Vietnam River Cruises
Avalon’s luxury cruise holidays offer a spectacular itinerary on the beautiful Mekong River, starting in Vietnam on the Mekong Delta. Situated in Southeast Asia, Vietnam’s neighboring countries include China to the north; Laos to the northwest; Cambodia to the southwest; and the South China Sea to the east. With a total area of 127,881 sq miles and a population of 91,519, 289 it is the world’s thirteenth most populous country. Vietnam’s landscape is mostly made up of mountains and hills with dense areas of tropical forestland. In the South of Vietnam to the west of Ho Chi Minh City is the Mekong River delta, often referred to as the rice basket of Vietnam and more recently as a ‘biological treasure trove’ due to over 10,000 new species being discovered in previously unexplored parts of the delta. The climate in Vietnam is varied and due to the country’s size it has three distinct climate zones. Avalon passengers will be able to book their luxury cruise holiday from September to March which are the months when the weather is most pleasant and dry with cool temperatures between 23°C and 28°C. Passengers who opt to take the extension after their Mekong cruise will visit the cities of Hanoi and Ha Long Bay in the north. The climate in the north has four distinct seasons with a slightly cooler winter, pleasant and warm autumns and springs, and hot wet summers.
The first city Avalon Passengers will visit is Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City formerly known as Saigon. Passengers will have a walking tour of the city’s highlights and famous landmarks taking them to Ho Chi Minh Square, the Municipal Theatre, Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. They will be able to visit the imposing Reunification Palace (the former Presidential Palace) and the War Remnants Museum. The Reunification Palace is a restored five storey building that has been left nearly completely untouched since the day Saigon fell to the north. Passengers will feel that they have gone back in time to the 1960’s with vintage phones, radios and office equipment which were supposed to have been left exactly as they were before the north took over. Passengers will also experience the Ben Than Market with a local chef to learn how different fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood are used in Vietnamese culture. A cooking class on Vietnamese cuisine will be given to Avalon passengers on how to prepare different dishes.
Just out of Ho Chi Minh City through glistening rice paddies are the Cu Chi tunnels. This extraordinary network of tunnels was used by the Viet Cong during the war from a hideout to a secret village. Passengers will have an expert local guide at hand to explain how the tunnels were constructed, and those who want to will have the chance to walk through a section of the tunnels to experience what life would have been like underground!
Next on the itinerary is cruising on the River Mekong from Cai Be to Sa Dec. Passengers will cruise by Sampan (a small flat bottomed Chinese boat) across Cai Be Harbour for a tour of An Kiet House and gardens, which features a variety of indigenous fruit. On the waterfront is a beautiful French Gothic Cathedral which passengers will have a chance to admire before heading on to the quaint riverfront town of Sa Dec. In Sa Dec passengers will be able to gain an insight into the rice production of Vietnam with a visit to a rice factory, they will learn about the importance of the rice husk and the fuelling of the brick kilns. From Sa Dec, the next city along is Chau Doc, passengers will cruise the beautiful backwaters of the Mekong passing traditional floating markets and raft-house villages whilst en route to the city. A culturally diverse city makes Chau Doc fascinating to explore with numerous mosques, temples, churches and pilgrimage sites. Avalon passengers can visit a local fish farm to learn about all the different species found in the River Mekong and then enjoy a visit to the pretty pagodas at the base of Sam Mountain.
For passengers who wish to extend their luxury cruise holiday further and explore more of Vietnam there is an option to add on an extension to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay in the north of the country. Hanoi is the 1000 year old capital of Vietnam, a fascinating city with a true blend of west meets east; and many claim it to be the most beautiful city in Southeast Asia. Probably the most famous and visited site in Hanoi is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, situated in the centre of Ba Dinh square, the large memorial is the home of the Vietnam leader Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body. Passengers will get to see the One Pillar Pagoda, an iconic temple in Hanoi built by Emperor Lý Thái Tông in 1049. The temple was designed to resemble a lotus blossom which is a Buddhist symbol of purity. Also visited is the Ho Chi Minh Museum, Presidential Palace, Hoan Kiem Lake and the 900 year old Temple of Literature. Passengers will also get to experience lunch at Koto, a non profit restaurant that trains local street children in restaurant skills in order to help them find a job and build a stable life. Hanoi also has an Old Quarter with 36 ancient streets to explore where peddlers have traded for centuries, and a cyclo ride will be given to passengers around this fascinating quarter.
On from Hanoi, passengers will be driven through luscious, verdant countryside to Hon Gai, which is the gateway to the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay. Many deem the Ha Long Bay as a natural wonder of the world with its mystical panorama of over 3000 limestone islands carved into fanciful shapes by the water’s waves. Many small Islets are dotted around the bay where caves, tunnels and unique shaped outcroppings with weird and wonderful names can all be found.