Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, known for its graceful colonial architecture, frenetic streets, and verdant parks and temples. After checking into your hotel, the remainder of the day is yours to explore on your own.
A morning sightseeing tour takes you to some of Hanoi’s most famous historical and cultural sites, including the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ba Dinh Square, One-pillar Pagoda and The Temple of Literature. Also visit the infamous prison that American POWs sarcastically dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War. In the afternoon, experience an authentic rickshaw ride (known as “cyclo”) in the Old Quarter, followed by a traditional water puppet show.
After breakfast, leave Hanoi behind and take a scenic ride to one of Vietnam’s most renowned locations, Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Board a contemporary junk with traditional accents, where your ship spends the night – an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. Enjoy an onboard dinner set against the bay’s magnificent scenery of dramatic limestone cliffs and rock formations.
This morning, your Ha Long Bay Junk continues its scenic cruising during breakfast onboard. Late morning, disembark the ship and transfer to Hanoi Airport. A short flight takes you to Siem Reap in Cambodia, the gateway to Angkor, the former capital of the Khmer empire and one of the most renowned archeological sites in all of Southeast Asia. Tonight enjoy a special “Apsara Dancing Show” at your hotel, featuring local Cambodian/Khmer folk dancers.
After breakfast, join a guided sightseeing tour of the Angkor Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights include Angkor Thom, the newly restored Baphuon Temple, Terrace of the Elephants, and the Terrace of the Leper King. Also see the Bayon Temple, best known for its gigantic smiling stone faces. This afternoon, travel through the rural countryside to visit the pink sandstone temple of Banteay Srei, the "jewel of Khmer art." Afterwards, visit an English-language school in the village of Ta Toum.
This morning visit the most iconic temple of all Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat. This massive temple complex was built in the early 12th century to honor the Hindu god, Vishnu. Also visit Ta Prohm, known as the “Kingdom of Trees” for the way in which the temple stones have become intertwined with thick forest vegetation over the centuries (an incredible sight that is easily recognized by fans of the film “Tomb Raider”). The afternoon is yours to spend as you wish.
Today board your river cruise ship at Tonle Sap Lake, the great lake that has dominated Cambodia and its people for centuries. Meet your fellow travelers at a Welcome Dinner as the ship cruises to Kampong Chhnang.
NOTE: During low water season, the transfer from Siem Reap to the ship is via motor coach to Preak Kdam, a small village on the Tonle River.
After breakfast, a local boat takes you into the lakeside wetlands that form the mouth of the Tonle Sap River. Enjoy the stunning variety of bird life here and be on the lookout for the traps used to catch fish in this area – some are over a half-mile long. In the afternoon, take a leisurely walk to the Koh Chen village. Also visit home workshops specializing in silversmithing and coppersmithing.
This morning transfer to Oudong, the former capital of Cambodia, to tour a monastery and receive a special Buddhist blessing. In Kampong Tralach, embark on a truly memorable excursion: an oxcart ride through the rice paddies surrounding a small village. Later, your ship departs for Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, where an afternoon walking tour gives you a wonderful introduction to the city. Return to the ship for dinner and an onboard Khmer folk performance presented by local children. The vessel moors overnight in Phnom Penh.
A morning tour explores the highlights of the city, famous for its French colonial architecture, busy cafes and colorful nightlife. Visit the Royal Palace, the spectacular Silver Pagoda, and the National Museum, which has an outstanding collection of Khmer crafts. After lunch onboard take an afternoon excursion to Cambodia’s infamous Killing Fields, and also visit the Khmer Rouge’s grim Tuol Sleng S21 detention center (Genocide Museum) just outside the city. An overnight on the waterfront provides an opportunity to dine on your own in one of many nearby restaurants, if you so choose.
Spend the day cruising the Mekong River as your ship crosses the border into Vietnam. Your vessel moors at the small town of Tan Chau, Vietnam.
Today take a small local boat through narrow channels to several scenic locations, including a small village known as “Evergreen Island.” Later, see Tan Chau from the vantage point of a traditional “xe-loi” (trishaw) that takes you around to all the sights, with stops at a silk-making workshop and another that produces rattan mats and slippers. This afternoon, your ship cruises to Sa Dec, where it moors overnight.
Once ashore in Sa Dec, tour the town where French writer Marguerite Duras spent many years in her youth. Visit a colorful local market, and the house of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, Duras' Chinese paramour, now a small museum. Afterwards, board a motor coach for Xeo Quyt, once used as a base during the French and U.S. wars and now an important ecological site. After lunch on board, a local boat takes you to Cai Be’s spectacular floating market. You also have an opportunity to visit candy and rice paper workshops. This evening, enjoy a festive Farewell Dinner on board.
Your cruise comes to an end as the ship docks at My Tho Port, followed by a transfer to nearby Ho Chi Minh City (still affectionately referred to by locals as Saigon). This former capital of Indochina was once known as “Paris of the Orient.” Today, Vietnam’s largest city is an industrial, cultural and educational hub, but still retains vestiges of its colonial past. Upon your arrival, enjoy a city tour that explores such famous landmarks as the former Presidential Palace, the Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, Cho Lon (China Town) and the Thien Hau pagoda. Also visit the War Remnants Museum, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, known for its vast collection of artifacts from the Vietnam War. An optional tour of Thanh Market is available this afternoon. Spend the night at a fine hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.
Today is free to explore Ho Chi Minh City on your own, perhaps venturing to nearby shops and markets for mementos of your Southeast Asia adventure.
Bid farewell to Ho Chi Minh City and prepare for your homeward flight.