Exploring Cambodia And Vietnam Through The Eyes Of “La Marguerite”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Most cruise lines seek to provide its customers with what I call the “Best Of” trip (e.g., “See the Best of the Mediterranean: From Scenic Livorno to the Seascapes of San Tropez”). While this is probably a very lovely way to sail and explore, I often want to experience all of what a country has to offer, and if that means trying a deep-fried tarantula as so not to offend the custom of devouring such a treat, then so be it.

Luckily, there are cruises that will venture to places that envelope the cultural core of a country without distributing rose-colored glasses. The Sydney Morning Herald recently cruised on the La Marguerite, for an eight-day, seven-night cruise along the Mekong River from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City, with excursions beyond the stunning temples and ornate palaces (you’ll see these too) of Cambodia and Vietnam. Trips from the boat include, but are not limited to: a personalized tour of the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh, a catfish farm, a rice polishing factory, a silk coloring workshop in Tan Chau, a brick kiln near Sa Dec, and the floating markets around Cai Be.

You can probably guess the name La Marguerite is not of Cambodian or Vietnamese origin, but is French. The ship’s identity belongs to the French novelist, Marguerite Duras, whose memoir, The Lover, describes a sultry affair between a poor French girl and a wealthy Chinese man in Vietnam in the 1930s.

The vessel’s luxurious décor emulates subtle designs from the French colonial era, creating a dreamy setting amidst the raw beauty of the Mekong. Passengers who want to learn more about Duras can board small boats to the village of Sa Dec to tour a local museum built in her honor, and cruise past the house where The Lover was filmed.

Still not intrigued? In that case, you could always opt to lounge on the sundeck while enjoying cocktails, taking in the sights and sounds of the sinuous Mekong. As for the rest? I’m pretty sure an awakening to a small country’s dark history, the exploration of intricate trades, and ambling amongst the pungent yet invigorating smells of drifting markets will likely meet your  “Best Of” quota.

By Maria Russo


About the Author

Maria Russo is a freelance writer who loves natural wonders, good eats, ethical travel, and boutique hotels. Her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, USA Today.com, People.com and A Luxury Travel Blog, among others.

When Maria is not writing for her all-time favorite site (that would be The Expeditioner), she spends her time blogging about foreign jaunts and delectable food experiences for her site: Memoirs of a Travel & Food Addict. She is also up to no good on Twitter (@traveladdictgrl, @expedmaria).

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