Rich in culture, history, art and food; my journey through Vietnam and Cambodia in Southeast Asia was unlike any other. I had always dreamt of traveling to Cambodia to witness the ancient temples of Angkor Watt and Angkor Thom being reclaimed by the by the jungle around it, but what I experienced was so much more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.
I began my trip in Ho Chi Minh City and was fortunate to stay in the city’s heart at the Reverie Saigon Hotel. Opulent, 6 plus stars for sure, with high marble walls and eye-popping décor; I was in the lap of luxury.
With so much to do in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) I recommend a minimum of two days. A visit to the Reunification Building is a must as we should never forgot our country’s role in the Vietnam War. The city was occupied by the French for many years and it is immediately apparent in the city’s architecture as well as the daily profusion of freshly-baked baguettes. They even have their own mini version of Notre Dame Cathedral.
The baguettes in Vietnam are even lighter and airier than their western counterparts, with a much thinner crust; this is due to the use of rice flour mixed in with the wheat flour. Street food is fantastic, using only the finest ingredients and freshest herbs. Pho (a beef noodle soup) is a major staple for breakfast or lunch. Its complex broth is developed from hours of simmering beef bones, oxtail, flank steak, onion, ginger and spices. So much of the street food is light, fresh and, unlike other food throughout Asia, is rarely fried in oil.
We left Saigon by boarding our charming boat the Aqua Mekong. We were greeted with live music and welcome cocktails. In fact, we received a welcome cocktail every time we returned from an excursion, as well a shoe cleaning. The staff was always so attentive and were quick to remember all of my likes and dislikes, and they offered complimentary laundry service every day of the tour. The chef aboard the Aqua Mekong was sensational, preparing authentic Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes for every meal. They also have an alternative menu, offering western food if you are feeling a tad homesick.
We spent four days sailing up the Mekong River starting in the Vietnamese Mekong River delta, up to Cambodia’s capitol city Phenom Penh. In the river’s delta we witnessed the fast-paced life of the Vietnamese fishermen, walked the market with a local chef, biked the country side, and even got to shop at a wholesale floating market done all by boats in the middle of the river.