Encounter life on Southeast Asia’s greatest river aboard the Aqua Mekong, a luxury cruiser that slinks on scenic three-, four- and seven-night itineraries between various ports in Vietnam and Cambodia. Inspired by traditional Khmer and Vietnamese building styles, the vessel is made entirely of materials produced along the Mekong, including dark patinated leather, finely woven textiles and wood panelling that glows auburn in sunlight. After discovering temples, floating villages and hidden Buddhist monasteries, you’ll have time to revel in the indulgent facilities, which include an outdoor plunge pool, spa, library, two well-stocked bars and a fine-dining restaurant with a menu by renowned chef David Thompson.
Earliest check-in for cruises departing from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap is 3.30pm; for cruises departing from My Tho, 3pm. Latest check-out for cruises arriving at Phnom Penh or Siem Reap is 11.30am; for those arriving at My Tho, 8am.
Double rooms from $1890.00.
Rates include all meals; select fine wines and beers; non-alcoholic drinks; daily excursions; onboard lectures; evening entertainment; transfers (from Siem Reap or Saigon) to and from the boat.
Don't forget that inspect repellant if you want to sit outside at night.
The boat docks for several weeks of maintenance each year, usually around June.
At the hotel
Indoor and outdoor lounge areas; observation deck; spa; gym; library; games room; screening room; free WiFi in communal areas; laundry. In rooms: air-conditioning; Nespresso coffee machine; tea-making kit; free bottled water; bath products by Siam Botanicals.
Our favourite rooms
All suites have the same elegant interiors and floor-to-ceiling windows, so picking one comes down to whether you’d prefer a furnished balcony or a slightly larger living area with a day-bed.
The pool takes pride of place at the front of the upper deck, giving bathers a 180-degree view of the river and the life on its banks. It’s heated and has submerged seating running along the sides, making it a fine place to sit with a drink in the evenings.
The onboard spa offers a range of massages, drawing from traditional Khmer, Asian and Swedish techniques. Manicures, pedicures and reflexology treatments are available too.
You’ll want light, comfy clothing for the day trips, some of which are done on bikes. Bear in mind you’ll need to cover your legs and shoulders for temple visits.
There are steps between each deck and no specially adapted rooms, so the boat isn't particularly suited to wheelchair users.
Children over seven are welcome onboard.
Aqua Mekong is a bit of an eco-warrior, harnessing the latest technology to minimise noise and water pollution. There’s also a water filtration system onboard, the bath products are all environmentally friendly and the restaurant sources its fruit, vegetables and seafood from local farmers and fishermen.
With windows on three sides of the room, you’ll have a regal view regardless of where you sit. It really comes down to whether you want to dine as a pair or sit on a table with new-found friends.
Things are fairly casual during the day, but dinner is a more dressed-up affair – shirts, smart trousers and dresses are the norm.
The restaurant cuts a sharp character with its handsome wooden floor, patinated leather chairs, fine bone china and crystal glassware. The menu is the work of Michelin-starred chef David Thompson, the man behind Bangkok’s Nahm, rated among the top five restaurants in Asia. For Aqua Mekong, David spliced his mastery of Thai cuisine with Khmer and Vietnamese influences, paying tribute to the culinary cultures found along the Mekong delta. The menu changes constantly, with each day's offering reflecting the latest catch or the chef’s discovery of some particularly fresh produce at a local market. Expect fish and coconut curries cooked in banana leaves, freshly caught Mekong river prawns served with traditional peanut relish, and decadent Asian-style desserts.
The main bar sits at the far end of the lounge, an inviting, wood-clad room filled with pale grey sofas and cane plantation chairs. The drinks menu was created by Singapore-based firm Proof & Company, an independent spirit specialist credited with shaking new life into the Lion city’s bar scene. You’ll probably encounter a few craft spirits that you've never heard of, but we’ll wager you’ll come away with a list of new favourites after you’ve tried them in the finely-tuned pina coladas, margaritas and Singapore slings. There’s a second bar outside on the pool deck, where tables and chairs are arranged beneath a large canopy, making this a shady spot when the sun is at its peak.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 9am; lunch from noon until 2pm; dinner from 7pm to 10pm. The bar opens at 7am is open through to 11pm.
Aqua Mekong sails between My Tho Port (near Ho Chi Minh City), Phnom Penh Autonomous Port (or Phnom Penh Passenger Terminal during the low-water season) and Siem Reap Port.
Ho Chi Minh City can be reached direct from London Heathrow and larger airports on the continent; Phnom Penh and Siem Riep are best reached via Bangkok.
Transfers from Siem Reap and Saigon to the docks are included in your rate, so there’s no need to do any driving yourself.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you’re harbouring any fears that being on a boat might mean a somewhat insular encounter with the world beyond your floating walls, you can safely lay those to rest. Rates include an extensive program of morning and afternoon excursions, ensuring guests are immersed in the local culture at every stage of the route. The boat carries several nimble skiffs, used to ferry guests to shore or cut away from the main river and explore life along its estuaries. You’ll have the chance to browse floating markets; see villagers weaving kroma, a scarf-like garment owned by almost every Cambodian; bike to hidden monasteries; hike to hilltop pagodas; and encounter life in a floating village. In Phnom Penh, you’ll see the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda; in Siem Reap, you’re at the gateway to the vast Angkor complex.
All meals are included, so other than the occasional mid-excursion snack, you’ll have them all on the boat.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this river cruise on the Mekong and unpacked their Khmer antiques, a full account of their river cruise will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Aqua Mekong…
Beginning on the Tibetan Plateau before carving its way through mountains, rainforests and cities, the Mekong is the lifeblood of Southeast Asia. Supporting every type of community and industry imaginable, it’s alive with dozens of cultures, colours and types of cuisine, and the ever-changing landscape means there’s often something new around the next bend. Just the ticket for a leisurely cruise, then, and there’s no finer vessel to bear you upriver than the luxurious Aqua Mekong. Slinking though the water between Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the boat begins and ends its journey at some of Southeast Asia’s greatest cities, so you’re already ticking off bucket-list destinations before you even get started on the floating villages, rural waterways and weaving towns that lie between them. Taking a maximum of 40 passengers at any time, it never feels remotely crowded, either, so when you do return from the day’s cultural immersions, you won’t be competing for space as you sip your Singapore Sling or leaf through a tome in the library. Instead, you’ll find yourself falling into step with the slow and steady pace of the river – and wishing life could always be so easy.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Aqua Mekong’s Guestbook below.
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