Grand Asian Journey: Exploring the Mekong & Irrawaddy Rivers - 2017

Bangkok • 9-Night Irrawaddy Cruise • Yangon • Saigon • 7-Night Mekong Cruise • Siem Reap • Hanoi

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Mandalay to Hanoi

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DAY 1-2:

Bangkok / Mandalay / Embark RV Irrawaddy Explorer

Today we arrive in Mandalay, a royal city built by the last of the Burmese kings. Upon arrival, we visit Mahamuni Pagoda, a major pilgrimage site where it is believed that only one of five likenesses of Buddha presides. We also visit the temple-strewn Mandalay Hill, upon which the city was founded. Cultural Discovery: After, we visit some local artisan workshops to learn about gold leaf and tapestry making, wood and marble carving, and bronze casting. We’ll see the craftsmen and women at work and have a chance to talk with them about their skill. We'll also get a chance to see the famous, photogenic U-Bein bridge, made of ancient teak from palace ruins. 

Later, we head to the banks of the mystical Irrawaddy River, where the all-suite RV Irrawaddy Explorer waits. First, though, we set off on a relaxing sunset cruise aboard a sampan, a traditional flat-bottomed wooden boat. Then, we board the Explorer for nine nights of cruising on as the fascinating tempo of river life keeps time on its shores. 

Included Meals:

1 Breakfast

DAY 3:

Mandalay / Mingun / Sagaing

We begin today in Mingun, where we walk through the village to witness daily life. We’ll stop at the large, unfinished pagoda and see the world's largest working bell. Afterward, we embark on a shore excursion to Sagaing to visit the 14th-century Soon U Ponya Shin Pogoda, followed by a visit to a local nunnery. 


Cultural Discoveries:  This evening, enjoy a Burmese singing and dancing performance on board.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 4:

Ava

Our Irrawaddy River cruise continues today, and we stop off to explore the ancient capital of Ava. We'll get to learn about the fascinating history of this place as we visit some of it's most interesting sights, including the 200-year-old teak Bagaya Kyaung monastery, the 19th-century brick Me Nu Ok Kyaung monastery, and the Nanmyin watchtower.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5:

Myinmu / Yandabo

Cultural Discoveries: All day today, we delve deeply into the culture and daily lives of the people along the Irrawaddy, beginning with a visit to the lively village of Yandabo. Though it is known as the site of the 1826 Treaty of Yandabo that began a long British occupation, this picturesque village today is famous for its pottery. We stroll around and watch some artisans at work. Then, visit a local school and meet the children as they go about their daily lessons. 

Later, visit the ancient village of Shwe Phi Thar for a walking tour, getting an intimate glimpse of daily life along the river. In the evening, we enjoy a traditional Burmese puppet show, a storied tradition kept alive by talented artists.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 6:

Tan Kyi - Bagan

Spend the day exploring Bagan, currently vying for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, where the spires of more than 3,000 Buddhist temples pierce the sky over an awe-inspiring plain along the Irrawaddy. This could well be the most incredible vista we’ll see during our adventure. Built between 700 and 900 years ago, the Bagan temples attest to the wealth of the once-mighty Bagan Dynasty. A guided tour introduces us to this fascinating area.  Later, enjoy an oxcart ride to the top of the temple for a magical view of the sunset. We conclude our day on board with a traditional Burmese puppet show, a long tradition kept alive by talented artists.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 7:

Bagan / Tan Kyi Taung Mountain


Today we head out to visit the local markets selling wood carvings, fabrics, longyis and rattan products, stopping at a workshop to also learn about ancient Burmese lacquerware techniques. Cultural Discovery: Later today, we ascend Tan Kyi Taung Mountain just in time to watch a glorious sunset over the temples of Bagan.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 8:

Salay  

We witness the British influence here today as we explore an area of charming colonial-style houses. Later, learn about the fascinating history of this nation during a lecture entitled "Burma: From Early Innovators to Closed Society."

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 9:

Magwe

From our port of Magwe, we head up to hilltop pagoda of Myat Lun Paya, built in 1929. Here, the luster of gold that is central to so many Buddhist monuments takes center stage as this incredible temple was built from solid gold bricks. Our view of the surrounding countryside from here is also priceless. We'll continue our multi-faceted education during a "Myanmar Today" lecture and an onboard cooking demonstration. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 10:

Thayetmyo

This morning, we explore the colonial town of Thayetmyo, which once guarded the border between Royal Myanmar and British Myanmar. While here, we can browse its colorful market and see the stately colonial houses built during the British occupation. For another taste of Old Britannia, we visit the country's oldest golf course and learn about its fascinating history. We'll also visit the 5th- to 9th-century archaeological site of Thiri-ya-kittiya, the former center of the Pyu civilization. This evening, we gather for a special farewell dinner on board to commemorate the end of our cruise along the Irrawaddy. No doubt we will also be discussing our upcoming journey along the Mekong River, a truly legendary waterway.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 11:

Prome, Myanmar / Disembark ship / Yangon, Myanmar

We arrive in Prome, an important trading post that clings to its history as part of the prosperous Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in the 1890s. Later, we depart our ship for a final time and transfer to Yangon, Burma's bustling cultural and economic capital, where we enjoy three nights in a lush garden hotel overlooking a lake in the heart of the city. It's the perfect base for exploring this historic city.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 12:

Yangon

Begin your exploration of Yangon with a panoramic excursion that takes in the Sule Pagoda, City Hall, and the High Court. We next stop at the city's dazzling centerpiece – the Shwedagon Pagoda, a soaring golden Buddhist stupa that soars above all, attesting to the close connection between the spiritual and the everyday.

Later, we stop at the waterfront area; the colonial-style Scott Market brimming with antiques, jewelry and handicrafts; and the National Museum of art, history and culture. After lunch at a local restaurant, the afternoon is free. Enjoy the evening at leisure with dinner on your own.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 13:

Yangon

We have today to delve more deeply on our own, walking past markets and along streets buzzing with bicycles and rickshaws. Some of Asia’s finest British-colonial architecture is here. If you like, you may join an optional excursion to the ancient capital city of Bago, stopping at the Taukkyan War Cemetery and pausing to admire revered Buddha figures, a small village and the Khat Wain Monastery. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: Bago Day Trip

Bago Day Trip

  • Approximate Cost: $79 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 9 hours
  • Location: Bago, Myanmar
  • When: Full day tour, lunch included

Join us for a day discovering the wonders of Bago, the 15th-century capital of the Mon Kingdom. You’ll learn the history and myths of the city while visiting the reclining Shwethalyaung Buddha, the four seated Buddhas at Kyaikpun, and the old palace of Kambozathadi. You’ll also see the stunning Mon-style Shwemawdaw Pagoda, the most outstanding religious monument in Bago. This golden temple stands at 375 feet tall, higher than Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, and can be seen from around 6 miles outside of the city. You’ll stop at Kha Khat Wain Monastery during lunchtime to view locals offering food to the Monks and learn about their daily life in the monastery. A venture to a local weaving village is also included in your tour. On the way back to Yangon, you’ll visit the Allied War Cemetery — the peaceful, beautifully landscaped final resting place of more than 27,000 allied soldiers who perished during World War II.


DAY 14:

Yangon / Bangkok, Thailand

Following breakfast this morning, we enjoy a final morning in Yangon. After lunch on your own, our flights to Bangkok depart this afternoon. Upon arrival at our airport hotel, we sit down for an included dinner. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 15:

Bangkok, Thailand / Saigon, Vietnam

Following breakfast at your hotel, transfer to the airport and fly to Ho Chi Minh City, still known to the locals as Saigon. Upon arrival, we have the remainder of the day free. Perhaps you’ll sample pho during dinner on your own, the classic Vietnamese dish.

Included Meals:

Breakfast

DAY 16:

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

We'll have a Welcome Briefing today, followed by the luxury of time to relax in this historic city.  

Included Meals:

Breakfast

DAY 17:

Saigon

Allow the beauty and bustle of modern Saigon to unfold before you on a panoramic city tour today.  You'll discover the most impressive sights here, including the Old Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Opera house. We'll also tour the Reunification Palace, a centerpiece of power in this country and the site where the Vietnam War ended as tanks stormed its gates.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 18:

Saigon / My Tho, Vietnam / Embark the ship

We arrive in My Tho today and embark the RV Mekong Navigator, looking forward our days navigating this legendary river. Before embarkation you can choose to tour the Chu Chi Tunnels, an elaborate underground network that was an essential part of the Viet Cong guerilla strategy during the war. Enjoy dinner onboard the ship this evening. Please note: Your itinerary is subject to change and you may be sharing with new travelers from other groups.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: The Tunnels of Cu Chi

The Tunnels of Cu Chi

  • Approximate Cost: $59 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 6 hours
  • Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon
  • When: Half-day tour including lunch

The Cu Chi the tunnels were part of a vast underground network that enabled the Viet Cong to control a large rural area near Saigon. Began during the French/Vietnamese War (1946-1954), the tunnels were vital to the success of the Viet Cong military effort, and were used as a base of operations for the 1968 Tet offensive. The Cu Chi network ultimately included 75 miles of tunnels, with connections to other tunnel great networks that underlay much of the country. Parts of the Cu Chi tunnels were several levels deep and included innumerable trap doors, specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centers, and kitchens. On this fascinating tour, learn about the tunnels and other aspects of the war and, if you choose, get a taste of subterranean life. While most of the tour takes place above ground, travelers also have the option of entering a 30-meter-long enlarged tunnel to experience what life was like underground. A lunch will be served on your way back to the city.



DAY 19:

Cai Be / Sa Dec

Today we continue cruising to the sleepy port of Cai Be. Cultural Discovery: Here, we explore the floating market, see the beautiful French Gothic cathedral and stop at a rice factory to see how rice paper, rice wine and traditional rice candies are made. We’ll also see the An Kiet House with its lovely gardens.
Our next port is the peaceful orchard town of Sa Dec. Cultural Discovery: Here, we visit a local brick factory to see how the Mekong’s clay is shaped and hardened. Continue to the flower market and the house of Mr. Hyun Thuy Le, the man who inspired The Lover, a novel by Marguerite Duras which was later made into a movie. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 20:

Tan Chau / Border crossing

This morning, arrive in Tan Chau, Vietnam. Cultural Discoveries: We witness a vastly different way of life along the Mekong Delta here as we board a sampan for a scenic cruise a Cao Dai temple, a shrine to one of the unique amalgam religions founded here in an effort to unite various faiths. Upon arrival, we take a 15-minute ride on a xe loi (a local Vietnamese tuk-tuk), to a family-owned mat weaving workshop so we can observe this traditional craft. We return to our sampans and visit a floating fish farm, disembarking for a walk through a local village on Evergreen Island. Back on board, attend a fascinating lecture on “Vietnam Past & Today" as we make our way into Cambodia later today.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 21:

Phnom Penh

We awake in Phnom Penh this morning. Cultural Discovery: We meet our cyclo drivers at the pier to begin an exciting – and gentle – tour along the riverfront to the Royal Palace complex, where we enjoy a leisurely walk through the grounds. Then, we ride to the open-air National Museum, housing the largest collection of artifacts excavated at the Angkor Temple complex.

The afternoon is free to explore Phnom Penh on your own. Cultural Discovery: Before dinner, local children come aboard to perform traditional folk dances, including the Apsara, Cambodia’s national dance.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 22:

Phnom Penh

This morning, we learn more about the darkest days of Cambodian history. After a scenic 45-minute drive from our ship, we arrive at Choeung Ek, where you can walk through the notorious “killing fields” if you’d like, visit the small museum and Memorial Stupa, and learn more about the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime. We also visit the Genocide Museum, Tuol Sleng, a former school converted to a main prison where captives of the Khmer Rouge were held.

Enjoy another afternoon in Phnom Penh on your own. You might head out with our Adventure Leader to visit one of the bars along Phnom Penh’s riverfront, a great opportunity to soak in the local culture. Or join an optional excursion to La Table Khmer Cooking School where we learn to make traditional Khmer dishes. Later, we depart Phnom Penh to sail downstream to the Cambodia-Vietnam border via the main Mekong channel – an international shipping route.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 23:

Cruise the Tonle Sap River / Angkor Ban Village , Cambodia

We head up the tranquil Tonle Sap River today, a Mekong tributary that reveals rural river life in Cambodia. Later, we arrive at the village of Angkor Ban for a visit to get a glimpse of everyday life here. Cultural Discoveries: We explore this fascinating area by private boat, passing locals as they traverse the waters or fish from the shores. Back on board as we sail back to the Mekong River, attend an enlightening talk on "Life on the Mekong," and learn some secrets from our chefs during a cooking demonstration.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 24:

Wat Hanchey / Kampong Cham

Cultural Discoveries: This morning, we are welcomed by the schoolchildren at a riverside village. The only secondary school in the area, it is supported by the local communities. After meeting the students and principal, we walk up the hill to the local monastery of Wat Hanchey and receive a traditional Buddhist Water Blessing from the resident monks. There’ll be time here to explore the monastery and take in the amazing views of the Mekong River valley. We head back down to the ship via 303 steps.

Later today, we visit the ancient Wat Nokor, a 12th-century, Angkorian-period fusion temple which features several original, stone Buddha statues. Upon return to the ship, we begin our sail down the Mekong to the Tonle Sap River.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 25:

Kampong Cham, Disembark / Siem Reap , Cambodia

We disembark and transfer today to Siem Reap, near one of the world's most impressive ancient sites: Angkor Wat. We arrive in ample time to settle in and relax as we look forward to exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site over the next couple of days.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 26:

Siem Reap

After breakfast, we approach the ancient temples of Angkor like the locals do – by bicycle! We pedal with our Adventure Leader, marveling as the enormous terraced towers come into full view. Enjoy two tours of the complex today. This morning, we explore the centuries-old terraces, pathways, and temples of the main site, beautifully adorned with bas reliefs that depict the daily lives of the Khmer Empire that so masterfully built this site.

Cultural Discoveries: We get a glimpse of local life in Siem Reap as we look in on a Cambodian dance school and meet some of its dedicated students and teachers. Continue to a silk farm, where we witness how this fine fabric is made and even have a chance to purchase some silken items if we wish. This evening, enjoy a traditional Angkor show -- rich with color, music and dance -- during a buffet dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 27:

Siem Reap

Cultural Discoveries: We'll set off on a second visit to Angkor Wat, delving deeper into the world's largest religious complex and exploring Prasat Kravan, five red-brick towers built in the 10th century.

After browsing the bountiful wares at a nearby market, we have lunch in local restaurant, then enjoy an afternoon and evening at leisure. If you’d like, you may join an optional Angkor Gondola Tour for your dinner this evening, visiting a local family in their rural home and visiting an eco-tourism site, where you can ride a boat or an ox cart along a lotus lake.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch
Optional Tour: Angkor Gondola Tour with Dinner

Angkor Gondola Tour with Dinner

  • Approximate Cost: $75 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 3 hours
  • Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • When: Evening tour

Make the short trip from your hotel to Wat Thmey, a beautiful local pagoda that holds memories from the oppressive Khmer Rouge regime. After a short visit, continue to 12th century Angkor Thom Complex, a grand remnant of the original Khmer Empire. Enjoy a glass of champagne as you take in the ancient ruins and their surroundings. Board a gondola and cruise along a canal in the complex, enjoying the tranquil scenery along the banks and recalling the glory days of the erstwhile empire. Listen to your oarsmen sing traditional Khmer songs as you travel by boat towards an ideal vantage point for the sunset. Enjoy wine and canapés as the sun sinks below the horizon and paints nearby Prasat Chhrung (Corner Temple) in warm hues. Return to the pier and transfer back to town where you’ll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant, an ideal coda to a wonderful experience.


DAY 28:

Siem Reap, Cambodia / Hanoi, Veitnam

Following breakfast, we transfer to Hanoi, Vietnam's historic capital. We’ll have time here to unwind as we prepare to explore yet another fascinating city of Southeast Asia. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast

DAY 29:

Hanoi

Enjoy another day at your own pace getting to know Hanoi, a splendid city on the banks of the Red River. Explore this timeless yet modern city during a tour, including visits to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Square for a photo stop, as well as the Presidential Palace and One Pillar Pagoda. Cultural Connection: Have a vegetarian lunch at a local monastery, followed by a visit to the Temple of Literature, home of the Confucian Imperial Academy, university for the country's elite from 1076 until 1779. This evening, we'll gather for a delightful Farewell Dinner. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 30

Hanoi, Vietnam / Return home

After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight home. Or, continue your Southeast Asian tour journey with an optional extension to Halong Bay.

Included Meals:

Breakfast

Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

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Journey Grand Asian Journey: Exploring the Mekong & Irrawaddy Rivers Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong
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Trip Length 0 days 15 days Vantage offers the best value —and the only company that provides this grand Asia journey
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Included Tours and Special Features 53 sightseeing tours and Cultural Connections with state-of-the-art QuietVox portable audio headsets on all shore excursions throughout your cruise — a value of $7,608 per couple! 14 included tours and 1 UNESCO World Heritage Site Experience the BEST of China & the Yangtze River with the MOST Cultural Connections and special features!
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Meals & Dining 74 meals: 29 breakfasts, 22 lunches, and 23 dinners with local beer, local spirits, soft drinks, coffee, water, and tea throughout your cruise, plus complimentary free-flow house wine served with dinner on board ship 33 meals: 14 buffet breakfasts, 9 lunches, 10 dinners Welcome and Farewell Dinners with wine and live entertainment onshore Complimentary house wine, local beers and spirits, and soft drinks throughout the cruise More meals, drinks and extras, including free-flow wine with dinner on board ship
Extend Your Trip 4-days Bangkok, $699 $175 per day 3-days Halong Bay & Hanoi, $449 $150 per day 3-days Halong Bay Pre extension, $449 $150 per day 7-days Luang Prabang& Chiangmai, $1,699 $243 per day 5-days Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Bangkok, $1,899 $380 per day 3 choices: 4-days Bangkok-from $899; 5-days Luang Prabang from $1,829; 3-days Ha Long Bay from $599; THE BEST EXTENSION VALUE!
Ship Accommodations Cruise aboard the new, all-suite RV Mekong Navigator and RV Irrawaddy Explorer, featuring all-suite accommodations with riverview cabins, plus daily sightseeing and local drinks included. Pay less and stay on the 5-Star Century Legend, the newest ship cruising the Yangtze.
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