We recently had the absolute pleasure to complete a 3-day sailing on the Mekong River from Ho Chi Ming City in Vietnam to Phnom Penh in Cambodia aboard the beautiful ship MV Mekong Explorer, better known as ‘The Jayavarman’. This ship is considered 4-star in comfort and facilities, and as we have done very little cruising, we accepted the invitation of this cruise with great enthusiasm and anticipation!
Our journey started in Ho Chi Minh City where we greeted other members of the cruise, and at approx 9.30 am departed Ho Chi Minh City and enjoyed the leisurely two-hour drive south to the village of My Tho. On arrival in My Tho we were quickly offered the opportunity to board The Jayavarman and check into our cabin. Upon boarding passengers surrender their passports to staff who keep them in a secured safe, where they remain until the day 2 border crossing however, we will talk about this further in the blog.
The Jayavarman is a beautiful vessel and very affordable whilst being a great way to experience a short river cruise, it has a maximum occupancy of 54 passengers, one of the lowest passenger numbers of any vessel, with every cabin above the waterline, and every cabin has a private balcony for passengers enjoyment and privacy.
The layout of this ship is wonderful and to be rated 4-star is not doing it justice in terms of comfort. We suggest one of the only reasons is the smallest cabin size, which in the Jayavarman is 21sqm, and we still found this large enough and did not feel cramped or uncomfortable. After checking in and becoming familiar with your cabin you are asked to meet in the lounge for a cruise briefing by the staff which lasts for 20 mins or so, as the ship sets sail and then it’s time to settle in for lunch in the dining room. The cruise staff is very courteous and helpful as you would expect and no problem was too much trouble, and help was always with a warm smile. After a relaxed lunch, the afternoon is spent at your leisure.
Clients can choose from 3 different categories of cabin available on The Jayavarman. There are 14 Superior State Rooms, 11 Deluxe State Rooms, and located on the Upper Deck, two Signature State Rooms. The top-level of The Jayavarman has several sun lounges and a small pool to enjoy a refreshing dip, whilst on the terrace deck is an observation area, dining hall and Club 1930 Bar & Lounge, which is a perfect location to enjoy a refreshing drink as you watch the world go by cruising the Mekong River.
We enjoyed a stunning sunset on day 1 whilst enjoying a drink at Club 1930 as the ship reaches Cai Bai, where it sets anchor for the evening. This evening we enjoyed a wonderful 3-course dinner on board in the dining hall before enjoying the evening at leisure, and after a quick nightcap, it was not long before we retired to our room for a good night’s sleep.
Day 2 commenced with an early morning coffee on the observation deck as we watched life on the Mekong begin its day, or for those looking for something more energetic, enjoy some Tai Chi instead as the sun is rising. A delicious breakfast is served at a reasonable hour and guests are not rushed if they have slept in from the evening before. This morning after breakfast we started our first shore excursion and visited the floating markets of Cai Be. Clients leave the Jayavarman by way of a series of Sampans, and for those guests with mobility issues, please do not have any concerns as the staff is well-trained to help. The Sampans are a great way to navigate from the ship to shore and are very easy to embark and disembark from. This morning we leave The Jayavarman and navigate to the floating markets Cai Be is famous for. As we navigate through the market on our Sampan, you have the opportunity to photograph and engage with the locals, experience the smells and sounds, and the craziness of the floating market before we go ashore and visit a workshop manufacturing rice paper and rice wine. Cai Be and its surrounding areas are covered by palm trees and hence the region is also famous for the production of coconut candies, and on our Sampan we continue to cruise through the lush and green canal network and observe farmers working in the fields before we head back to The Jayavarman for lunch. As you enjoy a lovely lunch, The Jayavarman sets sail again and after lunch, spend the afternoon at your leisure, be it a spa treatment, enjoying the sun on the top deck, enjoying a refreshing drink at the bar, or spending time on your cabin balcony. As The Jayavarman continues to cruise to its overnight location of Tan Chau near the Cambodian border, this evening we enjoyed a wonderful dinner before relaxing with a drink and good book on our balcony before getting a good night’s sleep.
After a restful sleep, we began our day with breakfast on our balcony as something a little different and enjoyed the sun rising on the Mekong, watching the mighty river come to life. This morning we again embarked onto the Sampan for a morning tour of Tan Chau, a small village on the river with a relaxed feel. As we toured the town and visited the local market and temples, we also bordered a local boat and cruised up some of the little arms of the Mekong before finishing at a floating fish farm. During this morning’s tours, unbeknown to us, the customers/immigration officers were on board The Jayavarman and completing customs procedures for us. As we return around lunchtime, we again enjoyed lunch on our balcony as the Jayavarman begins her cruise into Cambodia. The afternoon was spent at our leisure and we chose to join in a cooking class the crew ran during the afternoon. This was a wonderful experience, as you sail along the Mekong River, watching the local river life go by, and enjoying a cool refreshing drink at the same time. It was a perfect afternoon!
This evening was our last with the other guests onboard and like the previous 2, the food and service were exaptational and the staff on this vessel need a special mention, as no problem was too big! This evening we decided to spend at the bar, enjoying some lively conversation whilst also enjoying a lovely iced tea, or two!….lol This evening The Jayavarman arrives and docks late into Phnom Penh for the 1st night in Cambodia.
Following a great night’s sleep, we were awake early in the morning for the last breakfast on board before checking out of our cabin, bidding our fellow passengers a fond farewell, completing check-out procedures with The Jayavarman, and then meeting our driver on the dock who provided our private vehicle transfer to our hotel for the evening.
On this occasion we enjoyed the short cruise of 4 days / 3 nights however, travelers can participate in the long cruise of 8 days / 7 nights and we have no doubt, every day will be very enjoyable and one to remember. There are now several vessels to choose from when considering a cruise on the Mekong River, and we suggest to everyone, please do your research on each vessel before making a choice. As an e.g. there are vessels that carry over 100 passengers, not all rooms have private balconies, not all shore excursions are included, and not all cabin sizes are bigger than The Jayavarman.
This vessel is of exceptional value for money, extremely comfortable, and well worth considering when looking for a small ship river cruise in Asia. For more information please do not hesitate to contact us here at The Ornate Travel Centre.