Go with the flow on the Mekong

This is sponsored content for Wendy Wu Tours.

The Mekong Delta in the south of Vietnam serves up peacefulness in spades. Here, there are no traffic jams or skyscrapers, no neon-bathed nightclubs or raucous rooftop bars. In the delta, the bustle of the city gives way to a slower pace, a rhythm that has remained unchanged for centuries.

A trip along the Mekong, where old ways are still treasured, is also a trip back in time. Here, we are beyond the reach of the network of roads that continues to unfold right across Asia. As it has been since time immemorial, the major thoroughfare remains the river itself. Book yourself onboard one of the luxurious cruise boats that ply the waterway and you are assured of two things: you will be staying in some of the most luxurious accommodation in the area, and you will also be able to reach places that have little or no road access.

Experience all the Mekong has to offer on the most luxurious accommodation in the area.

Experience all the Mekong has to offer on the most luxurious accommodation in the area.

There is something very leisurely about a Mekong River cruise. As you meander past riverbanks lined with verdant rice paddies and orchards and old-school stilted houses, you will be surprised by how much of daily life takes place on the water. The area's typical transport is flat-bottomed wooden sampans which dart swiftly across the water. The most intense action, however, takes place at the floating markets, that are at their liveliest early in the morning. From rice to fresh fruit, all kind of goods are traded by vendors whose "stalls" are small boats. Women are typically in charge of both the buying and selling here; many of them still wear distinctive conical non la hats, and the bartering is often fierce. As a shopping experience, it is light years away from your typical mall.

EXPLORING OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Itineraries typically follow the river between Saigon and Phnom Penh in both directions. Tours last for three or four nights and are designed with exploration of iconic sites in mind, such as the Cambodian temple town of Siem Reap. Along the way there are plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs onshore – more active guests may even get to do some exploring on an electric bike. Visit traditional settlements where almost all the daily essentials are still produced the old-fashioned way. From paper to silk, fishing nets to incense, many of the local goods are handcrafted by artisans who follow the traditions of their forefathers.

Travel ashore and experience the local way of life.

Travel ashore and experience the local way of life.

If you are keen on some sightseeing, make a stop at one of the temples dedicated to Cao Dai, an intriguing religion unique to southern Vietnam. Cao Dai temples are as colourful as the religion itself, which blends elements of Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Confucianism and Islam. The eclectic pantheon of saints includes a colourful blend of characters including not just Buddha and Jesus, but also Julius Caesar and Joan of Arc.

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE

The area's natural wonders include the Tra Su forest, a flooded former plantation that is now a wildlife reserve. The only way to explore this nature-lovers' haven is on a small skiff with locals manning the oars. As you row quietly through the reserve's network of canals, some of which are filled with water lilies, you can expect to see some of the area's distinctive bird life.

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Float through the Tra Su forest whilst keeping on the lookout for the area's distinct wildlife.

Float through the Tra Su forest whilst keeping on the lookout for the area's distinct wildlife.

While there is plenty to explore onshore, one of the joys of a Mekong river cruise is the opportunity to spend a lazy afternoon on deck watching life unfold on the banks. On days when the sun is blazing down, you can cool down with a dip in the pool, or beat the heat by retiring to the bar for a refreshing beverage. You may want to take part in a cocktail-making class, or simply relax with a massage.

Meals onboard include plenty of opportunities to sample the local cuisine. Southern Vietnamese food is known for its bright, bold flavours, drawing on fish sauce and shrimp paste, plenty of fresh herbs, and aromatic spices including star anise and cinnamon. Naturally there is plenty of seafood on the menu, including the delicately-flavoured crabs that are a regional favourite. Don't rush off straight after the meal; local music and dance performances delight into the evening.

2020 Early Bird Specials with Wendy Wu Tours, out now, save up to $600 per person on over 50 tours and 500 departures.

Experience the beauty of the Mekong on one of four new itineraries, introducing brand new deluxe river cruise vessel, the Victoria Mekong! With a maximum 18 people per group, and 2 new private tours. Ranging from an introductory tour of the wonders of southern Vietnam and Cambodia to an in-depth journey through Indochina, each itinerary offers the perfect showcase for the treasures of this delightful region. Whether it's the natural splendour of the Yangtze or the glimpse of rural local life on the Chindwin, we have an Asia River Cruise that is perfect for you, fully inclusive, with optional shore excursions all you need to do is choose the date and we'll see you in Asia in 2020. Visit us at www.wendywutours.com.au or call our friendly reservations team on 1300176914.

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