Summary : A journey through Cambodia and Vietnam makes for a memorable and varied experience. Explore Vietnam and Cambodia along the Mekong River for access to traditional villages as well as bustling cities for a panoramic and immersive experience of these two very different countries. Spend two days exploring the legendary religious sites of Angkor, in the company of our experts and local guides. Visit communities and learn the ways of life along the river, including subsistence fishing and small industries. Explore Phnom Penh and Saigon, touring sites important to the cities’ 20th-century histories. Travel in extraordinary comfort and see many of the countries’ cultural highpoints.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking
Just-Released Offer $1,000 Air Credit
$11,190 to $18,760
Take connecting flights to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
This day is en route, partly "lost" to the International Date Line.
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. For guests arriving in time, there will be an afternoon visit to the Angkor National Museum, which gives a fine orientation to the region's history.
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 the 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 a very special treat: a private group dinner by candlelight at one of Angkor's temples, complete with Cambodian music and dance. The effect of seeing the temple gently illuminated and taking in the age-old performing arts is magical, and is bound to stand out as a highlight of your travels.
This morning drive eastward, with a box lunch, to the Mekong River. Embark Jahan at the town of Kampong Cham. In the late afternoon, begin sailing along the Mekong, with welcome drinks and dinner aboard the 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 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 the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former prison where exhibits show the determination of Cambodians that this should never happen again. If you’re so inclined, venture to the countryside to the Choeung Ek “killing fields,” where thousands of Cambodians were murdered and buried in mass graves. Back aboard ship, an evening “Apsara” dance performance shows how well the arts have been able to reestablish 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. 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. 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 Park Hyatt Saigon, located in the heart of the city. In the late afternoon, meet with a local expert on Vietnam’s modern history. This evening, a special treat: a private catered dinner at the exquisitely restored home where Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. lived when he was U.S. ambassador to Vietnam during the war years. This residence is a small piece of American and Vietnamese history.
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. You may depart this evening, if you wish, or else depart the following morning.
Transfer to the airport in the morning for connecting flights home. Cross the International Date Line and arrive in the U.S. the same day.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Reverse Itinerary (Saigon/Siem Reap): 1/22/2019, 2/19/2019, 1/7/2020, 2/4/2020
Optional Pre- or Post-Voyage Extensions: Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, and Halong Bay
Experience the flavors and customs of Vietnam on an eight-day extension to explore the imperial capital of Hue, the ancient town of Hoi An, and spend a night sailing among Halong Bay’s spectacular limestone pinnacles—all UNESCO World Heritage sites. Plus explore the great city of Hanoi. 8 Days from $5,110 per person.
Accommodations on land and aboard ship as per the itinerary; meals as indicated in itinerary; excursions as per itinerary; services of Expedition Leader and expert guides; Internet access (in limited areas); port charges and service taxes. Subject to change without notice.
Air transportation; some meals; personal items such as spa services, alcoholic beverages, emails, etc.; discretionary tips to ship’s crew; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos: © Ralph Hammelbacher (Angor Wat Monks, Market Baskets); © Karen Copeland (Statues, Ox Cart, Tree); © Michael S Nolan (Boat and Temple, Carts, Cambodian Dancer)