Summary : A journey through Cambodia and Vietnam makes for a memorable and varied experience. Exploring Vietnam and Cambodia along the Mekong River offers access to traditional villages as well as bustling cities for a panoramic and immersive experience of these two very different countries. With magnificent Angkor Wat as the centerpiece, the Angkor area stands out as a place that absolutely must be experienced. Visit Phnom Penh and Saigon, touring sites important to the cities’ 20th-century histories, and encounter the dynamic, positive spirit of the people of these extraordinary regions. In the great Vietnamese city of Saigon (officially called Ho Chi Minh City), explore a burgeoning metropolis with an interesting colonial legacy. These beautiful countries with centuries of history and culture provide a fascinating, rich experience.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking
$10,980 to $16,580
Take connecting flights to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Arrive in Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor, in the evening. Spend the next three nights at outstanding La Résidence d’Angkor, built along the Siem Reap River in traditional Khmer style, with spacious rooms with teak furniture and bamboo screens
In the morning, venture out for an introduction to the area at the fine small temple of Banteay Srei, known for its exceptional carvings. After lunch, stop at Les Artisans d’Angkor, where you see how local artisans preserve age-old Khmer arts. Then visit the evocative temple Ta Prohm. The jungle has been allowed to continue growing here, framing the structures with the twisted roots and branches of ceiba and fig trees, giving you an idea of what archaeologists encountered when they began their work in the area. This evening, gather for welcome drinks and dinner at your hotel.
Begin early in order to get to Angkor Wat in time for sunrise. This visionary 12th-century temple, the world’s largest religious monument, represents the apogee of Khmer art and architecture. Crowned by five towers, with elaborate bas-reliefs and a profusion of statues that dramatically depict complex religious tales, along with some 2,000 carved apsaras (beautiful female spirits), Angkor Wat is enthralling. Return to your hotel for a late breakfast. In the afternoon, take tuk-tuks (motorized taxis) to the great remains of Angkor Thom, seeing the Bayon Temple, known for its dozens of serene stone faces of King Jayavarman VII, and the Terrace of the Elephants. Tonight enjoy dinner at a fine local restaurant.
This morning, venture eastward, with a picnic lunch, to the Mekong River. Embark Jahan, your home for the next seven nights, at the town of Kampong Cham. In the late afternoon, begin sailing along the Mekong, with welcome drinks and dinner aboard your ship.
Wat Hanchey, which you visit in the morning, is a large temple complex atop a hill overlooking an exceptionally beautiful stretch of the Mekong, offering outstanding views. There is a lot to see here: an 8th-century temple from the pre-Angkor Chenla period, an Angkor-era temple, some fine contemporary temples, and a school. Or you may visit the Mekong island of Koh Dach, which has a lively and active monastery and also an extensive community of silk weavers, where you may watch artisans at work. In the afternoon, visit the community of Angkor Ban, with many old-style houses that are built on stilts—some of them very tall. There’s a chance to walk through town and meet the friendly local residents. There is a fine pagoda along the riverside, and views of the fields across the river that runs into the Mekong.
This morning, visit Kampong Tralach, on the banks of the Tonle Sap River. Kampong Tralach is a small village that relied on subsistence fishing and working the rice paddies. Take local oxcarts through the rice paddies, and see the age-old rhythms of life in the Cambodian countryside. Cruise up the fascinating Tonle Sap River. In the afternoon, visit the town of Kampong Chnang. Drive a short way to a village where pottery is still made of sale to local residents by traditional methods. See how the pots are made and learn about the uses of the palm tree, complete with a taste of palm sugar if you're so inclined. Then local boats will take you along the Tonle Sap for a glimpse into a unique way of life: see the floating houses and shops that line the riverbanks here.
Today will be a full, rewarding day exploring the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, situated at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap Rivers. You begin with a “cyclo” (bicycle taxi) ride to the magnificent Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, home and place of worship to Cambodia’s kings. The architecture, displays and furnishings are remarkable. Continue to the excellent National Museum, which has sculpture and many other artifacts from Khmer temples and other aspects of Cambodia’s history.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit an interesting local market, then venture out of town to the Choeung Ek “killing fields,” where many thousands of Cambodians were murdered by the Khmer Rouge and buried in mass graves. A moving memorial and museum are on the site. Late in the afternoon, visit the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, where innocent people were imprisoned, tortured, and many sent to their death. Exhibits show the determination of Cambodians that this should never happen again. Back aboard ship, an evening dance performance by children from a local orphanage shows how well the arts have been able to re-establish themselves.
As you sail along the Mekong, there’s a chance to see life along the river, with traditional ships, barges and freighters plying the waterway. There will be a chance to enjoy Jahan’s many amenities, to hear talks by staff and for chefs to show you how to prepare some of Cambodia and Vietnam’s signature dishes. Cross the border into Vietnam, where you will spend the rest of your journey.
Friendly Tan Chau has one of Vietnam’s most interesting markets, with an astonishing variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and other goods. You may continue to a small floating market on the river and a floating fish farm, where you see fish being fed through trap doors in the floating platforms.Alternatively, you may visit the village of Chau Doc, which also has an outstanding market and fish farms. In the afternoon, continue sailing the Mekong.
From the hamlet of Sadec, take a local boat along a channel off the main river, with much activity to be seen along the way. Visit a small community where the villagers grow, process and fashion water hyacinths into floor mats and rattan baskets — a real slice of life in the Mekong Delta.
At the town of Cai Be, see the floating market, where people in boats sell their wares. Each boat has an object attached to a pole that shows what is being sold. Then visit a rice “factory,” where varieties of rice-based candies are made. Rice husks are reused as fuel for the cooking process, and ash is sold to farmers for use as fertilizer. You’ll also visit a Chinese-style house built in 1838, and walk along local lanes to see loganberries being processed by the families who live there. On board Jahan, enjoy a gala farewell dinner.
Disembark Jahan in the morning in My Tho, and visit the great Vinh Trang pagoda, originally built in 1850. Transfer to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam’s greatest commercial center, where you’ll enjoy panoramic views from a tower in the heart of town. See the grand exteriors of the 1911 Opera House, the former city hall dating from 1908 and the Notre Dame Cathedral, a red-brick edifice with twin spires; and visit the General Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel. Then check in to the outstanding Park Hyatt, located in the heart of the city. In the late afternoon, meet with a local expert on Vietnam’s modern history. This evening, gather at an excellent local restaurant for dinner.
In the morning, see some of Saigon’s historic landmarks, which include a rich selection of fine colonial buildings. Continue to the Reunification Palace, headquarters of the South Vietnamese Government during the Vietnam War. The breaching of the gates by North Vietnamese tanks symbolically marked the war’s end. If you wish, end at the War Remnants Museum, which gives a strong view of the war through the eyes of the Vietnamese. The afternoon is free, or if you wish you can visit the Cu Chi tunnels, part of a huge network of tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war. Rooms are reserved until departure, and in the evening, transfer to the airport for flights home.
Arrive in the United States.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Reverse Itinerary: 1/25/2017, 2/22/2017 (Saigon-Siem Reap)
Optional Extension: Pre- or Post-voyage extension exploring Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, and Halong Bay, dependent on departure date. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Accommodations ashore and aboard ship; meals indicated; excursions; services of Expedition Leader and expert guides; internet access (in limited areas); port charges and service taxes.
Air transportation; some meals; personal items such as alcoholic beverages, emails, etc.; discretionary tips to ship’s crew.
PHOTOS: © Ralph Hammelbacher (Angor Wat Monks); © Nguyen Qui Doc (Sunset); © Karen Copeland (Statues, Ox Cart, Tree); © Michael S Nolan (Carts)