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Halong Bay is a visual wonderland of 3,000 limestone and dolomite karst formations dotting a pristine bay that covers 1,500 square kilometers. Its name translates to “Bay of the Descending Dragon.” Legend has it that the bay’s landscape was formed when the Vietnamese were under attack and a dragon came down from the mountains to aid them, swishing its tail and splitting the hillsides, creating an impetus to their attackers. In fact, it is the wind and water that have been at work for a few million years, resulting in this romantic setting of rugged peaks and sailing junks that has inspired a whole genre of Vietnamese painting. Enjoy an overnight stay here aboard a traditional junk boat, including an onboard cooking demonstration and visit to Suprise Cave by sampan. It's a wonderful way to round out your visit to this fascinating region!
Board an overnight flight to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Cross the International Date Line
You’ll cross the International Date Line today, meaning that you’ll arrive in Vietnam on Day 3. Or, depart earlier for your pre-trip extension to Halong Bay.
Arrive in Hanoi
Check into your hotel upon arrival, and gather for a Welcome Briefing by your Adventure Leader this afternoon.
Hanoi highlights, lunch at a local monastery, and a Welcome Dinner
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. 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.
Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia, site of the astounding Angkor Wat complex
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.
Tour the Angkor Wat complex, and delve into local life with visits to a dance school and silk farm
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. 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.
Get a last glimpse of Angkor with an early exploration; evening is at leisure
In the morning, set off on another exploration of the Angkor complex, including a tour of Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. 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.
Begin your trip with a visit to Wat Thmey, a local pagoda that recalls the Khmer Rouge regime. Besides being a beautiful piece of local architecture, this complex includes a small shrine where travelers can learn more about Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. After this short visit, continue to 12th-century Angkor Thom Complex.
We'll take a bus to the impressive complex where we'll board a canoe and float along a man-made moat. Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, listening to birds chirping and admiring the amazing architecture of this nearly 900-year-old complex. You will also raise a toast with a glass of local wine as you watch the setting sun paint the historic landscape in warm, vibrant colors. Dinner is included in a local restaurant in town before returning to the hotel.
Embark the rv Jayavarman and enjoy a lunch and performance with local children
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 1930s 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.
Start the day with tai chi and a Buddhist blessing, then explore rural Cambodian life
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’ll also embark on a tour of Angkor Ban village. This unspoiled community, with its charming traditional homes, offers us excellent insights into everyday life in Cambodia.
Then, we sail onward — enjoying an afternoon at leisure on board — 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 on board this evening.
Take an oxcart to a local school, then discover Koh Oknha Tey’s silky history
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 take us on a walking tour, introducing us to the special Khmer pottery and palm sugar made here, 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 oxcart to a local school, where we’ll interact with the children here. 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.
Full-day tour of Phnom Penh, the “Paris of the East”
We explore Phnom Penh today. Once called the "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 the despotic rule of Pol Pot. 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.
Hear a lecture on Cambodia and take in a culinary class as you sail into Vietnam
Another lovely day on the water begins with breakfast, followed by a riveting lecture on recent Cambodian history by 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 riverbanks, 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 on board.
Get a feel for life in Tan Chau, visit a fish farm, and meet a family in My An Hung
Get ready for an exciting day in Tan Chau. Hop on a xeloi (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.
Explore the beauty of Binh Thanh Island, then savor a Farewell Dinner on board
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 chitchat. 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 on board.
Disembark and set off on a panoramic tour of Saigon
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.
Visit the Reunification Palace, and relish a day 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. Later, you'll get the opportunity to witness a unique water puppetry performance. Dinner is on your own this evening.
Dine with a former U.S. ambassador at his home with live entertainment
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. Savor a home-hosted Farewell Dinner at a former U.S. ambassador’s residence. You’ll enjoy a cocktail reception followed by delicious, authentic Vietnamese dinner, all while listening to live music.
The Cu Chi Tunnels were part of a vast underground network that enabled the Viet Cong to control a large rural area near Saigon. Begun 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 great tunnel 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.
Fly home, or begin your optional extension
After breakfast this morning, you'll transfer to the airport for your return flight home. Or, continue your Southeast Asian tour journey with an optional extension to Luang Prabang, Laos, and Chiangmai, Thailand.
Enhance your Southeast Asia experience with this extension to Laos and Thailand. You’ll begin with three nights in Luang Prabang, a beautiful city in laid-back Laos where the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers meet. During your time here, you’ll take in the Buddhist temples, French architecture, and ancient traditions — including an alms-giving with local monks. Your next stop is in Chiangmai, the largest city in northern Thailand. While here, visit with a local hill tribe, and enjoy a home-hosted lunch with a cooking demonstration. This extension is a great way to add two more countries to your itinerary and expand your exploration of Indochina.
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 Tour Director or regional expert.
Please Note: During your Mekong River cruise, should there be an extreme change in the water levels or defects to the vessel that prevent the ship’s passage or docking, an alternative itinerary will be offered.