Arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam. Welcome to the capital of Vietnam, one of Southeast Asiaâ€™s most engaging cities. Hotel rooms are available for mid-afternoon check-in.
Hanoi. This morning, take time to look at the life of Ho Chi Minh, the father of modern Vietnam. First, visit the MAUSOLEUM and the humble cottage from which â€śUncle Hoâ€ť ruled Vietnam until his death in 1969. Next on the agenda: ONE PILLAR PAGODA, the HO CHI MINH MUSEUM, and the Presidential Palace. Stop at the infamous â€śHanoi Hiltonâ€ť before continuing to mystical Hoan Kiem Lake, where you will enjoy a brief guided walk. Also visit the ancient TEMPLE OF LITERATURE, over 900 years old and Hanoiâ€™s first university. Lunch is at KOTO, a non-profit restaurant and hospitality program that trains local street children in restaurant skills they can use to find a job and build a stable life. After lunch, enjoy a CYCLO ride through the fascinating Old Quarter, 36 ancient streets where peddlers trade as they have for centuries. An early dinner this evening is followed by a fascinating performance of Hanoiâ€™s renowned WATER PUPPETS, a traditional art form dating back to the 11th century. (B,L,D)
Hanoiâ€“Ha Long Bay. Travel from Hanoi through the fertile countryside to Hon Gai, gateway to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Bay is dotted with over 3,000 limestone islands carved into fanciful shapes by the action of the water. Tunnels, caves, and weirdly shaped outcroppings with imaginative names can be found on many of the small islets sprinkled across the Bay. Board a CRUISE that explores the caves, and admire the beauty and scale before stopping at one of the many secluded bays. (B,L,D)
Ha Long Bayâ€“Hanoiâ€“Siem Reap, Cambodia. This morning, drive to Hanoi and board your flight to Siem Reap. This evening, enjoy a PRIVATE APSARA DANCE PERFORMANCE, where the ancient Khmer culture is brought to life by talented dancers, singers, and musicians. (B,D)
Siem Reap. This morning, start your sightseeing of the TEMPLES OF ANGKOR. Constructed between the 9th and 13th centuries, the temples were built around the Khmer interpretations of Indian religious and political beliefs that, ultimately, evolved from Hinduism to Buddhism. The complex architectural grandeur of the Angkor temples is arguably unmatched among ancient ruins anywhere in the world. First, visit ANGKOR THOM to see the BAYON TEMPLE. One of the few Buddhist temples in Angkor, it features some 200 striking faces carved in 54 towers and impressive bas reliefs. Next stop is the best preserved and most famous of all the temples: ANGKOR WAT, honoring the Hindu god Vishnu. Featuring five trademark towers and stunning bas reliefs, it has become a symbol of Cambodia. Here you will be joined by an ARCHAEOLOGIST from the APSARA Authority, which was created to protect Angkor, for a special guided tour of the ruins. This evening is at leisure to explore charming Siem Reapâ€”or stay to witness sunset at Angkor Wat! (B,L)
Siem Reap. Today, continue your sightseeing of the Angkor temples. Unlike the other temples, TA PROHM has been left relatively untouched. Tree roots grow over and through the ruin walls, allowing you to experience the temple with the same wonder as the early explorers who discovered it. Then, visit BANTEAY SREI, a unique temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Unlike other temples, it is built on a small scale from red sandstone, which can be carved like wood. Then, stop at LES ARTISANS Dâ€™ANGKOR, a development project that teaches young adults traditional handicraft techniques. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure. (B,D)
Siem Reap (Embarkation). This morning, transfer from the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa to your river cruise vessel for your CRUISE down the Mekong through Cambodia and Vietnam. Enjoy time on board the ship as you cruise through Tonle Sap (Great Lake). After the rainy season, this massive body of water can cover around 10,000 square miles and is the perfect breeding ground for fish, which play a vital role in providing food for people living on the lake. This evening, enjoy a welcome reception. (B,L,D)NOTE: During low water conditions we will not be able to cruise on Tonle Sap. In these cases, we will transfer by motorcoach from Siem Reap to Prek Dam for embarkation. Low water conditions vary from year to year, depending on rainfall but are generally from mid-January/early February through June. Due to these yearly variations, our ability to cruise on Tonle Sap will be evaluated on a cruise-by-cruise basis.
Cruising: Kampong Tralachâ€“Udongâ€“Prek Dam. Today, visit Kampong Tralach for an OX CART RIDE past rice paddy fields and the beautiful Cambodian countryside. Continue on to Udong, former capital of Cambodia. Upon arrival, visit a MONASTERY for an in-depth LECTURE ON BUDDHISM. Then, transfer by coach to Prek Dam, where you will join the ship for lunch and an afternoon at leisure to relax on board. (B,L,D)
Cruising: Wat Hancheyâ€“Kampong Cham. This morning, visit WAT HANCHEY, a temple dating back to the 8th century and the Chenla Empire. Located on a hilltop, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area and partake in a TRADITIONAL WATER BLESSING given by local monks. After lunch, travel by motorcoach to see the twin holy mountains of PHNOM PROS and PHNOM SREY (man and woman hill), where you will see the beautiful stupa as well as two huge Buddha statues, both measuring over 30 feet long or tall. You will also stop NOKORBACHEY, an Angkorian temple complex featuring several original statues of Buddha. (B,L,D)NOTE:The climb to Wat Hanchey features a steep incline. If you feel you are unable to make the climb you will be driven to the top by car.
Cruising: Angkor Banâ€“Prek Bang Kong. Today, start with a WALKING TOUR through the rural village of Angkor Ban. Here you will visit TRADITIONAL KHMER HOUSES, a LOCAL SCHOOL, and a BUDDHIST MONASTERY, where you will meet with the local monks. After lunch, enjoy a visit to the village of PREK BANG KONG, where silk-weaving is a well-preserved tradition. Spend time exploring the many houses in the village to see the weaving and to learn more about the how silk is produced. (B,L,D)
Cruising: Phnom Penh. The capital city of Phnom Penh retains its French charm to this day. Sightseeing this morning provides a glimpse of the atrocities inflicted on the Cambodian people by the Khmer Rouge regime. Visit the TUOL SLENG GENOCIDE MUSEUM, a former high school that housed over 17,000 prisoners. Of this number, it is believed that less than 15 survived the torture and avoided being sent to the Killing Fields. You will also visit one of the KILLING FIELDS, where over 200,000 people were killed by the Khmer Rouge. After lunch on the ship, enjoy a sightseeing tour by private cyclo, with visits to the ROYAL PALACE with the spectacular SILVER PAGODA and the NATIONAL MUSEUM, featuring an outstanding display of Khmer artifacts. (B,L,D)
Cruising: Cambodiaâ€“Vietnam Border Crossing, Chau Doc, Vietnam. Enjoy the morning at leisure as you cross the border into Vietnam. After lunch on the ship, cruise down the backwaters of the Mekong to Chau Doc. Along the way you will see traditional Vietnamese floating markets and villages. Upon arrival, learn about some of the different species of fish living in the Mekong at a LOCAL FISH FARM. Then, enjoy a WALKING TOUR of the bustling outdoor market. Last stop is at the religious sites at the base of SAM MOUNTAIN. (B,L,D)
Cruising: Sa Decâ€“Cai Be. This morning, board a sampan and enjoy scenes of daily life along the river en route to Sa Dec. Stop at a BRICK FACTORY to see workers forming the clay bricks that fill the local landscape. Also stop at the adjacent RICE FACTORY for insight into the various types of rice produced in the region and to learn about the importance of the rice husk in fueling the brick kilns. Next, ride through the LOCAL MARKET and absorb the atmosphere as locals are busy buying and selling fish, meat, and produce. Your final stop today is the ancient HOUSE OF MR. HYUNH THUY LE, the â€śloverâ€ť of Marguerite Duras, famous French novelist, and inspiration for the film Lâ€™Amant (The Lover), directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Return to the ship for lunch. This afternoon, board a sampan for a scenic cruise though Cai Be Harbor, passing the cityâ€™s beautiful French Gothic cathedral. Once on land, tour AN KIET HOUSE and its surrounding gardens, which feature several types of fruit indigenous to the area. Next, stop at a local establishment to see how rice paper, rice wine, and traditional candy are made. Visit the beautiful CATHEDRAL on the waterfront before returning to the ship. (B,L,D)
Cruising: Ho Chi Minh City (Disembarkation). Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, still known as Saigon to many. This morning, enjoy a WALKING TOUR of the cityâ€™s famous and historic landmarks as you stroll through the heart of the city along Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat) past the Rex Hotel, Ho Chi Minh Square, the Municipal Theatre, the Central Post Office, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Next, visit REUNIFICATION PALACE (formerly the Presidential Palace) and the WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM. For lunch, participate in a hands-on VIETNAMESE COOKING CLASS. The lesson starts with a walking tour of BEN THANH MARKET with a local chef, where you will learn how different fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood are used in Vietnamese cuisine. Afterward, head into the classroom to prepare different dishes and learn how to recreate them once you return home. Last but not least, sample your delicious creations! The remainder of the afternoon and evening are at your leisure to explore this lively city. (B,L)
Ho Chi Minh City. Cu Chi Tunnels Excursion. This morning, leave the city and drive through vast expanses of rice paddies to visit the CU CHI TUNNELS, an extraordinary network of tunnels more than 120 miles in length that was used by the Viet Cong as a hideout and secret village during the war. Here you will be joined by a Viet Cong veteran and an expert Local Guide to learn about how the tunnels were constructed and for a chance to walk through a section to experience what life would have been like underground. Make a quick stop at a RUBBER PLANTATION to learn more about this industry before returning to Ho Chi Minh City for lunch. Enjoy some time at leisure before a special farewell dinner hosted by your Cruise Director. (B,L,D)
Ho Chi Minh Cityâ€“Luang Prabang, Laos. Today, fly to Luang Prabang. (B)
Luang Prabang. Today, enjoy a full day of sightseeing in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Start with a visit to the NATIONAL MUSEUM, formerly the Royal Palace. Nearby is WAT MAI, famous for its 5-tiered roof built in the traditional style of Luang Prabang. You will also visit WAT VISOUN and WAT XIENG THONG, often thought to be the most beautiful wat or monastery in the city. This afternoon, visit the village of BAN XIANG KHONG. Here you will witness a WEAVING DEMONSTRATION and learn about how sa paper is made by hand from the pulp of mulberry trees. (B,L)
Luang Prabang. A full day at leisure to explore on your own. You may want to consider an optional morning trip to witness the Tak Bat (almsgiving ceremony), with a visit to a local market. Each morning before dawn, Buddhist monks don their distinctive saffron-colored robes and walk through the streets to collect alms (offerings of food). This is a truly memorable sight you will not soon forget as you personally present alms to the monks and receive their blessings. Afterward, walk through the colorful morning market on the banks of the Mekong River in the center of town. Here you will see locals buy and sell their produce and meats. (B)
Luang Prabangâ€“Bangkok, Thailand. Today, transfer to the airport and fly to Bangkok. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for an overnight. (B)
Bangkok. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)