The Mekong River is more than 4,300 kilometres long and flows through Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and China, with the landscape changing significantly along the way and providing a beautiful and dramatic backdrop for travellers. As the Mekong River travels through Vietnam, the scenic landscape includes orchards and endless rice paddies, which are an important part of the local economy. In China, the river flows mostly through mountainous landscapes. The Mekong River forms part of the border between Laos and Thailand, and in this area provides travellers with stunning views of a number of gorges. Natural features of the river itself also contribute to the unique landscape that can be seen in this region; these include rapids, and the third largest waterfall in the world.
The Mekong River and the land around it are home to an enormous range of plants and animals, including a number of rare species. More than 1,000 species of fish can be found living in the river, and there are more large fish species in the Mekong than in any other river on the planet. Those with an interest in nature and plant life can also see a wide variety of birds, reptiles, mammals, and plants while cruising the Mekong, including some species that were discovered as recently as 2009.
Evidence of ancient settlements can be seen along the banks of the river and on excursions to the shore. Vietnam is home to a number of historical points of interest such as the Chi Chi Tunnels. Mekong River cruises often provide shore excursions to Hanoi, home to a number of cultural attractions including the Temple of Literature as well as a number of fine museums. A visit to the floating market at Cai Be, near Ho Chi Minh City, will provide travellers with one of the most unique shopping experiences on Earth.
Cultural attractions in Cambodia include the stunning ancient temples at Angkor, with some dating back as far as the 9th century. The town of Kampong Cham is another very popular day trip destination in Cambodia. Kampong Cham is home to a number of interesting buildings, including an 8th century temple. The town is a great place for travellers who want to learn more about the local culture and religion, with some companies offering tours that allow travellers to take part in ceremonies which include receiving a water blessing from Buddhist monks.
While towns and cities along the Mekong offer a number of interesting places to visit on day excursions, there is also plenty to see from the comfort of the ship on a Mekong River cruise, including the varied landscape and the traditional villages that line the banks. There is no better way to truly experience the culture and landscapes of Southeast Asia than by taking a Mekong River cruise.