The Bayon Cambodia

Cruising the Mystical Mekong

27 Feb 2017

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Majestic and mesmerising, the Mighty Mekong sustains life for millions of people, who each have a story to tell.

Vietnam and Cambodia offer cultures that are rich with incredible traditions, flavours and colours. Scenic’s Treasures of the Mekong adventure is an opportunity to delve into the details and discover the essence of these lands, which overflow with life-changing experiences.

Six Travel Associates consultants sailed aboard the Scenic Spirit from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, and their highlights reveal an unforgettable adventure.  

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Vietnamese pho
Locals believe that pho needs to simmer for at least 12 hours before it is properly done

Street Food Spectacular

When the sun sets, Ho Chi Minh City is transformed into foodie central, with stalls popping up on every street corner. The Buffalo Street Eats tour gave me the chance to try ultra-authentic Vietnamese in a setting that I may have been hesitant to experience myself. Munching on pork pâté baguettes, beef noodle soup and Vietnamese pizza while standing literally on the side of the road was a delicious local immersion that I’ll never forget. 

Sarah Gladstone: Wolf & Turner Travel Associates, VIC

A Spirited Welcome

We were greeted like family by the Captain and crew as we boarded the Scenic Sprit at Mỹ Tho. Once my butler had me settled into my spacious suite, what better way to welcome us aboard than with a sunset cocktail party on the sun deck?

Catherine Baker: Press & James Travel Associates, NSW

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The Scenic Spirit
Photo: Scenic Spirit

Luxury Afloat

As soon as I entered the room the views from the floor-to-ceiling windows took my breath away. My personal butler had already arranged for my suitcase to be placed in my walk-in wardrobe, which is a good indicator of the amazing spaciousness of the suites.

Every detail was beautiful. Plush towels, L’Occitane amenities, a pillow menu... every luxury you could dream of was at my fingertips.     

Sarah Manche - Jones & Turner Travel Associates, NSW

Sweet Factories and Floating Markets 

The floating markets in Cái Bè were amazingly local and different. Our guide Lam explained that the boats are homes, vehicles and shops for these people, and a fascinating code of flags and poles indicates each boat’s wares. Next we visited a sweet factory and saw coconut and rice sweets being made the traditional way by a lady who’d been there for 40 years. We tried to make some ourselves – it’s harder than it looks!

Megan Grainger: Dowd & Turner Travel Associates, TAS

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Vietnam floating market
The Cai Be floating market is open all day, but sunrise is the liveliest time

Evergreen Island

As my FreeChoice excursion I visited Evergreen Island village, which exists only on stilts for several months during flooding or ‘floating time’. We saw locals tilling the fields and going about their day, and the guides were full of intriguing information about the village’s unique and unsullied way of life.       

Megan Grainger: Dowd & Turner Travel Associates, TAS


Explore more of Vietnam by water: Vietnam's Islands: An Escape to Peace

Get off the beaten path: Beyond Angkor: Inside the Lost World of Phnom Kulen


Cultural Insights

While onboard our guide showed us the amazing ways the Cambodian Krama Scarf is used. It can be a hat, a swimming costume for men, a baby hammock or a kid’s toy, just to name a few! The insights we gained onboard made each destination really come to life.      

Catherine Baker: Press & James Travel Associates, NSW

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Krama scarf cambodia
One of the many uses of the krama scarf was to reflect the status of its owner through its make and style

Phnom Penh Back Streets

Our tour of Phnom Penh started in tuk tuks, and then our guide Dara walked us through some back alleys while describing the city’s heartbreaking history. The markets were awesome for haggling for souvenirs, and Dara purchased deep-fried tarantulas for those who wanted to try them – no thanks!  

Megan Grainger: Dowd & Turner Travel Associates, TAS

Moving Moments

The highlight of Ko Chen was meeting a teacher in his 80s, who told us how he survived the reign of the Khmer Rouge despite their persecution of scholars. He spent years in a work camp, constantly terrified of discovery. It’s a moment I won’t forget for a long time - a man who had been through so much still had a smile for a tourist like me. 

Harry Alabaster: Alabaster & Turner Travel Associates, QLD

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Buddhist monk in training
Buddhist monks shave their heads as way to detach from the material

Meeting a Monk-in-Training

After morning Tai Chi on the deck, we disembarked and drove uphill to explore the ancient temples of Wat Hanchey, thankfully avoiding the 300 steps. There’s a large monastery in the grounds where we met a teenaged novice who is looking forward to being a monk for the next 20 years!

Harry Alabaster: Alabaster & Turner Travel Associates, QLD

Temple Hopping in Siem Reap

Fun fact: no building in Siem Reap can be taller than the temple of Angkor Wat. Our guide Sok Li had plenty of insider insights that made our tour completely captivating. You need hours to admire the intricate craftsmanship and envisage daily life in the walls of these ancient grounds, where history seems to seep from the stones themselves. Other highlights included the mystical carvings of The Bayon and the tree-draped ruins of Ta Promh. 

Jenny Thomas: Maria, Fellowes & Turner Travel Associates, NSW

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The Bayon
The Bayon is a Buddhist temple but hints at elements of Hindu cosmology

Traditional Blessings

The monk at Wat Prom Roth graciously accepted our offerings, and we prepared for our blessing. After we knelt and bowed to the floor, the monk completed a short chant and tied a red string to our wrists – left wrist for females and right wrist for males. We were then sprinkled with blessed water, which was shaken from a yellow rose, while the monk chanted blessings for good luck, health and happiness for the next 12 months. It was a beautiful ceremony that left us all feeling humble and appreciative of the Buddhist religion and a monk’s chosen way of life.

Sarah Gladstone: Wolf & Turner Travel Associates, VIC

A Refreshing Oasis

It was lovely to return to Raffles Grand Hotel after long day exploring Siem Reap. The pool is divine – a refreshing oasis surrounded by lush gardens. From the constantly smiling staff through to the excellent drinks at The Elephant Bar it was a delightful experience that oozed with colonial charm.    

Sarah Manche: Jones & Turner Travel Associates, NSW