Top 10 Reasons to Take a River Cruise
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Hopefully, as you begin to read our review on Vietnam, you’ve already taken a moment to read our reviews on Southeast Asia river cruising, Cambodia and the Mekong River. If not, take a quick moment and start with those three articles, as they will bring everything about a Mekong River cruise into the proper perspective, covering the region more completely, as in this review we are talking specifically about Vietnam.

The passage of time has healed most of the sorrow and conflict.
Most of us are old enough to remember the pain of the Vietnam and Cambodian conflicts. That said, we were also at war with Japan prior to that, and most of us have overcome the pain and sorrow that conflict created in its day. Well, when you visit the emerging areas of Vietnam and Cambodia you'll see many reminders of the long conflict, but like Japan the local inhabitants have moved on and while they too have memories, they are truly focused on the future and Americans are a vital part of that future and their tourism efforts. As we mentioned, the people are flat out some of the warmest and friendliest we have met in our many years of travel.

Vietnam is now one of the leading tourism destinations.
Okay, now that we have hopefully softened the history lesson, let’s discuss the many and varied reasons for taking a river cruise through Vietnam (By the way, check out our Destination Overview of Vietnam's Ha Long Bay!) and Cambodia along the incredible Mekong River. First and foremost is that it is the most convenient and easiest way to travel in this area where language is sometimes an issue. Next we would tell you that it’s a very affordable way to see the region as almost everything you do beyond shop is included in your price. Gourmet western and regional cuisine, some of the best and most experienced tour guides we ever experienced and intimate and beautiful river cruise ships — need we say more!

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
From a touring perspective, Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city has to be one of Asia’s most fascinating cities offering a truly unique blend of oriental and western charm. It’s a vibrant and colorful city of brightly painted temples and pagodas, elegant colonial villas, bustling narrow streets and alleys (ladies — great bargains abound) and grand tree-lined boulevards with shaded lakes. It’s nothing like any of us would have imagined before going there. There’s a bustling “old quarter,” where your dollars will go a long way when you bargain for silk or original works of art or French perfumes. All in all, Hanoi may be one of the most beautiful and tranquil places you'll ever visit and we know you will be awed by its serenity.

Ho Chi Minh City (old Saigon).
Don’t be surprised that many of the local inhabitants of Ho Chi Minh City still refer to it as Saigon, because they do. It’s a city that never sleeps, much like New York or Paris. It’s a city of contrasts with new modern skyscrapers fighting with the fine examples of French colonial architecture that abound within the city. As you stroll along Dong Khoi Street, the Champs Elysees of Saigon, you cannot help but marvel at the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Old Saigon Post Office and the many other turn-of-the-century grand hotels and buildings.

We know it will be hard for you to envision this, but Saigon has one of the largest Chinatown’s in the world, that’s right, a Chinese settlement right in the heart of the city. Dating back to the late 1800’s, it’s a delightful and safe area to roam around in. The center piece of the area is the Ben Thanh Market originally opened in 1914. You’ve got to go there, you’ve got to eat from the street vendors and you’ve got to watch out for pickpockets. Leave the jewelry at home or in your cabin, keep your money and/or credit card in the man’s front pocket and enjoy this sensation visit — it’s kind of like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

One more interesting places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City is the former Presidential Palace, now renamed the Reunification Hall. The Palace remains exactly as it was on the morning of April 30, 1975, when the Saigon regime surrendered and the country was reunified. Less we forget, Saigon maybe one of the most exciting places in Asia to enjoy a meal. No matter if it be a food stall on a crowded alleyway or a fine French or Western restaurant, the cuisine here is award winning.

We would be remiss if we did not mention one more truly important place that many, not all of you should visit and that’s the Cu Chi Tunnels built by the Vietnamese resistance fighters during the war. It lies about 40 miles outside of town and if you’re up for getting down on all fours, this unbelievable maze that is more like an underground city may in fact be the highlight of your trip. It truly is like a city as it housed local residents that needed lodging, markets, kitchens and triage areas. It is not for everyone as it is a reasonably strenuous excursion, requires you to be in close quarters and at times is a bit dusty. Should you go, dress in your “play clothes.”

For a bit of fun during your visit to the Tunnels, do make sure you watch a war-era (circa 1972) propaganda film that is so over the top, you will be hard pressed to keep from laughing out loud.

One last comment and it applies to both Vietnam and Cambodia. If you’re up for it do try a ride on one of the ever present modes of local transportation, the motodop and tuk-tuk. These most unusual vehicles along with everything else which drivers may be able to offer to you will be offered at every turn. While they don’t usually have seatbelts, they could be fun and very cheap way to get around quickly.

We feel Southeast Asia is one of the most interesting river cruise experiences in the world. Space is sometimes hard to obtain because there is such a demand. Currently, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Uniworld, Viking and Pandaw sail the Mekong.


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