Mekong River Cruise, the very words summon up Kipling and the “Road to Mandalay”. This is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. So when those nice people at Heritage Line invited me to take part, I was more than ready to accept. A Mekong River Cruise is great under any circumstances. Doing it in 5 star luxury is one of those activities that everyone should get to do once. I took the Heritage Line cruise aboard the Jahan, from My Tho to Phnom Penh.
Meeting in Ho Chi Minh City
The day started in the late morning as guests from Ho Chi Minh City congregated in the Atrium at the Renaissance, one of the city’s fine hotels, to meet up with the guide from Heritage. I arrived first, trusty laptop in hand, and settled down to do some work before departure.
The Atrium is a somewhat cold and austere looking place, to be honest. It’s on the fifth floor of the hotel and has the other 15 floors or so rising above on all four sides of the space. The rather small window at the top creates a cold lighting that could be improved. However, the coffee was excellent and the cookies went down a treat, ample food and drink for a morning light bite, before heading out. Soon my two colleagues from inseasia.com, Long and Son joined me and we waited for the bus to My Tho. Shortly before we left, a member of staff switched on the lights which certainly improved the ambience somewhat. The bus journey was uneventful, apart from the 40 minutes of commentary from our guide. They do like to talk these chaps. But it was all good natured, people laughed and joked as they looked forward to their Mekong River cruise.
Our Mekong River Cruise Begins at My Tho
We arrived at our destination by the quayside just outside My Tho by the Rach Mieu Bridge. The vessel is quite simply stunning. Over two hundred feet in length it is 5 star luxury all the way. The superbly appointed cabins set the scene for what is to follow. We had to wait for about 90 minutes before we got underway. They have to charge the generators. However, it was pleasant enough sitting in the bar with a cold one and good company. Everyone was soon getting to know each other.
I was impressed by the fact that even on a relatively small boat like this, every cabin has a private balcony. One would expect that of a ocean going liner, but clever design permits it even on a river boat. This particular addition to the accommodation was to provide hours of delight. Sitting here in the early mornings watching life on the riverbanks slip past, was extremely enjoyable.
The boat is incredibly impressive, cruising along almost silently and a little faster than I had expected. We carried on to Cai Bei where, in total darkness, we dropped anchor for the night. The people onboard were all getting along fine, friendships forged and conversation flowing. It was time for our first meal onboard, plenty of choice and plenty of food. The dining room was laid out better than many hotel restaurants. I have to admit to an over indulgence with the cheeseboard. Soon it was time to retire to the bar for a few late night drinks with new found friends. The people on this cruise are a really good bunch. Everyone is more than ready to join in conversations. Early to sleep tonight, I intend to get up early in the morning, to watch the exercise class on the sundeck. A Mekong River cruise makes one want to get up in the mornings, and I can watch exercise all day.
The internet service is poor which surprised me. It is only available in the bar area when it actually works. and the staff appear to turn it off completely at night, which is rather weird. It forces one to try and relax, but when someone is working, as I was, it is inconvenient in the extreme.
The silence of the night air is captivating. It’s so good to leave the smog, hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City behind. Living in Vietnam is great, but city life, as much as I enjoy, just instil the need to get out of town occasionally. I retired to my luxury cabin around midnight, we had two tours to look forward to the next day.
The boat is silent, save for the gentle lapping of the Mekong and for this writer it feels like going back in time to the halcyon days of Graham Green and Hemingway. I wish, eh!