If you're planning to see the world and soak up some rich culture on a gap year, take a water cruise through the Far Eastern countries of Vietnam and Cambodia. Following the course of the Mekong River, you can explore both nations over a couple of weeks, admiring dramatic scenery, meeting tribal communities and generally learning more about these culturally-rich nations.
Travelling via riverboat allows you to take in much more than you perhaps could had you chosen a gap break where you'd be based in just location. Begin your adventure at Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam and before you set sail, spend some time exploring. Among the main attractions to take in here are the colonial landmarks and the Emperor Jade Pagoda, while you could also visit Ben Thanh market before boarding your boat and setting off.
The ship, which is specially designed for river cruising, will transport you to Cai Be, where you can browse the goods available at the many floating markets, as well as sample some local food like rice noodles and coconut candy. Afterwards, you can take a boat excursion through the river's delta and take in the sight of the house belonging to Mr Huynh Thuy Le, a character in Marguerite Dura's autobiographic novel.
You'll then journey on to Chau Doc, on the border between Vietnam and Cambodia, where you can visit a tribal Cham village and take a ride on a trishaw. Stop off at a catfish farm and then return to your boat, which will take you to the next port of call, Phnom Penh. This is a great spot to tour by bike, so rent a bicycle and take in the landmarks, which include the National Museum of Cambodia and the royal palace.
Remaining in Phnom Penh the following day, you'll have some time to really get to know the city, so make your way around the museum and call in at the Buddhist temple of Wat Phnom. If you want to learn more about Cambodia's history during a cruise in 2012, visit the poignant site of the Killing Fields in Choeung Ek. Back onboard, venture on to the Khmer river community of Chong Koh, and stop off to look around the village of Peam chi Kang.
At Kampong Cham, you'll be able to climb on to the shore and take in the stunning sight of the Twin Holy Mountains, as well as visit the Wat Hanchey temple, which is perched on top of a hill. Kampong Thom is the next port of call and you'll disembark from your boat here and take a ride through the Cambodian countryside to Siem Reap.
From here, you can travel to Angkor and admire the temple at the UNESCO World Heritage site. The building was put up in the 12th century and is certainly worth a few snaps, so keep your camera to hand. Afterwards, make your way round Angkor Thom, a fortified city, and call in at the old Bayon Temple before visiting a rural silk farm. Head through the network of craft studios known as Artisans d'Angkor to watch craftsmen in action and board a flight to Hanoi, where you'll spend a day or so.
A guided tour of the settlement will point out some fascinating landmarks, including the One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature and the Museum of Ethnology, while the Hanoi Hilton Prison is another attraction for visitors as this was formerly where American prisoners of war were held captive during the Vietnam War. Sword Lake and the Ho Chi Minh Memorial are other landmarks worth taking in during a river cruise to Hanoi.