As I awoke early after a wonderful sleep, I discovered the Aqua Mekong had floated into unfamiliar territory overnight. Where before I could see signs of city life, this morning all I can see are trees, the odd farm house, and small fishing boats.
After breakfast we were rounded up and taken on the first of what was to become a regular routine of adventures. With various options, I chose to go shopping in the local markets with the ship’s chef. We boarded the ship’s private skiffs – and here’s what sets this trip apart from any other holiday I’ve ever had. With the help of local guides we are literally able to boat into remote villages and towns, meet the local people and discover the true heritage and history of both Vietnam and Cambodia. No other boat on the Mekong has their own private skiffs, so the experience is incredibly unique and privileged.
I really enjoyed exploring the colours and sounds of the local markets, accompanying the chef as he bought local ingredients for lunch that day. He explained all of the local fruits and vegetables along the way, and the women in the stalls were friendly and hospitable, offering us to try their sometimes strange looking fruits and vegetables.
We then went to the house that belonged to the legendary Chinese lover of Margaret Duras, experiencing the romance of Vietnam how it must have been back in the early 20th Century. It was amazing to see the ornate mix of French, Vietnamese and Chinese styles all together in the house and I was charmed by the true story of forbidden love.
After a lunch on-board of the best pho noodles I’ve ever had – the wagyu beef surely helped to take it into a class of its own – followed by a bowl of laksa (it was hard to choose!!!) I opted for the afternoon adventure option of a bike ride through a small Vietnamese town. Visiting the local township, the young boys of the town put on a lion dance performance, before we sped away on mountain bikes, riding rough trails beside river banks, rice paddy fields for an exhilarating 15km trip.
I had never imagined that I would experience the rawness of Vietnam whilst pedaling literally through trails that would through local lives. As we sped along, local children would run up to is and yell out “hello!” – it was an incredibly touching and exhilarating experience, and already set this trip up to be unforgettable.
I returned to the boat exhausted, famished but fulfilled and excited. With a glass of Sauvignon blanc, I sat in the ship’s pool up above the captain’s deck and observed the magnificent sunset over the Mekong.