The Mekong, the longest river in South East Asia, is navigable in Cambodia and Vietnam and offers a glimpse of the diverse cultures and history of these two very different countries. It enables the exploration of the little known region between the ancient Khmer city of Angkor, one of the greatest Buddhist sites in South East Asia, and the elegant former French colonial city of Saigon, (Ho Chi Min City), with its memories of the Vietnam War.
From the highlands of Tibet , the Mekong flows down through China ‘s Yunnan province in deep gorges and over rapids to form the Myanmar-Laos border, before curving East and South through North West Laos and marking part of the Laos-Thailand border.
From Laos the river descends onto the Cambodian plain, where it receives water from Tonle Sap during the dry season by way of the Tonle River. During the rainy season the floodwaters of the Mekong reverse the direction of the Tonle Sap River and flow into Tonle Sap, a lake that is a natural reservoir, over 93 miles (150km) in length and rich in fish. River Cruisers with their ultra shallow drafts can reach as far north on the Mekong as Kracheh and can navigate the shallow Tonle River and Lake for 10 months of the year as far as Siem Reap, the port for Angkor.
The Mekong finally flows into the South China Sea through many distributaries in the vast Mekong Delta. The Delta, which covers a vast area, is criss-crossed by many channels and canals and is one of the greatest rice-growing areas of Asia. It is a densely populated region with Ho Chi Min City, located just to the east of the Delta. This is a fascinating area to explore with whole towns floating on rafts and rich in river life and activity. Lush tropical plantations and gardens extend off endless channels. There are in fact over 3000 miles (5,000km) of waterways in the Mekong Delta. The area was the scene of heavy fighting in the Vietnam War.