Board Aqua Expeditions’ Aqua Mekong, which Mr. Harper named as the 2016 Best Cruise Grand Award winner. (In the Grand Awards issue, he also cited the Aqua Mekong as having the “Staff Who Made Us Feel Most at Home.”)
The third and newest member of the Aqua fleet, the Mekong carries 40 passengers in 20 stylishly appointed suites, each of which is a spacious 320 square feet. Most have walls of windows, and eight have private balconies. For even more space, two suites can be interconnected into a 640-square-foot accommodation, with one suite serving as a living room.
Celebrate the start of your cruise with a Khmer “Apsara” dance performance, an indigenous tradition that is memorialized on the temple walls at Angkor Wat.
“Much of the pleasure of a Mekong cruise comes from lounging on deck as Southeast Asia slides gracefully past,” Mr. Harper shares, “observing the painted storks and pied kingfishers, the rice barges and the huge drifting rafts of purple water hyacinth.”
Note: The following cruise itinerary can be undertaken in the high-water season, between July and November. Late October and November have the most favorable weather during this period. Four- and seven-day itineraries also are available, and routings vary depending on the season.
Visit Koh Chen, a silversmith village known for its fine craftsmanship. Cambodia’s king regularly chooses Koh Chen's silver bowls as gifts for visiting dignitaries, and guests can watch the artisans at work.
Mr. Harper describes where he went next: “Later, we stopped at a small Buddhist temple with graceful lines, bright saffron-orange wooden supports and impressive gilding. Several of the young monks had gathered under a tree for lunch. Although shy, they were nonetheless extremely welcoming. Nearby, we spotted two intricately carved and painted dragon boats.”
Explore two picturesque floating villages around the rim of Tonle Sap lake. In Chhnok Tru, the schools, churches, pagodas and even the police station all float. Also visit Moat Khla, accessible only by water, to attend a Buddhist blessing ceremony.
Enjoy a farewell dinner back on the ship. The cuisine aboard the Mekong is under the supervision of Michelin-star chef David Thompson. “Under his guidance,” Mr. Harper relates, “the kitchen turned out a series of superb meals with dishes such as Cambodian rice noodles with chicken and wild ginger sauce, a green curry of catfish with a lemon-basil-cashew nut pudding and coconut cream, and prawns braised with white wine and herbs accompanied by pea and prosciutto risotto.”