The Mekong River is a major transport artery. It's also a place to fish, trade, live and play. We watch barges loaded with rice, bricks, fruit and vegetables weaving a course around tiny fishing boats.More Mekong
A cacophony of children splash, squelch and squeal as they frolic in the water. A buffalo pauses on the bank. Pied kingfishers plunge into the water to catch their prey while an ibis poses stock-still before stabbing a fish. We glimpse a golden-spired temple in the distance.
Passengers are queuing for ferries to cross the river, some carrying baskets of produce, others pushing motorcycles, perhaps on their way to work. Ferries come in all sizes and shapes; soaring bridges have superseded them on some sections of the river.
When the gong signalling lunch interrupts our reverie, we descend to the dining room to be greeted with tables piled with scrumptious choices of Asian and Western food, fresh tropical fruit and free drinks. It's difficult not to over-indulge.
We enjoy a post-prandial nap in our comfortable cabin.
There are no complaints as the afternoon's excursion is delayed by a sudden tropical thunderstorm. As soon as it clears we clamber up the muddy riverbank and meander through the village to a glittering temple.
Other excursions involve riding in a cyclo (a bicycle rickshaw), then riding in the back of an oxcart without suspension and zooming along canals in a speedboat. There are visits to temples, markets, museums and several family-run factories, including brick and weaving works, a popped-rice enterprise and a fish farm.
The setting sun creates a sparkling golden trail over the water as we relax on the sundeck with an exotic cocktail before indulging in a sumptuous dinner. Some nights we watch a film about the area in which we're travelling, on others we read or chat with fellow passengers.
Tired, we retire to our bunks. The brass and teak fittings and historical photos and prints on the walls of the cabins and dining room impart a colonial ambience to the ship.
This was the pattern of our life for seven days on the Indochina Pandaw, cruising between Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Siem Reap in Cambodia.
It was the ideal cruise: relaxing on a small, well-appointed, ship plying its way through attractive countryside, our days enlivened by a variety of shore excursions. The 32 attentive crew were never intrusive, but anticipated our every need, prepared delicious meals and organised daily activities. They formed a guard of honour to farewell us as we disembarked on the last day.We hope to meet our fellow passengers again on another Pandaw cruise.
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