Sip a gin cocktail (made with your pick of over 100 brands in their “ginventory”) at the historic Elephant Bar at Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh
We discover all of this as we journey. The ship—and all its glorious trappings—is one thing. The shore is something else. Most river cruise itineraries include daily trips ashore. This is the time not only to stretch your legs but also to immerse yourself in the local culture.
In Sa Déc, once the largest city on the Mekong Delta, we savour lotus tea and candied ginger at the home of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, the inspiration for Marguerite Duras’ 1984 novel, The Lover. At the nearby market, vendors sell fresh watermelons and bamboo shoots, live river prawns and mangrove crabs. We enjoy local ingredients both on land and back on the ship, where the menu reflects regional cuisine, such as duck breast with red cabbage and tamarind. Fresh, fruit-centric desserts are irresistible: the mango sticky rice with coconut sorbet is a particular guest favourite. On another day, a visit to the 850-hectare Tra Su Bird Sanctuary presents a visual feast, with hill mynah birds and painted storks soaring above wetlands accessible by small boats via narrow canals.
Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh demands more than a day to take everything in. Afternoon tea at Raffles Hotel Le Royal is a treat for the eyes and the taste buds. Built in 1929, the hotel showcases French colonial architecture accented by the works of local artisans. Tea at the Elephant Bar pairs scones and clotted cream with a cognac-and-champagne cocktail called the Femme Fatale, created for Jackie Kennedy when she visited in 1967.
This is the beauty of our river cruise—the ability to combine luxury indulgence with visits to significant sites and monuments. We wander the gilded century-old Throne Hall at the Cambodian Royal Palace, decorated outside with statues of Buddhist deities and inside with ornate thrones and golden busts.