Rene and I have only ever been to Vietnam once with great friends from Hong Kong. We visited the north including Hanoi and area and, of course, the famous Ha Long Bay. It was wonderful! We all enjoyed the trip and I definitely figured at some point we’d need to return and cover more of this beautiful country with their lovely people, history, culture, cuisine and scenery.
Ha Long Bay - Courtesy of AmaWaterways
The particular itineraries that AmaWaterways have are called “Charms of the Mekong” and “Riches of the Mekong”. They’re basically the exact same itinerary but one travels from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, Cambodia while the other is in reverse. The former, I’m told, is the preferred option although they’re both the same ports.
Courtesy of AmaWaterways
The great thing about AmaWaterways option is their fantastic pre and post land tours that can be added with either of the above itineraries. They not only have a couple of extra nights to enjoy the thrilling city of Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon) but they also have an itinerary that includes 2 nights in Siem Reap, Cambodia; 3 nights in the historical city of Hanoi; and 1 night sailing the spectacular Ha Long Bay, knicknamed “A Dragon’s Paradise”.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ha Long Bay is a “stunning seascape of over 1600 hundred limestone islands and islets in the Gulf of Tonkin”. You may recall it from one of the James Bond movies, “Tomorrow Never Dies” with Pierce Brosnan. Funnily enough, media states that the filming didn’t actually take place there since the local authorities wouldn’t allow it, although rumors have it that it actually was shot there.
Ha Long Bay
Vietnam has so much history, both good and bad. I remember when we were there, they referred to our version of the Vietnam War as the “American War”, which I found so interesting. The other thing that I was relieved about was their lack of any remorse towards Americans over this ugly conflict. So many lives were needlessly lost there and many others injured including so many of our friends and neighbors here. So incredibly sad.
Vietnam’s history actually dates back as far as 20,000 years. More recently, French colonial rule began in 1858. Some of the architecture in Ho Chi Minh City, in particular, is a reflection of this timeframe. Such buildings as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, the Saigon Opera House, the City Hall, and their Fine Arts Museum are just a few of the many representing this era.
Saigon City Hall - Courtesy of AmaWaterways
Anyway, more about this great itinerary Mekong River Cruise itinerary.
AmaWaterways has this lovely vessel called the AmaDara. It is radiant as it “reflects the culture of the Mekong with French Colonial décor, dark woods and local artifacts”. There are just 62 staterooms all with balconies starting at 251 square feet up to their luxury suite with a spacious 502 square feet. They’re magnificent!
The Lovely AmaDara - Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
There’s a sun deck with a pool, a fitness room, 3 spas (the Vietnamese are very good at this), a hair salon and daily entertainment including cultural performances. The AmaDara also has the stunning Saigon Lounge beautifully appointed with richly carved wood furniture representative of the region.
Interior of AmaDara Ship - Courtesy of AmaWaterways
Inclusions are plentiful on this cruise with unlimited wine with lunch and dinner and complimentary local beer, house-brand spirits and soft drinks during the cruise. All meals are included with both Western menu options and regionally inspired cuisine as well. All made with locally sourced ingredients. They also have their wonderful Chef’s Table menu with paired wines and a multi-course tasting menu.
Cuisine On Board the AmaDara - Courtesy of AmaWaterways
They have multiple excursions in every port including gentle, active, regular, and late-riser options. They have knowledgeable guides with these immersive tours in every destination. There are ‘local’ boat rides, walking tours, Trishaw rides, local markets, temples, various local workshops (including for silk weaving, rattan mats, rice paper, candy, & other craftspeople), oxcart rides, palace visits, museum tours, and so much more.
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
Two of the nights on the Mekong River are through Vietnam while the other 5 nights are through Cambodia including its capital, Phnom Penh with options to visit the Royal Palace and National Museum, the Central Market, and/or the infamous Killing Fields and Genocide Museum memorial site from the not-so-distant past of the brutal 1970’s Khmer Rouge regime. There are many other great stops along the way prior to arriving in Kampong Cham where you can visit Wat Nokor where Old World meets new. At Wat Nokor, a contemporary pagoda is housed inside a 12th century temple.
National Museum of Cambodia - Photo Courtesy of AmaWaterways
On disembarkation day, transfers are then provided for Siem Reap where the very famous Angkor Wat Temple is located. Guiness World Records considers this religious structure as the largest one in the world and an absolutely iconic site representing Cambodia all over the world.
Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia
As mentioned earlier, this is where you then have the option of joining multiple post tour options including the one that includes Siem Reap, Hanoi and Ha Long Bay before heading home with so many wonderful memories from this very interesting, intriguing part of the world.
AmaWaterways Guides and Staff - Photo Courtesy of AmaWaterways
I highly recommend both AmaWaterways and this great itinerary since I’ve been on a few of Ama’s lovely ships and been able to experience their warm and welcoming hospitality from their very special, caring, professionally trained crew with impeccable service!