This nine-day tour takes in the rich tapestry of sights and sounds along the river banks and tributaries of the Lower Mekong River, from the hustle and bustle of Hồ Chí Minh City (Sài Gòn) and Phnom Penh to the splendours of ancient Angkor in Siem Reap. Along the way you will visit off-the-beaten-path bird sanctuaries like Xẻo Quýt and Trà Sư and floating markets like Cái Răng, experiencing various different means of transportation and learning about the differing life styles of those who live on or near the river, both in Việt Nam and Cambodia.
- Enjoy a diverse range of tour activities, from historical and cultural sites to remote and authentic villages.
- Enjoy city tours of Hồ Chí Minh City (Sài Gòn), “Pearl of the Orient,” and dynamic Phnom Penh.
- Talk with a Củ Chi war veteran to get an insider’s view on the Vietnamese war
- Learn about the daily life and culture of both Vietnamese and Cambodian villagers.
- Explore some of the most magnificent ancient Khmer temples in the Angkor World Heritage Site.
- Visit off-the-beaten-path bird sanctuaries and floating markets.
- Watch a Khmer classical dancing and musical training class at the School of Arts, Siem Reap and interact with both teachers and students, learning about dance body language.
Day 1: Arrive Hồ Chí Minh City (L)
On arrival in Hồ Chí Minh City (Sài Gòn) you will be greeted by your tour guide and transferred to your hotel for checking in and a briefing session on your itinerary. In the afternoon you will start to explore Việt Nam’s biggest city and economic centre, which has a population in excess of seven 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. 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 2: Hồ Chí Minh City - Tây Ninh - Củ Chi - Hồ Chí Minh City (B,L)
This morning you will enjoy a morning drive northwest through typical southern Vietnamese countryside to Tây Ninh province, the birthplace of the Cao Đài faith. This is a syncretic religion, founded locally in 1926, which worships a single supreme deity but has incorporated elements from a number of other major religions and ideologies, including Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, Taoism and Christianity. One of the highlights of visiting the main Cao Đài Holy See in Tây Ninh is the unusual architectural style of the main cathedral building and the colourful daily noon time ceremony. After lunch, on the return journey to Hồ Chí Minh City, we will visit the fascinating underground tunnel complex at Củ Chi. At its height during the war with America, this place housed an extraordinary network of over 200 kilometres 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 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
Overnight in Hồ Chí Minh City.
Day 3: Hồ Chí Minh City - Xẻo Quýt - Cần Thơ (B,L)
Departing from Hồ Chí Minh City, we head to Mỹ Hiệp and take a three-hour boat trip through Indigo forest which was used by guerrillas in wartime as a base called Xẻo Quýt. This little-visited site, now a peaceful bird sanctuary, gives you an insight into the determination of revolutionary forces to endure all hardships in pursuit of victory and helps explain how the Vietnamese eventually won the “Việt Nam War”. Next, we will take a four-hour boat trip from Mỹ Hiệp via the Tiền and Hậu tributaries of the Mekong River, eventually arriving at the Ninh Kiều Wharf in Cần Thơ.
Overnight in Cần Thơ.
Day 4: Cần Thơ - Cái Răng Floating Market - Trà Sư Bird Sanctuary - Châu Đốc (B,L)
Today we make an early start to discover the bustling Cái Răng Floating Market, one of the many floating markets on the Mekong River. In the watery world of Mekong Delta, boats are used as a primary means of transportation, so floating markets are often held right in the middle of a confluence of rivers so that people can access them easily by boat to purchase goods, food and especially fresh fruit and vegetables. This creates an amazing scene every morning at dawn as people sit in their boats, bargaining. Later we will visit a noodle-making house and a rice processing mill, and afterwards an orchard near the market where we can sample different types of local fruit. Lunch will be taken in Cần Thơ, followed by a leisurely stroll in the countryside before we continue on to Châu Đốc in the afternoon. On the way we will stop at Trà Sư Bird Sanctuary, which is just an hour’s drive away and promises a magical experience as you watch many different kinds of birds up-close in the midst of the indigo forest. At around sunset you can climb up the watchtower to enjoy the panorama and watch thousands of storks returning home to the sanctuary. Afterwards we continue into Châu Đốc town and check in to our hotel.
Overnight in Châu Đốc.
Day 5: Châu Đốc - Phnom Penh (B,L)
We’re up early today to take a speedboat at 7h30 to the Cambodian border. After clearing immigrations, it’s another 4 hour along the Mekong to Phnom Penh. Châu Đốc is the provincial capital of An Giang province, which is renowned for its basa or cat fish, now a major source of income for local farmers. Thus at the beginning of this trip you will see numerous floating cat fish farms along the riverbanks.
On arrival at Phnom Penh city harbour you will be welcomed and transferred to your hotel for check-in. Once considered the “loveliest French-built city” in Indochina, Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located at the confluence of the three rivers, the Bassac, the Mekong and the Tonle, it is the country’s political and economical hub. This morning you will tour 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 magnificent Silver Pagoda. Afterwards you will view one of the finest collections of ancient Khmer artefacts anywhere in the world at the National Museum. Have lunch before continuing to visit the Central and Russian Markets and Wat Phnom (temple), the oldest monument in the city, from which Phnom Penh derives its name.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 6: Phnom Penh - Siem Reap - Angkor Thom (B,L)
After breakfast, you will transfer to the boat harbour to take a speedboat upstream along the Tonle Sap River and across the Tonle Sap Lake to Siem Reap. Before arriving in Siem Reap, we will pass floating villages where the people move their houses depending on whether it is the dry or rainy season, low or high water. They have everything they need to make a good living from fishing and they have their own shops as well as a school. On arrival in Siem Reap you will transfer to your hotel for check-in and have lunch. In the afternoon you will make your first visit to the Angkor World Heritage Site, which contains over 100 temples and other structures built by successive Khmer kings between the 9th and 14th centuries. Today you will visit 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. Starting at the South Gate, you will view the spectacular 12th-century Bayon, the 11th-century Baphoun and the intricately-carved bas-reliefs of the Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King. Return to the hotel to freshen up before dinner and a special Apsara show at Angkor Village. Afterwards you can explore the night life in Siem Reap, which has numerous bars, cafes and shops.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 7: Siem Reap - Ta Prohm - Ta Keo – Thommanon - Chau Say Tevoda - Sra Srang - Angkor Wat (B,L)
After breakfast on your second day in Siem Reap you will visit the Ta Prohm temple, a wonderful combination of human genius and natural beauty, some parts of which have long been photogenically overgrown by giant trees! Continue to Ta Keo, the “Jewel of Crystal,” an unfinished 50-metre-high temple mountain erected at the end of the 10th century in honour of the Hindu god Shiva. Before lunch you will also visit the 12th-century Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda temples and the baray (lake) of Sra Srang. Then in the afternoon you will visit the real “jewel in the crown” of the Angkor complex – the famous 240-hectare Angkor Wat, considered one of the great wonders of the world. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, 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. Afterwards you can enjoy the sunset over the Angkor complex from the top of Mount Phnom Bakheng or Pre Rup. Overnight in Siem Reap
Day 8: Siem Reap - Banteay Srey - Kbal Spean - Siem Reap (B,L)
After breakfast you will visit another of the jewels of Angkor – the 10th-century temple of Banteay Srei, which means “Citadel of Women.” Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the temple was built of pink sandstone and contains some of the most beautiful and intricate carvings of any Angkorian temple. After a picnic lunch near the site, you will take a moderately easy 45-minute uphill walk through the forest to Kbal Spean, the “River of a Thousand Lingas,” where phallic symbols of the god Shiva are carved into the riverbed. Return to Siem Reap for your last night in Cambodia.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 9: Siem Reap - School of Arts, Siem Reap – Depart Siem Reap (B)
After breakfast you will visit 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. You will not only observe the training process but will also be invited to join them on the stage during the performance. The interesting interaction with the children and their teachers will give you a deeper understanding of classical Khmer dance and music. After this visit you will return to your hotel and get ready to transfer to the airport for departure.