The Mekong river flows a total of 2,700 miles from China through South East Asia into the South China Sea in Vietnam. The 12th longest river in the world, it flows through six countries, and is the food source of millions along the way.
The lack of industry along the banks has kept the Mekong teeming with life, and its biodiversity is second only to the Amazon. Tonnes of plants, mammals, birds and fish have their home along the river, and a Mekong river cruise is the perfect way to fully experience its wonders. Bringing a pair of binoculars is worth it, for the amount of wildlife you will be able to spot along the way.
The best time to go is through November to February, when the rainy season has passed and the temperature is not so hot. Many river cruise lines can be affected by the water levels, and itineraries can change to work around them. The route is a little more challenging that cruises along the Danube or Rhine and the contrasts are amazing, from the amazing temples, food and the people you will meet. No river cruise is the same because of this.
The places you will stop at will be sure to take your breath away, from the 1000-year-old temples in Hanoi, the busy Port of Saigon, floating markets at Cai Be and so much more. The culture is different and vibrant, and the friendly approach from the locals will be sure to make you feel at home. Check out our guide on the highlights of a Mekong river cruise here.
Top tips to remember:
Bring insect repellent. The late evenings will be worse for the insects but even during the day, the gnats and fire ants can be a bother. As well as the insect spray, a healthy amount of sun screen is also required. Avoid the animals too. The dogs, cats and even monkeys will have a lot of diseases.
Learn the street rules. In the major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, the crossing rules for pedestrians are not the same as in the UK. The best choice is waiting for no cars, and calmly walking out, and let the motor vehicles like bikes zig zag around you. If this isn’t appealing, walk across with the locals in a group.
Be adventurous with your eating. In South East Asia, the food will be something you might have never tried before, and trying something different is always fun – but be careful. Staying away from dairy, ice in drinks, and fruit and veg is wise. Bottled water is the safest option for drinking, and is much needed in the heat.
Pack loose clothing, and pack extra tops for the inevitable amount of sweating. Tight clothes won’t be comfortable in the humidity, and when you return to the cruise ship, you will want to wear some fresh clothes and stay cool.