Highlights of Vietnam with Cambodia’s Angkor and Phnom Penh
18 days in 2 countries
Pagodas, paddy fields and palm trees
Visit Vietnam’s famous highlights on this Regional Explorer trip, which also reveals Cambodia’s ancient Khmer culture and mystical Angkor Wat.
ABOUT THIS TRIP: Journey from the beauty of Halong Bay to a spine-tingling encounter with the abandoned capital of Angkor Thom, left to ruin in the depths of the dense Cambodian jungle and revealing stories of a once-powerful Khmer empire whose ancient temples, tombs and shrines were left to rest for centuries.
Itinerary and Optional Sightseeing Opportunities
1.ARRIVE HANOI (2 NIGHTS): Relish the warm embrace of Vietnam and her welcoming people, who will touch you with their humility and entrepreneurial spirit throughout your journey across this intoxicating land. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel before meeting your Travel Director and fellow travelers for a Welcome Reception with drinks and local appetizers. Enjoy a welcome reception at the Hotel Melia Hanoi
2.HANOI SIGHTSEEING: This morning is dedicated to the revolutionary leader who fanned the flames of Vietnam’s independence. We begin our day with a visit to the final resting place of “Uncle Ho”, the imposing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. A short walk from here, we’ll find Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts, where we’ll ‘Dive into Culture’ exploring the grounds surrounding the humble abode of Vietnam’s most famous son. We’ll continue to the Temple of Literature, the first university for the sons of Mandarins, to gain insights into Hanoian culture. After lunch, we’ll embark on a cyclo-tour, weaving through the lively Old Quarter past colorful shopfronts and street food vendors. Enjoy an evening at leisure or consider joining one of our recommended Optional Experiences. Breakfast provided.
My Village Show: See the activities of northern Vietnam village life recreated by dance, acrobatics and bamboo props in the ‘My Village Show’. It delicately illustrates the poetic Vietnamese village through its stunning ‘cirque’ approach and contains traditional Vietnamese folk games, dances and circus acts performed with traditional music playing in the background combined with artistic lighting. Traditional daily activities of villagers and festive celebrations are demonstrated by performers and musicians in farmers’ clothing. Transfers to/from your hotel are included. Adult Price: US$30.00
Visit to Hang Trong Painting Artisan: Named after one of Hanoi’s specialized streets, Hang Trong paintings belong to one of Vietnam’s dying arts. These festive and vividly eye-catching tapestries became popular from the end of the 19th century through to the start of the 20th century. Take a walk through the narrow alleyways of the old quarter of Hanoi and visit the home of a 66 year old artisan who is devoted to preserving this traditional craft. He is one of seven children from a family who for three generations has specialized in creating Hang Trong paintings. Interact with him and learn about the techniques and the time and effort he is putting into preserving the tradition. On the way back to the hotel make a stop at Hang Trong Street which is part of an artisan neighborhood and was once famous for selling these paintings. Adult Price: US$20.00
Water Puppet Show: Enjoy a traditional evening Water Puppet performance in a local theatre. This northern Vietnamese art form beautifully illustrates scenes of rural life and natural history and began approximately a thousand years ago, possibly in the flooded rice fields of Vietnam. Puppeteers stand in waist-high water and manipulate their charges in such a way that you can’t help but be swept up in the legend being told. Each short sketch in the performance relates to the daily life of the people. Adult Price: US$12.00
3.HANOI – HALONG BAY CRUISE: We leave the busy streets of Hanoi behind, bound for the serenity of Halong Bay where we’ll board a traditional-style Vietnamese Junk boat. The limestone karsts and tropical islets rising up from the emerald waters provide an ethereal backdrop for our leisurely cruise. After lunch on board, we’ll take a small boat transfer to the Tien Ong Cave and Cua Van Fishing Village, whose residents still live in traditional floating houses. We return to our Junk boat for a cooking demonstration with the chef or enjoy a mesmerizing sunset on the top deck before dinner and a peaceful overnight stay in this UNESCO-listed natural wonder. All meals provided on the Jasmine Cruise.
4.HALONG BAY – HANOI – DANANG – HOI AN (3 NIGHTS): The graceful practice of T’ai Chi eases you into your day as is the local custom. Join a ‘Local Specialist’ on the deck of the Junk boat for a morning class in exquisite natural surrounds. You’ll have time for an early morning swim at one of Halong Bay’s quiet beaches and, if you’re feeling energetic, a brisk walk to catch one last view of scenic Halong Bay before your drive to Hanoi Airport to catch your flight to Danang. On arrival, transfer to your hotel in Hoi An. Breakfast provided at the Royal Hoi An Hotel
5.HOI AN SIGHTSEEING: ‘Dive into Culture’ this morning, embarking on a walking tour around the ancient town of Hoi An. Embrace its charm of yesteryear – the narrow lanes, colorful marketplaces and ancient temples providing insights into the Vietnam of old. See the old merchant houses and 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, before visiting Thanh Dong Organic Village where you’ll spend some time helping local farmers and learning about their daily working routines. Kick back and enjoy a relaxing foot massage that will set the pace for the rest of the day and evening at leisure. Breakfast provided
My Son Temples: My Son is one of the foremost Hindu temple sites in South East Asia. For the Cham civilization that ruled Central Vietnam from the 2nd to the 13th century, My Son was an important religious site and place of worship. A 1.5-hour drive from Hoi An will bring you to My Son where there are 20 monuments still standing today. The temples are set in a verdant valley surrounded by hills and overlooked by the impressive Cat Tooth Mountain. Stroll around this UNESCO listed temple complex and learn about the Cham culture, architecture and civilization before returning to Hoi An. Adult Price: US$20.00
6.HOI AN: Spend the morning exploring Hoi An on your terms or simply relax at your hotel. Your choice of activities this afternoon could see you learn how to craft your own colorful lantern or gain insights into life as a local fisherman (subject to weather conditions). Create a work of art to bring your home luck and happiness, or cast your net wide for the catch of the day – the choice is yours. Breakfast provided
7.HOI AN – HUE (2 NIGHTS): The healthy flavors of Vietnamese cuisine take centre stage as we travel by boat to the Red Bridge Cooking School to learn about the traditional ways of preparing and cooking Vietnamese food. We’ll have an opportunity to savour the dishes we’ve prepared for lunch before returning to Hoi An. This afternoon, our journey takes us over Hai Van Pass en route to Red Beach, where the American Marines first landed in Vietnam during the decades-long war. We continue to Danang for a visit to the Cham Sculpture before arriving in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam, for our overnight stay. Breakfast and Lunch provided at the Imperial Hotel.
8.HUE SIGHTSEEING: We’ll navigate the busy streets of Hue on the back of a cycle en route to the UNESCO-listed Imperial Citadel, once home to Nguyen emperors. From here, we drive to Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue’s best-preserved religious monument. Boarding a local dragon boat next, we cruise along the Perfume River to the house of the former Princess Ngoc Son where we’ll ‘Connect with Locals’ and meet a family member for a Be My Guest lunch to gain a glimpse of their life in this historic house. The afternoon is ours to enjoy at leisure or consider joining one of our Optional Experiences. Breakfast and Lunch provided
Bamboo Paper Art Workshop: Truc Chi which is a type of paper made from bamboo pulp is a new form of art in Hue created by a young talented artist and his colleagues after many years of research, study and practice. Using bamboo as the only material, they make paper using traditional methods, and then turn them into various detailed and unique creations. The aim of the Truc Chi artists is to make the paper symbolic of Vietnam, just like ‘washi’ paper is of Japan. Visit a Truc Chi workshop, interact with the artists to understand more about the artwork’s process and try to create your own Truc Chi drawing as a souvenir. Adult Price: US$30.00
9.HUE – HO CHI MINH CITY (3 NIGHTS): A short flight this morning brings you to Ho Chi Minh City, where you’ll enjoy some time at leisure before lunch at KOTO restaurant. Your visit will ‘Make a Difference’ to this non-profit social enterprise that provides training to disadvantaged young people in the hospitality industry. The iconic sights of Ho Chi Minh are revealed on a walking tour of Dong Khoi Street next. See the Opera House and the former Hotel de Ville. Then, wander up to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, designed by the renowned Gustave Eiffel. Continue to the War Remnants Museum where you’ll have a vivid glimpse of the war through the eyes of the locals. Your final stop today is Ben Thanh market, one of the earliest surviving structures in old Saigon, before arriving at your hotel. Breakfast and Lunch provided at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza Hotel
10.MEKONG DELTA: The mighty Mekong beckons today, as we take a day trip to My Tho, a nearby Delta market town. We’ll transfer to a small sampan boat and navigate the maze of small canals before stopping for a Regional Meal of delicious Mekong Delta specialties. After a short walk along village roads, we’ll visit the house of a former soldier, a ‘Local Specialist’ who survived fighting the Khmer Rouge. Indulge in the family’s colorful stories and learn how they make a living crafting rice paper, before returning to Ho Chi Minh City for an evening at leisure. Breakfast and one other meal provided
11.HO CHI MINH CITY: We’ll delve into Vietnam’s turbulent history from the previous century, boarding a private speedboat to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels built to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from the French air and ground sweeps. We’ll explore the underground compounds with a VC veteran and gain an understanding of the history of the tunnel, which once served as living quarters and housed hospitals, food and weapons caches. Returning to Ho Chi Minh City, we’ll enjoy some free time this afternoon. Later, we’ll ‘Dive into Culture’ during a visit to the home of the former American Ambassador to South Vietnam in the 1960s, Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, followed by a Farewell Dinner. Breakfast provided, also
12.HO CHI MINH CITY – SIEM REAP (4 NIGHTS): Transfer to the airport for the short international flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. On arrival check in to your hotel. Breakfast provided at the La Meridien Hotel
13.ANGKOR WAT AND SIEM REAP SIGHTSEEING: Today, we venture deep into the Cambodian jungle, through a pyramid-shaped gateway into an ancient world. Serene stone faces watch over us as we cross the causeway suspended over a moat into the spiritual heart of the ancient lost city of Angkor. A Local Specialist and renowned Khmer scholar brings to life the stories behind the intricate carvings and murals of celestial nymphs and mythical serpents along the abandoned hallways of Angkor Wat. Our next stop are the terracotta-hued walls of Banteay Srei Temple – the “Citadel of Women” dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. We’ll have time to admire the 10thcentury carvings of women, said to have been too delicate to have been carved by a man, hence its name. Deep in the heart of the Cambodian countryside, we ‘Connect with Locals’, joining a local family for lunch in their 80-year-old wooden house on their dragon fruit farm. This afternoon, we’ll return to Siem Reap and embark on a walking tour. We ‘Make a Difference’ to the lives of rural youths during our visit to Artisans d’Angkor, where we’ll witness the revival of Khmer arts and crafts. Later we’ll visit Wat Damnak and participate in a private blessing ceremony during which a sacred thread will be tied around our wrists to protect against evil spirits. Our final stop today is to the labyrinthine Old Market, where the locals spend their early mornings shopping for fresh fruit, vegetables and spices. Wander past the busy stalls and smell freshly baked baguettes, a remnant of the country’s French heritage. Breakfast and Lunch are provided
Ta Prohm Temple: Visit the picturesque Ta Prohm, one of the famous temples of Angkor and a UNESCO site which was used as the location for the film ‘Tomb Raider’. The temple site is overgrown with trees and has been swallowed by the jungle creating a haunting yet exotic atmosphere. Over the centuries the magnificent roots of the trees have merged with the temple’s remains giving the feeling of a ‘forgotten city’, very much the way most of Angkor’s temples would have appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them. Learn the temple history and soak up the atmosphere while enjoying a walk through the ruins. Adult Price: US$51.00
14.ANGKOR AND SIEM REAP: Our intimate encounter with a lost empire continues today, as we uncover other iconic sites of the ancient abandoned city of Angkor that have been devoured by the Cambodian jungle. We explore its ancient ruins in the company of saffron-clad monks and monkeys that clamber up and over the roots of centuries-old trees that have carved their way deep into the Great City’s walls. Our first stop today is a visit to the fortified Angkor Thom, where we’ll see such iconic sites as the Terrace of Elephants, the Royal Enclosure and the Temple of Bayon with its giant smiling faces of Buddha. We venture underneath the dense tree canopy to the crumbling, moss-covered ruins of the Buddhist temple of Ta Prohm, which featured as the location for the film ‘Tomb Raider’, exploring its towers courtyards and corridors to uncover the intricate stone reliefs that are shielded by the surrounding foliage. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure or consider joining one of our recommended Optional Experiences to learn the secrets of Khmer cuisine. Breakfast provided
Tonle Sap Lake Cruise: Transfer to Chong Kneas, a trading port of agricultural products on the edge of Tonle Sap Lake. Board a traditional and comfortable wooden boat for a relaxing and insightful cruise on the lake to discover the floating villages and some unique wildlife along the way. Find out how communities live and work on the lake; see the floating schools, markets, and police stations among other structures and observe their daily lives. Note: This trip will not operate during periods of low water which normally occur from March to August but can vary each year. Adult Price: US$29.00
15.PEAK SNENG VILLAGE: We begin the day in the company of local Khmer villagers and ‘Make a Difference’ with a visit to their local school for an opportunity to chat to some of the children who will join us on our walk through the village to see how they spend their day-to-day lives. We’ll ‘Dive into Culture’, gaining insights into their time-honored craft traditions, such as weaving Cambodia’s national hats made from palm leaves, or folding Lotus flowers into delicate works of art. After the rest of the day at leisure, we’ll join our Travel Director and fellow expeditioners for a Farewell Dinner with Apsara dance show. Breakfast provided, also
Tour of Artistic Siem Reap – Half Day: Discover the artistic side of Siem Reap with a visit to several of the best workshops and galleries. Artisans d’Angkor, our first stop, offers training and creates job opportunities for young disadvantaged people living in rural areas and is dedicated to the preservation of traditional Khmer skills such as silk-making, stone and wood carving, lacquer ware, silverware and painting. Afterwards visit the house of Theam who at 11 years old was among the flood of Cambodian refugees who arrived in France in 1980. After receiving a sound artistic and technical education in interior design in Paris, Theam set aside his dreams and 15 years ago returned to Cambodia. He has converted his personal house into a real working space dedicated to the creation and promotion of Cambodian arts & crafts. Afterwards visit the McDermott Gallery, one of the best photo galleries in town. American photographer John McDermott first came to Angkor in 1995 to photograph the temples of Angkor under the light of a total eclipse of the sun. This moment inspired a long- term fine art project and he now lives in Siem Reap where he founded two galleries that exhibit the work of Cambodian artists and photographers working across Asia. Adult Price: US$20.00
16.SIEM REAP – PHNOM PENH (2 NIGHTS): This morning we fly to Phnom Penh, once known as the ‘Pearl of Asia’ it is one of the loveliest French built cities in Indochina. Later we’ll embark on a cyclo- tour, exploring the city, which boasts a rich blend of Khmer and French colonial architecture. We’ll discover the history and catch glimpses of churches and Chinese temples hidden down narrow alleyways. Breakfast provided at the La Rose Suites Hotel
17.PHNOM PENH SIGHTSEEING: Indulge in the exotic flavors of Phnom Penh this morning, joining a ‘Local Specialist’ for an in-depth city tour. Our first stop is Wat Phnom temple where we’ll delve into the legend of Lady Penh who discovered the four statues of Buddha deposited on this tree-covered hill. We’ll continue to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda before visiting the National Museum showcasing centuries-old Khmer art and sculptures. Delving deep into the turbulent, terrifying history of the Khmer Rouge years, we’ll travel along a dusty road to the outskirts of the city to visit the former school turned torture, interrogation and execution centre of Tuol Sleng. The history of that time is depicted in the thousands of S-21 portraits of victims that are on display at the Museum of Genocide, providing insights into the horrors of Cambodia under Pol Pot’s rule. Finally, we’ll take a journey back in time to the Cheung Ek Killing Fields, a memorial built to commemorate the 17,000 victims who died under the reign of the Khmer Rouge. The rest of the evening is spent at leisure. Breakfast provided
18.DEPART PHNOM PENH: Transfer to the airport for your home-bound flight. Breakfast provided