I flew into Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and flew out of Siem Reap, both via Bangkok, for an all-inclusive fare of approx. Rs 40,000. The carriers from and to Bangkok were Vietnam Airlines and Bangkok Airways, respectively. There are connections from India via Malaysia and Singapore as well, but Bangkok seems to be the most convenient.
You can get a Vietnam visa on arrival ($25 for single entry) if you have a visa approval letter. Several websites can process this letter for a small fee ($20 for single entry); I used vietnam-visa.org. The Cambodia visa ($27) is on arrival.
The Vietnamese currency is the dong. $1=Rs 53=21,000 dong. The Cambodian currency is the riel, but dollars are freely accepted. $1=4,000 riel.
- The Boat With just 27 rooms, the Jayavarman is a medium-sized river- and sea-going vessel, 58m from tip to toe, and boasts a hull inspired by the legendary 1930s liner SS Normandie. There are three levels—the lowest houses the superior cabins and spa, the second has the deluxe accommodation, lounge, reception and boutique, while the third comprises the restaurant, bar and wheelroom. Topping it all is a sun deck with a jacuzzi. There’s a new sister boat, the India-inspired Jahan.
- Itineraries The cruise, from Saigon to Siem Reap (or vice versa), is operated by Heritage Line (heritage-line.com). Several itineraries are on offer, the longest being 7 nights (Saigon-Cai Be-Sa Dec-Chau Doc-Phnom Penh-Kampong Cham-Kampong Chhnang-Siem Reap). While you can do the cruise in any direction, I strongly recommend sailing upstream from Saigon—there’s something quite magical about ending your trip at Angkor. You can also do shorter 3- or 4-night trips, from or to Phnom Penh. Just want a taste? Do the 2N ‘Deep in the Delta’ cruise (Saigon-Chau Doc; only from June to September). Note that the itineraries are subject to modification based on river conditions and that the cruise does not run in May. Heritage Line can organise pre- and post-cruise tours as well as accommodation in Saigon and Siem Reap.
- Tariff From $2,700 per person for the full trip (till March). In the low season (June-October 5), the tariff for the same is as low as $1,900. Trust me, it’s really good value for what’s on offer. Inclusions: full board, water, coffee and tea from 6.30am, $65 Phnom Penh port tax, excursions, entrance fees, transportation, tour guide services, taxes, fuel, pilots, port dues, transfers in Saigon and Siem Reap. Exclusions: Cambodia visa (but arranged by Heritage Line), beverages, laundry, phone, spa. ‘Deep in the Delta’ costs just $550 per person.
- Contact Heritage Line is represented in India by Cruise Masters, a boutique cruise specialist: Sumit Banerji, Cruise Masters, 56 Institutional Area, Sec-44, Gurgaon; 0124-4534507; sumitbanerji AT cruisemasters.in