Wonders of Vietnam and Cambodia
Explore ancient temples, modern culture, history and myths in Vietnam and Cambodia during a 12-night, once-in- a-lifetime adventure on land and water. Discover traditional village life during a three-night Mekong River cruise aboard an exclusively chartered ship, and surround yourself with the stunning beauty of Ha Long Bay, where legend says dragons created the many dramatic limestone islands, on a one-night cruise. Experience the serene setting of the magnificent Angkor temples, and tour lively Phnom Penh in a bicycle taxi. Delve into the multifaceted culture of Ho Chi Minh City, still referred to by many as Saigon, and stroll through Ben Thanh Market and Cholon, the city’s colorful Chinatown. Slow things down in the northern city of Hanoi, Vietnam’s cultural capital, and see a traditional water puppetry show. Enjoy an extensive meal plan and deluxe hotel and ship accommodations.
Depart gateway city
Cross the international date line.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Arrive at Angkor International Airport. Proceed through immigration to the baggage claim area and retrieve your luggage. After completing customs, AHI FlexAir passengers and Land/Cruise Program passengers who have purchased seats on the group transfer should exit the baggage claim area and proceed to the designated meeting spot, where an AHI Travel representative will meet them. The meeting location will be provided with your final documents.
Transfer to the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort.
Over the next two days, explore the spectacular temples and ruins at Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage site. A suburb of Siem Reap, Angkor is one of the most culturally significant places in Cambodia. The planning and construction of these grand temples indicate the engineering prowess of the ancient Khmer Empire. The temples are a showcase of water features, including canals, dams, reservoirs and an irrigation system that served the entire region. In addition, the Angkor period also fostered the rise of Khmer art.
Discovery: Angkor Thom.
Explore Angkor Thom, a great walled city that once was home to 1 million people. Built in the late 12th century, Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Khmer Empire, which ended in the mid-15th century. Bayon is the imposing temple in the center of the city. Its 54 towers feature carvings of more than 200 smiling faces, and the amazing bas-reliefs of epic battles are among the must-sees.
Return to the hotel for lunch on your own.
Discovery: Siem Reap.
Take a tuk-tuk tour of the city and visit a dance school for a performance of the Apsara, the Cambodian traditional dance.
Tonight, gather with your fellow travelers at a Welcome Reception and Dinner.
Discovery: Angkor Wat and Local Life.
Discover breathtaking Angkor Wat. Built in the 12th century, it is the largest temple in the world and the crown jewel of the Angkor Archaeological Park. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, the Angkor Wat temple eventually became filled with Buddhist elements as the new religion spread through the empire. See the extensive gallery of bas-relief murals, one of the highlights of the temple. Then delight in the local flavors of rice noodles when a local family invites you into their home to show you how to make the Cambodian specialty.
Return to the hotel for lunch.
Discovery: Ta Prohm and Thommanon.
Explore the haunting temples of Ta Prohm, where roots of massive kapok trees have overtaken the buildings. Built by the same king who directed the construction of Angkor Thom, this Buddhist monastery once was a powerful religious center serving 80,000 people. After centuries of human neglect, the jungle has claimed the temples, courtyards and paths. Continue to Thommanon, a recently restored temple with exquisite Apsara carvings.
Siem Reap | Kampong Cham
Free Time: Enjoy a morning at leisure at the hotel. Perhaps take dip in the pool or enjoy a spa treatment.
Transfer to the port at Kampong Cham, where you will embark the Mekong Navigator. Pause for lunch en route.
Tonight, join an onboard Welcome Reception and Dinner to celebrate the beginning of your Mekong River cruise.
Wat Hanchey | Angkor Ban
Discovery: Wat Hanchey.
Walk to Wat Hanchey, a seventh-century temple that sits atop a hill overlooking the river. Receive a traditional Buddhist water blessing from the monastery’s resident monks and take in the spectacular panoramic views of the river valley below.
Return to the ship, where the crew greets you with a cool towel and a refreshing drink.
Enrichment: Geography and Life Along the Mekong.
Learn how the geography of the Mekong River and Delta have influenced the local lifestyle.
Enjoy a delicious lunch.
Discovery: Angkor Ban.
Get a glimpse of life in the rural village of Angkor Ban. Enjoy a home visit with a family to learn about daily life in this small village. Visit a monastery and tour a school, meeting students and the principal.
Tonight, enjoy a movie on board. On most evenings during your cruise, a film or documentary about the region is shown.
Late tonight, anchor near Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Take a cyclo ride through the city of Phnom Penh. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the grounds of the Royal Palace, viewing the Throne Hall and Moonlight Pavilion. See the Silver Pagoda, which earned its name from the more than 5,000 silver tiles that line the floor, before your cyclo driver takes you to the National Museum for a comprehensive tour of the Angkor and pre-Angkor period artifacts.
Return to the ship for lunch.
Free Time: The afternoon is at leisure. Relax on board the ship or venture into town for exploring on your own. Shop for souvenirs or visit some of the beautiful wats. After lunch, a shuttle is available to take passengers to Central Market in the heart of the city.
Before dinner, enjoy a traditional Apsara dance performance and other folk dances presented by children from a local orphanage on board the ship.
The ship docks overnight in Phnom Penh. Take advantage of a free evening to take a motorbike taxi ride through the city to see its landmarks and temples illuminated against the night sky.
Discovery: Killing Fields and Genocide Museum.
Drive to the Cheoung Ek Killing Fields to see the memorial and museum dedicated to the thousands of victims who lost their lives during the brutal Khmer regime in the late 1970s. Continue to Tuol Sleng, a former school converted into the Khmer Rouge’s infamous prison, S-21. Your guide offers in-depth commentary and personal insight into this deeply turbulent time in Cambodia’s history.
Enrichment: Cambodia Today.
Learn about politics in contemporary Cambodia, plus discuss the country’s Buddhist culture and more.
Enjoy an afternoon of cruising and learn the art of making spring rolls as the chef and his staff give a demonstration.
Tonight, the ship arrives near the Vietnam border
Long Khanh A, Vietnam
Cross the border into Vietnam this morning.
Join the chef for a talk about the delicious tropical fruits of the region and watch a demonstration of how he and his staff carve these fruits into edible works of art.
Enrichment: Agriculture and Fisheries.
Delve into Vietnam’s agricultural customs and practices as you learn about the cultivation of rice and other crops. Also, discuss the importance of the country’s fisheries.
Gather with your group for lunch before the afternoon excursion.
Discovery: Vietnamese Handicrafts.
Learn about local lifestyles and livelihoods this afternoon at the village of Long Khanh A. This traditional village produces many of the textiles, including the colorful checkered scarves called kramas that are worn by Cambodian locals and sold throughout Cambodia. Witness the intricate weaving process while walking throughout the village. Along the way, see a local temple dedicated to a unique religion founded in Vietnam. The Phat Giao Hoa Hao religion was founded in 1939 by Huynh Phu So, a Buddhist reformer and Vietnamese philosopher.
Cu Lao Gieng | Sa Dec
Discovery: Cu Lao Gieng.
Ride a sampan to the island of Cu Lao Gieng and see the 19th-century cathedral. Also, visit a family-run workshop to see sampans and rowboats being built.
Return to the ship for a lunch of authentic cuisine.
Discovery: Sa Dec.
Take a sampan through the narrow, scenic canals at Sa Dec. Fill your senses with the sights and sounds of shoppers and merchants going about their daily routines at the town market and visit the home of Hyun Thuy Le, who inspired Marguerite Duras to write her famous novel, “L’Amant.” Stroll through the town’s market.
Vinh Long | Cai Be
Discovery: Vinh Long.
Ride in a sampan to a factory where traditional rice wine and candies are made. Visit a senior home run by Buddhist nuns, and learn about the home’s religious and social role in the community.
Discovery: Cai Be.
Delight in a leisurely row boat ride through a canal under the shade of coconut trees. Visit a village where rice is made into paper and water hyacinths are made into baskets. Watch village cooks make banh khot, a small, savory pancake topped with shrimp and fresh herbs.
As your cruise draws to an end, celebrate your Mekong adventure at a Farewell Reception and Dinner on board.
My Tho | Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
Disembark the ship this morning in My Tho and begin exploring Saigon.
Discovery: Chinese Saigon.
Explore the Cholon district, the center of the Chinese community in Saigon. See Cha Tam Church, the setting for one of most dramatic scenes of the Vietnam War, and Thien Hau Temple, a shrine to the goddess of the seas. Here, fishermen and sailors make offerings and pray for protection.
Savor a delicious Vietnamese lunch before continuing to the Park Hyatt Saigon.
Enrichment: Contemporary Vietnam.
Discuss the current situations shaping modern Vietnam.
Discovery: A City at War.
Visit the Reunification Palace, headquarters of the South Vietnamese government during the Vietnam War. Then, walk to the Notre Dame Cathedral, a 19th-century church, and Ho Chi Minh City Hall to admire the French Colonial architecture before visiting the War Remnants Museum, which contains artifacts from the 1945 August Revolution through the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
Take advantage of leisure time to discover a local eatery for lunch on your own.
Discovery: Ben Thanh Market.
Shop like a local at Ben Thanh Market. An important part of daily life in Saigon, the market hall was built by the French in 1914. Everything from flowers and fruit to silk cloth to lacquerware and other handicrafts are for sale. The merchants inside the building close about 6 p.m., and then vendors in the open-air Night Market set up shop.
Delight in a special cruise on the Saigon River aboard the Saigon Princess. Along the way, take in views along the riverbanks and enjoy dinner on board.
Saigon | Hanoi
This morning, fly from Saigon to Hanoi.
Discovery: Hanoi City.
Visit the Ho Chi Minh Complex. Visit the Vietnamese leader’s mausoleum, which overlooks Ba Dinh Square. Walk to Ho Chi Minh’s house, behind the mausoleum. Built on top of stilts, this simple, traditional house sits in a botanical garden by a lotus pond. Walk up the steps to see some of his belongings in his bedroom. Next, visit the Temple of Literature. Built in the early 11th century, it became Vietnam’s first university. Continue through the tree-lined boulevards of Hanoi to admire the French colonial architecture. See Ho Hoan Kiem, the Lake of the Restored Sword. According to one version of the legend surrounding the lake, the gods gave Le Loi, leader of the revolt against Chinese occupiers, a sword to help him, and many years later, a turtle returned the sword to the depths of the lake.
Check in to the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel.
Hanoi | Ha Long Bay
Discovery: Ha Long Bay Cruise.
Set out early this morning on a scenic drive to Ha Long Bay, one of the most beautiful regions of the world. This UNESCO World Heritage site features more than 3,000 limestone pillars and islands with dramatic stone arches and caves.
Upon arrival, embark the Paradise Elegance, a deluxe Vietnamese ship. After getting settled, enjoy lunch as you cruise through the beautiful bay. The name of the bay means Bay of Descending Dragons, and according to legend, dragons came to the rescue of the local people. As the dragons swooped down upon the enemy, they spat jewels at the invaders, and these gems became the awe-inspiring islands and outcrops in this beloved bay.
Cruise to Sung Sot Cave, one of the largest caves in the bay. Disembark to explore the chambers and admire the magnificent stalactites and stalagmites. Enjoy afternoon tea as the ship passes by scenic caves on its way to a secluded lagoon, where the ship will anchor overnight. Later this evening, savor a delicious dinner of Vietnamese and European fusion cuisine.
As the sun sets on Ha Long Bay, consider joining one of the evening activities. Watch a movie or head out on deck to watch the stars. The ship also has a spa, and you can book a massage or other spa treatments.
Ha Long Bay | Hanoi
As the sun rises, head to the deck for a tai chi lesson if you are so inclined or simply take in the beautiful scenery.
Cruise to Titop Island, one of the most beautiful islands, for opportunities to go trekking, swimming or kayaking. Kayaking is available at an additional cost.
Later this morning, disembark the ship and return to Hanoi.
Discovery: Water Puppetry Show.
A cyclo, the popular pedicab seen all over Vietnam, awaits to take you to the theater to see a traditional form of puppetry staged over a pool of water. Admire this skillful art as you watch scenes of daily life unfold on stage.
Tonight, gather for a festive Farewell Dinner and share your favorite memories with your fellow travelers.
Depart for gateway city
After breakfast, AHI FlexAir passengers and Land/Cruise Program passengers who have purchased seats on the group transfer depart for Nội Bài International Airport (Hanoi Airport) for your return flights home. Your Travel Director will provide the details.
Meet Your Trip Host
Mark Tessler is Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Between 2005 and 2013 he also served as the University’s Vice Provost for International Affairs, leading many of the University’s global engagement initiatives. Professor Tessler has studied and/or conducted field research in Tunisia, Israel, Morocco, Egypt, Palestine (West Bank and Gaza), and Qatar. He has also taught at several universities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many of Professor Tessler’s scholarly publications examine the nature, determinants, and political implications of the attitudes and values, including those pertaining to governance, to women, and to Islam, held by ordinary citizens in the Middle East. Among the fifteen books he has authored, coauthored, or edited are Public Opinion in the Middle East: Survey Research and the Political Orientations of Ordinary Citizens (2011); and his most recent book, supported by a Carnegie Scholar award from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Islam and Politics in the Middle East: Explaining the Views of Ordinary Citizens (2015). His articles have appeared in numerous high-impact scholarly journals, including, among many others, World Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and International Journal of Middle East Studies. Professor Tessler is co-founder and co-director of the Arab Barometer survey project, which since 2006 has carried out 39 nationally representative political and social attitude surveys in 15 Arab countries. He has also organized and directed social research training and capacity-building programs in many Middle Eastern and African countries. Professor Tessler has also written extensively on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is one of the very few American scholars to have attended university and lived for extended periods both in Israel and in the Arab world. His book, A History of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict (2009), has received national honors and awards.
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