Grand Asian Journey: Exploring the Mekong & Irrawaddy Rivers - 2019

Mandalay • 9-Night Irrawaddy Cruise • Yangon • Saigon • 7-Night Mekong Cruise • Siem Reap • Hanoi
  • $321
  • 28
  • 56
31 DAYS FROM $8,999
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Halong Bay & Hanoi, Vietnam

3 DAYS FROM $479

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5 DAYS FROM $1,599

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Make the most of your time in Southeast Asia by embarking on a truly epic adventure through three different countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Stunning landscapes, exotic architecture, warm people, and captivating cultures are seemingly around every bend in this remarkable corner of the continent and you’ll experience it in full on our Grand Asian Journey.

This sweeping 30-day odyssey combines two of our popular Asian small ship cruises — Myanmar Explorer: Burma & The Irrawaddy River and Mysteries of Angkor Wat & the Mekong River — to create an unforgettable journey at an unbeatable value. In fact, you can save thousands per couple with free international airfare!

On this remarkable adventure, you’ll enjoy 26 Included Features and 30 Cultural Discoveries, not to mention experiencing three UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Angkor Wat, Shwedagon Pagoda, and Bagan). Our deluxe ships are designed so that our small group can unobtrusively stop at tiny villages and markets, allowing you to meet locals along the way. Enjoy lunches in a private home and at a monastery, visit a silk farm, attend a children’s dance performance, and so much more. You’ll also explore Hanoi, Saigon, and Yangon. Plus, spend three nights in Siem Reap, home to the great Buddhist temple complex Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You’ll enjoy the benefits of a small group experience plus an unmatched value by combining two adventures with just one international flight. Southeast Asia offers endless discoveries — don’t miss out on the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in this timeless region. Join us on one grand journey that combines an Irrawaddy River cruise with a Mekong River cruise at the best value in deluxe adventure travel, guaranteed.

What memories will you bring home on this adventure? Check out our photography page for inspiration, tips and tricks, and more. Explore now!

Hanoi, Vietnam to Mandalay, Burma (Jan – Mar)

Pre-Trip Extension

Halong Bay & Hanoi, Vietnam

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DAY 1:

Depart home for Hanoi, Vietnam

Depart the U.S.A. on an overnight flight to Vietnam.

DAY 2:

Cross the International Date Line

You'll cross the International Dateline during your overnight transpacific flight, meaning that you'll arrive in Hanoi on Day 3.

DAY 3:

Check into your Hanoi hotel and attend a Welcome Briefing

Check into your hotel upon arrival, gather for a Welcome Briefing by your Adventure Leader this afternoon.

DAY 4:

Exploring Hanoi — from Ho Chi Minh Square to the Temple of Literature

Today, you'll 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 Discovery: A vegetarian lunch is included 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. Join your fellow travelers for a Welcome Dinner tonight.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 5:

Fly to Siem Reap, site of magnificent Angkor Wat

Following breakfast on Day 5, you'll transfer to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap, site of your Angkor Wat tour — where you’ll check into your hotel just steps away from the remarkable Angkor Wat complex. This remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest religious monument in the world, and we'll explore it in depth while we're here. Dinner is included at a local restaurant this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 6:

Touring ancient Angkor Wat’s sprawling complex

Embark on a tour of the Angkor complex today, spending half a day meandering through the centuries-old terraces, pathways, and temples of this sprawling complex. Lunch is included in a local restaurant. Cultural Discoveries: In the afternoon, get a glimpse into local life during visits to a Cambodian dance school and silk farm. Then, enjoy a traditional Angkor dance performance during your sumptuous buffet dinner at hotel. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 7:

More Angkor explorations, and an optional gondola tour

In the morning, set off on another exploration of the Angkor complex, including a tour of Angkor Wat and Prasat Kravan. Lunch is included at a restaurant in Siem Reap, followed by an afternoon and evening at leisure. If you like, you may join an optional Angkor Gondola Tour, which includes dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch
Optional Tour: Angkor Gondola Tour with Dinner

Angkor Gondola Tour with Dinner

  • Approximate Cost:
  • Approximate Time: 4 hours
  • Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • When: Evening tour

We'll travel by coach to the 12th century Angkor Thom Complex, a grand remnant of the original Khmer Empire. Here, we'll take a canoe  through a man-made moat,  enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. Admire the impressive architecture of the enclosing laterite walls here, and soak up the tranquil scenery. You will also have a chance to savor a glass of local wine or a cocktail during sunset in this singular location.  Then, we make our way to town where we'll enjoy dinner in a local restaurant, the ideal coda to a wonderful experience. 

DAY 8:

Greet local children after embarking the Jayavarman

Today's five-hour coach transfer takes us through the countryside on our way to board our Mekong River cruise aboard the deluxe RV Jayavarman, a delightful floating home-away-from-home. Combining the art deco charm of 1930’s France with authentic Khmer and Vietnamese influences, this ship exudes the romance of Indochina while cosseting you on deluxe comforts.  Once we’re aboard, we’ll savor a delicious lunch and then greet some visitors: local children who will showcase their skills in art and music. You’ll learn more about the education of young Cambodians from a local representative, and get a chance to interact with the kids whose smiles brighten the room. We then disembark to experience the 7th century temple, Wat Hanchey. This small temple complex gives us a glimpse of the history of this region before the days of Angkor.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 9:

Experience a Buddhist blessing, then explore Koh Oknha Key by tuk-tuk

This morning, we’ll enjoy a Tai Chi class as well as a blessing from Buddhist monks – a tranquil way to start the day. We then sail onward – enjoying an afternoon at leisure onboard — before arriving at the island of Koh Oknha Tey, which is renowned for its exquisite silk products.  Discover the island via tuk-tuk, stopping to explore the process of creating these items, from the silkworm to the final piece.  You’ll then venture back to the ship to enjoy dinner onboard this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 10:

Kampong Chhnang’s “water world” and an oxcart ride to a local school

Today we explore one of the more fascinating destinations on the Mekong: Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia’s “water world.”  We’ll travel to a rural village nearby, where our guide will talk us on a walking tour, introducing us to the special Khmer pottery and palm sugar made locally, as well as the “floating villages” and wetlands here. Our cruise takes us further along the fabled Mekong through a jungle-like landscape before coming ashore again. We’ll enjoy the unique experience of riding an authentic ox cart to a local school, where we’ll interact with the children.  Next we travel to Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, where we’ll have a chance to stroll along the river promenade, perhaps stopping at a local café or bar for a drink and some people watching. Dinner is on the ship.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 11:

See Phnom Penh in local fashion

We explore Phnom Penh today. Once called Paris of the East, this city has retained a unique combination of Cambodian and French influences. We’ll embark on a full sightseeing tour of the city, visiting poignant sites like the Killing Fields and S21, which was a prison during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.  Both of these sites are a stark and powerful reminder of the atrocities afflicted on the Cambodian people under Pol Pot's despotic rule. Later, we discover the Royal Palace as well as the National Museum, before hopping on a cyclo (the mode of transportation used by most locals) through the streets of this vibrant city. Enjoy dinner on the water, with an Apsara Dance performance for entertainment.   

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 12:

Delving into Cambodian history and culinary tradition

Another lovely day on the water begins with breakfast, followed by a riveting lecture on recent Cambodian history a professor at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. After the lecture, revel in the pleasures of cruise life: sit on the deck and take in the ever-changing views of life on the river banks, take a nap on one of the sun beds, ask the Captain to regale you with one of his many stories, or indulge in that massage you’ve been meaning to get. There is a culinary class in the afternoon that will allow you to learn how to make a local dish, and high tea for those who have come to embrace this tradition. We cross over the border into Vietnam and dock the ship in Tan Chau, a laid-back border town. After dinner, relax on the deck or enjoy a movie onboard. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 13:

From floating houses to fish farms, exploring life on the Mekong

Get ready for an exciting day in Tan Chau. Hop on a xelois (a local vehicle used as a taxi)  and feel the pulse of this town. We’ll stop at a colorful local market before boarding a local boat to cruise amidst the floating houses here on our way to a fish farm here. We’ll get to see how this process works, and see what it means to the local villagers.  Later, an expert elucidates “Life on the Mekong Delta” for us back on the ship. This afternoon, we explore another village nearby: My An Hung. A local family invites us into their home, and we’ll see their vegetable garden and see how they spend their daily lives. Then, we sip tea with them back at their home, creating an opportunity for a connection across cultures, as does the “dragon dance” we witness. The perfect close to the day is sipping cocktails on the riverbank while watching the sun go down.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 14:

Binh Thanh Island’s mat weavers and Cai Be’s floating markets

Our last full day on the Mekong River brings us to Binh Thanh island, where we’ll visit another local village. We’ll stroll through this largely untouched hamlet, getting a sense of the everyday life of the people here, including some time with local mat-weavers. We’ll then sit down with an elderly couple who will fill us in on their life. They’re good conversationalists, too, so they’re open to questions or just general chit-chat.  We enjoy lunch on the ship as we travel to Cai Be, a charming town known for its floating market. Our guide explains the particulars of this tradition, including the unique way you can tell which boat sells which items. Our local boat takes us through the lush canal network as we watch farmers working in the fields and, as the sun sets, we’re invited to a Farewell Dinner onboard.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 15:

A panoramic tour of Saigon’s sights

Arrive in My Tho today and disembark the RV Jayavarman, leaving river life behind to visit Vietnam’s most vibrant city — Ho Chi Minh City. A panoramic city tour of Saigon (as the locals call it) takes you to the Opera House, the Old Saigon Post Office, and Notre Dame Cathedral followed by lunch. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 16:

Touring the Reunification Palace, and an afternoon at leisure in Saigon

Day 16 of your Southeast Asia tour begins with a visit to the Reunification Palace, a former presidential residence that was of great importance during the Vietnam War. It is now a museum. After lunch at a local restaurant, the rest of the day is yours at leisure to enjoy more of Saigon — the ancient pagodas, bustling markets, and gourmet restaurants — at your own pace. Dinner is on your own this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 17:

Savor a home-hosted dinner with a former U.S. ambassador

After breakfast this morning, you'll enjoy a morning at leisure. If you like, you may join an optional tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Viet Cong, with lunch included. Later, you'll get the opportunity to witness a unique water puppetry performance. Unforgettable Moment: Savor a home-hosted dinner at a former US Ambassador’s Residence. You’ll enjoy a cocktail reception followed by delicious, authentic Vietnamese dinner, all while listening to live music.

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 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 18:

Arrive in Yangon, Myanmar

Arrive on in Yangon, Burma's bustling cultural and economic capital. We'll enjoy three nights in a lush garden hotel overlooking Royal Lake in the heart of the city, the perfect base for exploring. Dinner is at the hotel tonight. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 19:

Yangon’s gilded Shwedagon Pagoda and a city tour

After breakfast, we head out to see more of colonial-flavored Yangon. Unforgettable Moment: We'll 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 — followed by a panoramic city tour. 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 20:

Yangon on your own, or take an optional day trip to Bago

We have today to delve more deeply, 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:

Optional Tour: Bago Day Trip

Bago Day Trip

  • Approximate Cost: $79 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 9 - 10 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 21:

Board the Makara Queen and begin sailing the Irrawaddy River

This morning, we head to the Irrawaddy River, the country's most important waterway. The river's name comes from the Sanskrit meaning "elephant river," and it runs for nearly 1,350 miles through the heartland of Myanmar. On our way to the ship, we'll stop in Danuphyu, where we’ll visit a century-old monastery and stroll through the lovely botanical garden here as well as a traditional cigar factory. We'll then board the luxurious RV Makara Queen at the town of Satcott, and enjoy dinner on board the ship.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 22:

The charms of Myan Aung, and a Cambodian cooking demo

We arrive in Myan Aung, a charming riverside hamlet with impressive colonial-era homes.  We’ll walk through this small town admiring the town and stop by a local market to interact with the people of this region. Cultural Discovery: We'll gain new insights into the culture here during a demonstration of thanaka, a cosmetics paste that is unique to Myanmar.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 23:

Touring the ancient town of Pyu and the Shwesandaw Pagoda Complex

Today, we discover the captivating history and culture along this storied river in a new place: Pyay. We’ll see the famed “toll mountain” where tax collectors would collect money from those who passed through here. We’ll tour to the ancient town of Pyu, which was the most important city in this region between the 5th and 9th centuries. We’ll see the impressive collection of ancient art at a library with an amazing collection of ancient art, followed by visit the impressive Shwesandaw Pagoda Complex, one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the country. Cultural Discovery: Listen to a lecture on the history of Myanmar, giving you more perspective on how this nation has evolved over time.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 24:

More Myanmar exploration

This morning, you’ll travel by tuk tuk to the charming town of Thayet Myo. This hamlet is home to the oldest golf course in Myanmar, and you’ll have an opportunity to play the first hole here. Then, we’re off to explore the market — where we can browse for souvenirs and interact with locals — and then to see several homes constructed during the British colonization of Burma. Thayet Myo once was the border town between Royal Burmese North and the British Colonial South, so it’s a fascinating glimpse at the country’s past. We’ll enhance our understanding with a lecture onboard the ship entitled “Life Along the Irrawaddy River.”

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 25:

The new gold standard in Myanmar’s temples

Unforgettable Moment: 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.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 26:

A walking tour of Salay and discovering Bagan's famed temples

Set off on a walking tour of the small town of Salay, with its charming colonial villas. We’ll also stop by the 150-year-old teak monastery here, which is well known for its magnificent woodcarvings. After lunch, we'll enjoy some afternoon sightseeing in 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. We'll visit some of the major temples, such as Pyattatgyi Temple, and witness a magical sunset view of the monument-dotted plains. In the evening, enjoy an traditional Burmese Puppet Show on board.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 27:

Immerse yourself in local life at Bagan’s open-air market

Cultural Discovery: This morning, we'll explore Bagan's large, open market, teeming with produce, meat, spices, woodcarvings, fabrics, longyis, rattan products and more — a great spot to pick up gifts for loved ones back home. Later today, we'll enjoy a cooking demonstration during which we'll learn how to make some delectable local cuisine. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 28:

The culture and artistry of Yandabo village

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 before rejoining our ship this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 29:

Get to know the city of Mandalay on a city tour

Today, you'll have plenty of time to explore magnificent Mandalay, including a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda and Mandalay Palace. Cultural Discovery: You'll also get a glimpse of the remarkable art and craft work in this country, as you visit some local workshops, including tapestry-making, wood- and marble-carving, and bronze-casting workshops. We'll have lunch at a local restaurant, and savor a Farewell Dinner this evening, where you can enjoy a delightful meal while reflecting on an adventure to remember.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 30:

Disembark your ship and board your return flight home

After breakfast, you'll disembark your ship at Sagaing and transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home.

Included Meals:


Day 31:

Arrive home

Arrive home on Day 31 and begin dreaming of your next great adventure! 

Post-Trip Extension

Vientiane & Luang Prabang, Laos

FROM: $1599 PER PERSON | 5 DAYS | $320 PER DAY

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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Grand Asian Journey: Exploring the Mekong & Irrawaddy Rivers - 2019

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