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In 2014, Aqua Expeditions pioneered luxury cruising on the Mekong River between Vietnam and Cambodia with the launch of the 205-foot Aqua Mekong. The ship is outfitted with a gym, screening room, outdoor cinema, observation deck and upper-deck pool. With twenty suites — the river’s largest — overlooking the Mekong through floor-to-ceiling windows, guests have the perfect bird’s eye view to take in the surroundings.
Sailers benefit from dining on cuisine crafted by top Southeast Asian cuisine chef, David Thompson. Beyond the culinary experiences, the region comes to life with exciting excursions. Guests can board private tenders for expert-guided trips to serene Buddhist temples and stilted villages as they explore by bicycle and kayak.
Put aside what you’ve heard about Southeast Asia’s infernal days and monsoonal downpours. Traveling across this captivating region aboard the Aqua Mekong extends the optimal time to visit Cambodia and Vietnam from the very limited dry season between November and February to a full 48 weeks per year, excluding four weeks of maintenance.
Tropical temperatures across Southeast Asia generally fluctuate between 26°C (78°F) and 32°C (86°F). In the warmest months of March and April, this figure may climb as high as 38°C (100°F), but Mekong River waters flow from the icy Tibetan Plateau. This takes the edge off this equatorial swelter, making river travel the ideal way to experience this captivating region.
Even when it rains, as it does throughout the year, the Aqua Mekong’s luxury tenders and water-based excursions remain extremely comfortable during these usually short cloudbursts. Rainy season arrives with the southwest monsoon in May and lasts through October. This actually creates the high water conditions that allow Aqua Mekong skiffs to cruise deeper into Vietnam’s emerald flooded forest, to Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake and along otherwise inaccessible yet fascinating tributaries. Despite the name, rain only falls around an hour each day and usually in the afternoon. Excursions from the Aqua Mekong are timed so that, cocktail in hand, guests may soak up the timeless romance of rain on the river while comfortably under cover.
Chef David Thompson cooks up world-class meals, which guests can enjoy with a glass or two of premium wine and beer which are served on board at all times. There is one dining room on board where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style and dinner consists of multiple courses. The food is fantastic! For fun off of the ship, all excursions are all included.
For Aqua Expeditions founder Francesco Galli Zugaro, the ultimate river safari includes the best creatures comforts on board as well as unparalleled experiences with local experts in small groups exploring a destination. True to that vision are the 20 air conditioned Design Suites of the Aqua Mekong, each one a generous 30 square meters (320 square feet), eight with balconies and all created entirely of local materials with the relaxed sophistication and contemporary comforts of a five star resort.
Floor to ceiling panoramic windows allow guests to gaze upon the Mekong from the pillow top California king size bed that can be converted upon request into two full twin beds. More captivating views await on the plush, roomy daybed placed by the window wall or for our eight balcony accommodations, outside along with a romantic table for two. Those who wish to keep up on the world beyond these enthralling riverbanks will appreciate complementary internet with intermittent connection.
The sleek bathroom features the latest eco-sensitive technology and an additional Mekong River facing picture window, plus dual sinks, a large walk in shower with rainforest showerhead and bench, professional hairdryer and natural bath amenities.
Four sets of interconnecting suites, with two sets on each deck offer convenience for traveling families. Or for the ultimate luxury, passengers may book these interconnecting accommodations, with one suite configured as a private living room, the other as a bedroom, and separate baths. The result is a private, 60 square meter (640 square foot) floating apartment on the Mekong River.
Sunlit indoors and out, the top level Observation Deck aboard the Aqua Mekong has been designed to seamlessly connect guests with the constantly shifting landscape of floating Vietnamese villages, French colonial church spires and gilded Buddhist stupas along this mighty river, always in the utmost comfort. Most guests find their way several times a day to the social life of the Aqua Mekong’s top floor Observation Deck, to the fully stocked bar in the Indoor Lounge, the well edited selection of Indochine classics in the library and films in the private screening room. After dark, the action is up above, when Southeast Asia’s night sky fills with constellations and shooting stars.
Choose to relax at either the bow or the stern of the Aqua Mekong in the ship’s Outdoor Lounges located on the Observation Deck level. Both the bow and the stern lounges are outfitted with comfortable sun loungers and at the front, plenty of shade under a soaring canopy, plus a rooftop bar, fully stocked to mix any sip. Sip sundowners by the river-facing plunge pool or let its cool waters take the edge off the equatorial swelter after an Aqua Expedition’s excursion into the emerald flooded forest or among the colorful melee of floating markets.
Guests gravitate to the Indoor Lounge in the mornings for cà phê đá, Vietnamese coffee poured over ice with sweet condensed milk, between excursions to swap travelers tales and for daily lectures from Aqua Expedition’s expert local guides. Learn about topics relevant to upcoming excursions, from the origins of Buddhism in Vietnam and Cambodia to the ecology of the great Ton Le Sap River, home year round to Brahminy kites, blue tailed bee eaters and pied kingfishers.
Awarded the first ever Michelin star for a restaurant serving Southeast Asian food, Australian chef David Thompson moved to Bangkok where his Nahm restaurant ranks at the top of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. As Consulting Chef of the Aqua Mekong, Thompson incorporates the diverse culinary traditions of Mekong River cultures.
Under the guidance of the world renowned Thompson, the Aqua Mekong’s dishes incorporate the timeless flavors and sustainable ingredients of the Mekong’s fertile fields. Thompson built his international reputation on Southeast Asian recipes culled from historic sources, a delectable tradition he continues on board the Aqua Mekong. He brings together the finest recipes of Khmer and Vietnamese river cultures, incorporating the day’s
catch and the market’s freshest produce, be it smoked fish, tapioca and vegetable dumplings, Vietnamese catfish minced with shallots, chilies and Thai basil, or grilled river prawns with peanut relish. Linger over lemongrass tea or something considerably more decadent, like a luscious Vietnamese artisanal chocolate fondant.
Francesco Galli Zugaro is an international explorer, entrepreneur, and trendsetter. Enjoy insider access as you discover his favorite spots and behind-the-scenes insights of these unique destinations. Sailings available from March 22nd to 26th beginning and ending in Phnom Penh.
Get a sneak peek at the Aqua Mekong culinary experience through the eyes of Chef David Thompson, recipient of a Michelin star and James Beard Award. Learn firsthand about his passion for cooking and what’s so unique about creating Southeast Asian cuisine. Sailings available from August 16th-20th and September 13th – 17th (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Cambodia).
The Mekong River
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