic stops for you, they just swerve round you!

Street in Hanoi, Vietnam

The last leg was a night on a boat on Halong Bay which was just spectacular. Then back to Hanoi for the last night before the flight home.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

The organisation by Ama could not be faulted. Our wonderful cruise manager Mr Thoai looked after everyone superbly, as did all the local guides who were with us for each leg. There were only 102 of us on board and about 50 for the pre- and post-cruise sections, and we were split into 4 groups for all the excursions so it did not feel as though we were being herded in huge numbers, and there was plenty of room on the coaches.

It was truly a wonderful trip, and our memories will stay with us forever.

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Meet the author

Elizabeth Arrowsmith is a Mundy regular and guest author

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