The Mekong River is one of the longest rivers in the world and its banks are home to over 20 million people. Taking a boat trip through the lower Mekong Delta is one of the best ways to understand the lifestyles of these people, to take in the spectacular scenery and to learn about the area’s fascinating history. This 16-day trip is also designed to take in all the “must-see” attractions in Cambodia and Việt Nam, from the Angkor and Hạ Long Bay World Heritage Sites to off-the-beaten-track villages or temples along the river.
- Explore two of the great wonders of the world – the man-made Angkor temple complex and the awe-inspiring natural beauty of Hạ Long Bay.
- Cruise the mighty Mekong River and visit off-the-beaten-track destinations along the river.
- Experience different means of transportation, from bull cart rides through the ricefields to cyclos weaving through busy town traffic.
- Discover the secrets of Khmer classical dance by attending a training session at a children’s dance school.
- Talk to a war veteran at the Củ Chi tunnels.
- Enjoy city tours of Phnom Penh, Hồ Chí Minh City and Hà Nội.
- See all the “must-see” attractions in both Việt Nam and Cambodia
Day 1: Arrive in Siem Reap - Angkor Wat (L)
You will be met by our guide at Siem Reap International Airport, then transferred to your hotel for check in and a briefing on your itinerary. After lunch you will visit the famous Angkor World Heritage Site, which contains over 100 temples and other structures built by successive Khmer kings between the 9th and 14th centuries. Here you will visit the famous 240-hectare Angkor Wat, considered one of the great wonders of the world. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, it is visually, architecturally and artistically breathtaking, with a massive three-tiered pyramid crowned by five beehive-like towers which rise 65 meters from ground level. This temple is the centrepiece of any visit to the temples of Angkor. Return to the hotel to freshen up before exploring the night life in Siem Reap, which has numerous restaurants (Asian and western), bars, cafes and shops.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 2: Angkor Thom (Baphoun - Bayon - Terrace of the Elephants - Terrace of the Leper King - Pimeanakas) - Ta Prohm - boat ride on Tonle Sap Lake (B,L,D)
Your second visit to the Angkor complex starts in the morning with a visit to the 900-hectare walled city of Angkor Thom, built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries by King Jayavarman VII, whose face adorns several of the city gates. Here you will view the spectacular 12th-century Bayon, the 11th-century Baphoun, the intricately-carved bas-reliefs of the Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King and the Pimeanakas royal temple. Next you will visit the famous Buddhist monastery of Ta Prohm, another of Jayavarman VII’s construction projects, parts of which have been photogenically overgrown by jungle and were immortalised by Hollywood movie star Angelina Jolie in the action movie “Tomb Raider 2.” In the afternoon you will take a boat trip on the Tonle Sap Lake, visiting interesting floating fishing villages and experiencing the beautiful sunset over Southeast Asia’s largest fresh water lake.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 3: Siem Reap - School of Arts, Siem Reap - Silk farm (B,L)
Your third day starts with a morning visit to the School of Arts, Siem Reap, which focuses on Khmer classical dancing and musical training for poor and disadvantaged children from Siem Reap and surrounding areas. Attending the training session and interacting with the children will be one of the trip’s highlights. Next you will visit a silk farm located on the outskirts of Siem Reap to see how silk is made and also get the opportunity to shop for high-quality local souvenirs. The rest of the day will be spent at leisure or exploring the old town and market.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 4: Siem Reap - Kompong Cham - board the RV Pandaw (B,L,D)
After a morning spent at leisure you will leave by coach at noon, taking a four-hour drive through the Cambodian countryside to Kompong Cham. A lunch box will be provided on the coach and a rest stop will be made on the way at Kompong Thom. At Kompong Cham you will board the ship RV Pandaw.
Day 5: Kompong Cham area (B,L,D)
In the morning you can visit the pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey. You must negotiate 291 steps in order to get to there, but it’s well worth the climb for the great surrounding view of the Mekong Delta. In the afternoon you will travel by bus to visit the twin holy mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey (Man and Woman Hill). These offer more great views and on top of Phnom Pros there is a 12th-century Khmer sanctuary known as Wat Nokor. Our final stop for today will be the ecotourism village of Choeungkok, supported by the French-Cambodian NGO Amica, where you will get the chance to meet Cambodian villagers and gain insight into their daily lives and customs.
Day 6: Tonle River - Kampong Chhnang (B,L,D)
Today we will travel up the Tonle River to Kampong Chhnang, passing many small villages and giving you a bird’s eye view of what’s happening along the banks of the river. Located at the confluence of the Tonle River and the Tonle Sap Lake, the town of Kampong Chhnang is famous for its pottery and also has a very big floating fishing village. The boat trip through this busy village is fascinating.
Day 7: Phnom Penh (B,L,D)
After arriving in Phnom Penh we will take a morning city tour by cyclo (pedicab). Once considered the “loveliest French-built city” in Indochina, Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. First stop will be the Royal Palace, built in 1866 by King Norodom, where you will visit the Throne Hall, Wat Phnom Mondap with its Buddha footprint, and the the magnificent Silver Pagoda. Next you will get the chance to view one of the finest collections of ancient Khmer artefacts anywhere in the world at the
National Museum. In the afternoon you will visit two reminders of a painful period in the recent history of Cambodia. First you will visit the Cheuong Ek Killing Fields Memorial on the outskirts of the city, located in an area of land where some 17,000 men, women and children are believed to have been executed. This will be followed by a trip to the notorious Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former high school building which the Khmer Rouge turned into the S21 prison.
Day 8: Cruising the Mekong - Việt Nam border - Châu Đốc (B,L,D)
We spend today cruising along the main Mekong channel, an international shipping route which takes us to the Việt Nam border for the usual formalities. It will be very relaxing and easy day where you can rest, read and enjoy a massage to recharge your batteries. You can also listen to a talk on history of the mighty Mekong River in the afternoon, followed by a cooking class on the sundeck. The ship will reach Châu Đốc town in the late afternoon.
Day 9: Châu Đốc (B,L,D)
Today we will spend the whole morning visiting Châu Đốc, Việt Nam’s southwesternmost town. An Giang province is famous for its basa or catfish and thousands of floating farms can be found along the river banks. You will also notice the ever-present fishy smell of nước mắm (fermented fish sauce) as you travel along the river. A small motor boat will take you to visit a Chăm ethnic minority village and a catfish farm, and you can also enjoy a trishaw ride around the town centre. In the afternoon the ship will cast off for Sa Đéc.
Day 10: Sa Đéc - Cái Bè (B,L,D)
Our motor boat excursion to Sa Đéc along the canals and backwaters will be very interesting. The highlight of the morning tour will be a half-hour walk through Sa Đéc local market, where you will see all kinds of fresh produce, ranging from fruit and vegetables to seafood, snakes and a local speciality - ricefield rats! Then we will continue to the ancient house of Mr Léo Huỳnh Thủy Lê, the “lover” of famous French novelist Marguerite Duras, who was played in the 1992 film by Tony Leung Ka-fai. This beautiful house is very well-kept and features a fascinating fusion of Chinese and Vietnamese architecture, based on the principles of feng-shui. In the afternoon we will cruise through a floating market to visit Cái Bè, where you will see family-run businesses which make popcorn, sticky rice wine, rice paper and coconut candies before returning to the ship. The ship will continue to cruise overnight to Mỹ Tho.
Day 11: Mỹ Tho - Hồ Chí Minh City (B,L,D)
In the morning we will leave the ship and transfer by coach to Hồ Chí Minh City (Sài Gòn), Việt Nam’s biggest city and economic centre with a population in excess of eight million people. The most prominent French legacy can be seen today in the colonial buildings of the downtown area, District 1. Our city tour of the former “Pearl of the Orient” will start at the historic former Presidential Palace, which witnessed the callapse of Sài Gòn regime in 1975. Then we will take a walk from Notre Dame Cathedral and the City Post Office along Đồng Khởi street, passing famous landmarks like the Opera House and the Continental, Caravelle, Rex and Majestic Hotels. Afterwards you will check in to your hotel and have some time to rest before exploring the city on your own in the evening. This “city that never sleeps” has a lot to offer, from high-class restaurants of all kinds to trendy nights clubs and bars.
Overnight in Hồ Chí Minh City.
Day 12: Hồ Chí Minh City - Củ Chi tunnels (B,L)
The morning tour today will take us to the fascinating underground tunnel complex of Củ Chi. At its height during the war with America this place housed an extraordinary network of over 200km of underground tunnels from which VC guerrillas infiltrated Sài Gòn to carry out attacks or to spy on the American airbases that ringed the city. It was equipped with bunkers, trenches, kitchens, dining rooms, water wells, hospitals and many other facilities necessary for the guerrillas’ survival underground for weeks on end. After a talk and video presentation you can tour the site and crawl inside specially-enlarged sections of tunnel. You can also view the underground meeting rooms where campaigns such as the Tết Offensive were planned, enjoy a simple meal of food that VC fighters would have eaten and talk with a Củ Chi war veteran to get an insider’s view on the Vietnamese war. Afterwards we return to Hồ Chí Minh City where the afternoon is free for you to explore the city on your own.
Overnight in Hồ Chí Minh City.
Day 13: Hồ Chí Minh City - Hà Nội (B,L,D)
Today you take the late morning flight to Hà Nội, the capital city of Việt Nam. There you will visit the Temple of Literature, Việt Nam’s first university dating from the 11th century, and the excellent National Museum of Ethnology, which showcases the culture and customs of Việt Nam’s 54 ethnic groups through the display thousands of artefacts, costumes and traditional houses. In the afternoon you will check into your hotel and then in the evening you will watch a show by the famous Hà Nội Water Puppet Theatre.
Overnight in Hà Nội.
Day 14: Hà Nội - Hạ Long Bay - Hà Nội (B,L,D)
Today we will take a day trip to Hạ Long Bay, which is known for its magnificent beauty, with over 3,000 limestone islands rising dramatically out of the water. During our four-hour cruise around this World Natural Heritage site we will see the most fascinating rock formations, with shapes of dragons, dogs, cocks fighting, ducklings and also take in a visit to a “Heavenly Grotto.” A fresh seafood lunch on board our boat will be another highlight. A long day is completed with another three-and-a-half-hour bus ride back to the hotel in Hà Nội.
Overnight in Hà Nội.
Day 15: Hà Nội half-day city tour (B,L)
This morning we will take a half-day city tour, commencing with a visit to the Hồ Chí Minh Historic Vestiges complex, which includes the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum (where the late president’s embalmed body is displayed, closed Mon and Fri and from Oct-Nov), the historic Ba Đình square, the Presidential Palace (from the outside only), Hồ Chí Minh’s house on stilts and the famous One-Pillar Pagoda. After that we will take a cyclo ride through the fascinating Ancient Quarter (known as the “36 streets”) with its unique sights, sounds and smells, gaping in disbelief at the “orderly chaos” in which streams of people in different modes of transportation weave their way through tiny intersections. The rest of the day will be spent at leisure.
Overnight in Hà Nội.
Day 16: Departure (B)
This morning you will be free at leisure until the transfer to the airport for departure.