A first-time river cruiser and avid photographer, our very own Chris Bryan talks about his first time cruising the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia
What is your favourite thing about travelling?
Living in the moment and knowing that no matter what’s around the corner, it’s something that you’ve never seen or experienced before. Having the ability to be free gives me energy to want to explore, and my most memorable moments in life have started with overseas travelling.
Was this your first time River Cruising?
Yes this was my first ever river cruise. Having never experienced this style of travel, I was excited to see how it compared to group tours I had done in the past.
The Jayavarman, Chris’s first ever River Cruise. Image by Chris Bryan
What were your expectations before you left?
I was really looking forward to the shore excursions but was unsure about the amount of spare time that we’d have on board. I love photography and planned to use this time to go through photos and prepare for the shore excursions.
What surprised you the most?
The service delivered by each and every one of the staff on board. They were unbelievably friendly and went out of their way to deliver exceptional but most importantly, personalized service. The food on board the Jayavarman was both incredibly fresh and delicious, provided all passengers on board with the required energy to enjoy the excursions during the day.
Were there any challenges you faced on the trip?
River cruising offers relatively light excursions and easy to manage schedules during the day, so my greatest difficulty was building up the appetite to fit in the next extravagant meal!
What was the most exciting part of the trip?
Meeting the locals was the most exciting part of Chris’s trip and a fantastic opportunity for photography.
Walking through the villages and getting the opportunity to socialize with local villagers and interact with children who have had such a rural upbringing was very exciting for me. I love portrait photography and really enjoyed interacting with the locals.
What were the OTHER passengers like?
We had a group of 3 Vietnam War Veterans who were on an annual trip, and a lovely couple from Australia. Everyone was very friendly and despite our different backgrounds, all passengers on board were very easy-going and like-minded. There was a very social atmosphere on board and we got along really well.
Can you tell us a few of the highlights of the trip?
The chance to get hands-on with activities both on board and on the shore wad the highlight of Chris’s trip.
We started each morning with a relaxing but surprisingly energizing 30 minutes of Tai Chi, which was a great way to start the day. There was also a new swimming pool on board, which was very refreshing on the hotter days on the trip. The touring was very small-scale and the guide provided ample opportunity for us to interact with both Vietnamese and Cambodian locals in all of the villages that we visited.
We got a unique insight into the daily lives of the remote towns scattered along the Mekong and were constantly given chances to engage in hands-on demonstrations. This included pottery making, climbing palm trees to collect ingredients for palm sugar, tasting rice wine and feeding fish in the farms. On board the boat we also engaged in a fresh Vietnamese cooking class, as well as a fruit carving demonstration.
I was given ample opportunity to take beautiful photos of the breath-taking natural settings and friendly locals. The local guide on board the ship assisted me to communicate with the kids and older villagers, so that I could learn more about their stories.
How do you think travelling in Asia by River Cruise is different to travelling by land?
Seeing parts of rural Cambodia and Vietnam that are inaccessible to other tourists is what makes cruising unique
Travelling on a cruise gives you access to remote locations that most travellers don’t get the opportunity to visit. Given how difficult some of the locations are to get to, there are no accommodation options or dining choices available for tourists. Being on a cruise means that you have all the luxuries of a 5 star floating resort, while enjoying local touring that no other tourists are able to experience. We were the only travellers in any of the locations that we visited, and were given an unbelievably unique opportunity to explore remote areas that are otherwise inaccessible.
I know you are interested in photography, were you able to get some good pictures?
I had ample opportunity to take beautiful photos of both the beautiful landscape and amazing people that we met along the way. River cruising is a dream come true for any photographer wanting to capture the adventure that lies ahead in both Vietnam and Cambodia.
What advice would you give others considering a River Cruise in Asia?
Do your research to get a better understanding of the type of cruise that you want to embark on. Closely read the excursions and make sure that you are booking on a river cruise that’ll deliver the type of touring that you want to experience, and the cabin type that best meets your needs. The majority of your time is spent on the shore exploring the multiple excursions on offer, or enjoying the lounging areas and variety of facilities on board. Most importantly, get a good nights sleep, because you’ll want to be fresh in the mornings and won’t want to miss any of the amazing shore excursions!
Any insider tips from your trip?
Meeting the locals makes any shore excursion unforgettable.
Take part in all excursions, even if it doesn’t sound like something you’ll love. The professional guidance of the tour leaders on board and the interaction with the locals during the excursions makes any tour unforgettable. Make an effort to interact with both the guests and the staff on board. You’ll be surprised at how many amazing people you’ll meet along the way. And lastly, be sure to enjoy what’s in front of you. This opportunity will never come around again (until your next river cruise commences that is!)