River cruises: Mekong and beyond

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Sunset on Tonle Sap, Cambodia Photo: Alamy

Sunset on Tonle Sap, Cambodia Photo: Alamy

Our river cruise started at Siem Reap. After crossing the 100-mile-long Lake Tonle Sap by motor launch, we were to sail 560 miles (900km) down the Mekong to Saigon in a week.

Before joining La Marguerite, we spent the morning immersed in the wondrous temples and ruins of Angkor Wat. Our guide, Mr Son, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, a Buddhist monk and now tour guide, proudly showed us the three best-known temples, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.

Back on deck, I sipped Angkor beer as I read Jon Swain’s River of Time, a romantic but also disturbing account of being a journalist in Cambodia and Vietnam during the years of conflict, and his friendship with photographer Dith Pran (the subject of the film, The Killing Fields). It was hard to associate the country’s traumatic past with the peaceful scenes slipping by: fishermen casting their nets from delicate sampans, picturesque houses built on stilts, gleaming new pagodas on the river bank, lush paddy fields, children riding water buffalo, and everyone smiling and waving.

Story by: Clare Mann

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

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