Vietnam and Cambodia Itinerary

Vietnam1

Day 1
SIEM REAP

On arrival into Siem Reap you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel, located in the heart of Siem Reap’s historical, cultural and shopping district. You will meet your local tour leader this evening for a pre trip briefing and Welcome Dinner with a Traditional Aspara Show. Dancers, singers and musicians will bring ancient Khmer culture to life in spectacular surroundings while you enjoy the very best in Cambodian cuisine. Accommodation: Tara Angkor Hotel
Meals included: Dinner at Apsara Theatre Restaurant

Day 2
ANGKOR THOM – ANGKOR WAT

This morning, you are ready for the highlight: The magnificent Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolising Mount Meru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia’s national flag as the temple symbolises the soul of the Khmer people.

Take a lunch break at a local restaurant before you continue to Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples.

This afternoon, tour to the most spectacular temples at the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8m high wall, drawing a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake.

From here, continue to Bayon Temple in the exact centre of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs.

Accommodation: Tara Angkor Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3
SIEM REAP – BENG MEALEA JUNGLE TEMPLE

This morning head out of Siem Reap approximately 55km to embark on an interesting boat trip on the Tonlé Sap Lake, where you will have the opportunity to learn about life on the lake. The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and officially designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, covering an area of around 250,000 hectares in the dry season. Due to a unique phenomenon, when the monsoon begins, the swollen waters of the Mekong River force the Tonle Sap River to reverse its flow northwards, feeding the Great Lake and spreading over the surrounding flood plain.

Visit the village of Kompong Khleang, where few tourists venture, but fisherman and their families live in stilted houses among the petrified mangrove forests and waterways. Enjoy the fascinating scenery of Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. Enjoy a packed lunch at one of the local houses as you watch everyday life at the village.

After lunch head to the quiet Beng Mealea Temple, around 65 km from Siem Reap. Feel like an explorer when you discover the completely overgrown temple, hidden and lost in the Cambodian jungle. Undiscovered for centuries, Beng Mealea is one of the very few temples that allows you to climb through and explore.

Accommodation: Tara Angkor Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4
SIEM REAP – PHNOM PENH

In the morning, at 08:00 depart from Siem Reap and travel through the Cambodian countryside and small villages towards Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, a bustling city, majestically located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap.

Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, transfer you to hotel for check in.

In the afternoon, start a tour of the National Museum, which was built in traditional Khmer style. It houses the world’s foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artefacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom’s cultural wealth.

End your tour at Wat Phnom, a contemporary hilltop pagoda that stands at the founding place of the city. Enjoy an atmospheric sunset river cruise and watch how Phnom Penh’s popular riverfront comes to life in the early evening.

Accommodation: Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 5
BEAR KEEPER FOR THE DAY

If you have ever been wild about bears and wanted to learn more about why they are threatened in Cambodia then this is your chance! You will get to go behind the scenes and learn what it takes to look after more than 100 rescued bears on a daily basis whilst working alongside their keepers to prepare special treats to keep the bears happy and healthy in their forested sanctuary. Best of all, by taking part in this unique experience you’ll know that you have contributed directly towards helping care for bears and hundreds of other animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.

Meet the staff at Free The Bears, located within Phnom Tamao. Free The Bears is a registered charity that was set up by an Australian lady, Mary Hutton to protect, preserve and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world. The 100+ bears that you will see at Phnom Tamao may have faced death or a torturous life in order to provide medicinal benefits or exotic food to the Asian market. Twenty one forested enclosures have been built over 7 hectares to house a mixture of Sun bears and Asiatic black bears of different ages and personalities.

Your Day at a Glance:
07:30 – Pick-up from your hotel by car to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, the world’s largest sanctuary for Sun Bears
08:30 – Arrive at the wildlife rescue centre and meet the keepers on a tour of the bear sanctuary
10:00 – Help the keepers prepare enrichment toys for the bears then enjoy a quick tour of some of the other endangered species kept at the Wildlife Rescue Centre
12:30 – Traditional Khmer lunch and a bit of time to rest in a hammock
13:30 – Help the keepers hide food in the bear’s forest enclosures and watch them enjoy the fruits of your labour
16:00 – Leave the centre to return to your hotel

Accommodation: Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6
PHNOM PENH – CHAU DOC

Today you will be departing Cambodia, leaving its fascinating history and culture behind as you continue your journey to amazing Vietnam and its friendly people, along the Mekong. This speedboat journey will be about 5 hours. On arrival into Chau Doc, you will be met by your Vietnamese guide and transferred to your hotel. Over the next 2 days you will be exploring the Mekong Delta with it’s famous floating markets, enjoy lush vegetation and experience the vibrant life in the Delta.
Accommodation: Chau Pho Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 7
TRA SU NATURE RESERVE

The Tra Su Nature Reserve is located about 20 km from Chau Doc and covers an area of approximately 850 hectares. The Tra Su Nature Reserve is an ecological haven with colonies of bats, over 100 species of water bird, endless waterways and abundant greenery. The locals in this area built their houses with bamboo canes and fastened the roofs in trees. During the Vietnam War, the Tra Su forest Cajuput was a base of revolutionaries. On the way to Tra Su Nature Reserve you will visit a local home in a Khmer Village to see palm sugar being produced by hand. Palm trees are very important to the local Khmer (Cambodian) community because all parts of the tree can be used. Walk through this magical secluded forest and voyage through the avenues of half- submerged trees by boat. Reconnect with the glories of the natural world as you enjoy a peaceful day in this protected and unspoilt reserve. See some of the fascinating flora and fauna, and especially the array of bird-life, with the help of your expert guide. Afternoon, transfer to Can Tho for overnight
Accommodation: Ninh Kieu 2 Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 8
FLOATING MARKETS

Can Tho is the biggest city of the Mekong Delta, in Vietnam. The city is famous for its floating markets, Buddhist pagodas, delicious food and fresh fruits. This morning, you will board a boat to visit Cai Rang floating market and fruit gardens in Can Tho. Witness large wholesale boats anchor during the morning hours and create lanes that smaller boats weave in and out of. The main items sold are fruit and vegetables and every selling boat has a long upright pole at its bow from which samples of the goods for sale are hung. Depending on the season, the boats may carry mango, bananas, papaya and pineapple. The Cai Rang Floating Market has several pho vendors, a typical Vietnamese breakfast and there is even a floating coffee shop.

Upon arrival in Can Tho, your guide will lead you on a cycle through the countryside through beautiful roads and rice paddies and along the river bank (about 2 hours of easy riding).

After lunch at local restaurant, return to the hotel. The afternoon is free at your leisure to rest or visit the Can Tho Museum and the Muniwangsyaram Pagoda, a typical Khmer Buddhist pagoda.

Accommodation: Ninh Kieu 2 Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 9
HO CHI MINH CITY

After breakfast you will be transferred to Ho Chi Minh City (about 4 hour drive).

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as the city is still frequently referred to, is Vietnam’s largest city. It is a fast-paced metropolis full of contrasts and is very much the heart of Vietnamese business and entrepreneurial activity. The French left their mark with some fine colonial-era buildings such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.
Today you will enjoy a City Tour in the morning, taking in the highlights of:
•    The Notre Dame Cathedral and Old Post Office: Built between 1877 and 1883 this is one of the best examples of classical French colonial architecture. Remarkably every stone used in its creation was shipped from France to Vietnam. Her two forty metre towers, topped with iron spires, still dominate the city’s skyline. The Old Post Office is another example of French colonial architecture and is also the country’s largest post office.
•    Dong Khoi Street, the Opera House and the Peoples’ Committee Building: built in 1897 by French architect Ferret Eugene, the 800 seat Opera House was used as the home of the Lower House Assembly of Sourth Vietnam after 1956. It was not until 1975 that it was again used for performances. The structure was restored in 1995. The Opera House is located on the historical Dong Khoi Street which is home to many boutiques and fine restaurants. Just around the corner are the iconic Rex hotel and the beautiful Peoples’ Committee Building.
•    The Reunification Palace: This is one of the most important buildings in the city. Here on April 30th 1975 the ‘American War’ officially ended when tank number 843 of the North Vietnamese Army crashed through the gates of what was, at the time the resi- dence of the President of the Republic of Vietnam.
•    The War Remnants Museum: Formerly known as the Museum of American War Crimes, this is a poignant display of the futility of war. Some of the black and white pho- tography in the ‘Requiem’ exhibit is particularly touching, dedicated to both foreign and Vietnamese journalists and photographers who perished during the conflict. The court- yard outside contains the spoils of war, namely rusting jets, tanks and cannons captured from the American military machine. This afternoon you will have some free time to explore more of the city at your leisure.
Accommodation: Muong Thanh Hotel
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 10
HI CHI MINH CITY – HOIAN

This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Danang, then drive to Hoian. Originally a Cham port town, Hoian has been influenced down the centuries by a myriad of traders from various cultures. There is a distinctly Chinese appearance with pagodas and assembly halls scattered along the small streets. Hoian was once a bustling port in centuries gone by, before the river silted up. Today it is a delightful backwater town with an air of liveliness about it.

The tranquillity and charm of Hoian, coupled with its low tiled houses, makes it one of the most delightful places to visit in Vietnam. It is a constant favourite of travellers. A walking tour takes us to see a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. During a free afternoon you might like to organise to have some clothing made – the market is a good place to buy silk, which can be made up into fine garments, all within a day.
Accommodation: Palm Garden Resort
Meals included: breakfast

Day 11
HOIAN – WET RICE CULTIVATION TOUR

Roll up the trousers, don a hat and jump into the rice paddies! Get a first-hand look at Vietnamese rice cultivation with a fun, interactive Hoi An farming tour. Plough, rake and water rice alongside local farmers and discover the secrets of Asia’s culinary staple.

Today’s tour will begin at 08:00. Leave Hoi An by bike for a short, scenic ride into the countryside. Pedal along quiet laneways passing by water buffaloes lazing in the fields and other scenes of rural life.

Arrive at a farm and meet with a local family in their typical rural house. The guide and host family will give an introduction to the different steps of rice cultivation, explaining the cycle from start to finish. Then, in order to get a deeper understanding of the process, put on traditional farming clothes and head into the fields.

Join local farmers in the rice paddies. Learn how to plough and sow the fields, pulling up the rice seedlings and transplanting them to larger fields. Depending on the season, the activities may vary slightly but, as growing rice is a year-round process, there is always something to do. During the time in the fields, chat with the farmers to discover more about Vietnam’s fascinating rice cultivation. This was a truly rewarding experience.

Once the rice is grown, it must then be cooked! Return to the house and learn how to cook rice in the traditional way. As well the hosts will show how to prepare tasty local pancakes. Having worked up an appetite in the fields, a home cooked lunch is served before returning to Hoi An early this afternoon.

Because of its position as Vietnam’s historic port on the South China Sea, Hoian attracted a multitude of traders and merchants from around the world, such as various Chinese groups, Japanese, Portuguese and Dutch. Their influences can be seen today all around town and have indeed been a major contribution to the uniqueness of Hoian’s cuisine. The afternoon is free to further explore the town.

Accommodation: Palm Garden Resort
Meals included: breakfast, Lunch

Day 12
HOIAN COOKING CLASS

Today is a day to learn more about Vietnamese cooking. We meet our local chef for a guided tour through the markets in Hoian, where we assist with buying (and haggling for!) food for our culinary adventure. After walking down to the pier, we enjoy a boat cruise on the Tu Bon River to the Red Bridge Restaurant, where our chef will show us how to prepare some of the exotic local dishes.

Once ready, sit down and feast on a delicious meal of authentic local cuisine. After filling up on these home-cooked delights, return to Hoi An for the afternoon.

Note: Only the transfers to and from the meeting point for the cooking class are private and all other services are on a join in basis.

Accommodation: Palm Garden Resort
Meals included: breakfast, Lunch

Day 13
HOIAN – LAO CAI

You will transfer to Danang airport today and board a flight to Hanoi. This evening you will enjoy dinner in Hanoi before heading to the Railway Station for the night train to Lao Cai. This is a very comfortable journey in a soft sleeper car with 4 berth cabins.
Accommodation: Overnight Train
Meals included: breakfast, Dinner

Day 14
LAO CAI – SAPA

Upon an early arrival to Lao Cai, enjoy breakfast at local restaurant. Enjoy a short walk to a hill-tribe village. Here you’ll have the opportunity to visit some local homes to understand more on the daily life of these tribes as well as their culture and traditions.

Afterwards transfer by road up through the mountains to the former hill station town of Sapa, a base for tourists visiting the mountainous northwest. In the terraced hills and mountains of this area, the monotony of the expansive green landscape is enlivened by the colours of its hill tribe population – flashes of shining silver jewelery from the necks and wrists of indigo-clad H’mong and the scarlet hues of the turbans worn by the Red Dao can be seen. It is here you will find hands stained with colour from fabric dyes and shades of blue, red and green intricately embroidered and stitched into jackets, waistcoats, pants, skirts, caps, purses and leggings.

Accommodation: Sunny Mountain Hotel
Meals included: breakfast

Day 15
SAPA

You first sneak through the Sapa market and leave the busy town behind. After a couple of minutes, you follow a road going downhill to Cat Cat village. You will stop by a waterfall and a hydroelectric station for a while before continuing the trek on a dirt trail through rice paddy terraces. You also will enjoy spectacular scenery while walking along a narrow river. You eventually arrive in Y Linh Ho village of Black Hmong minority, where you can take a rest while you are served lunch nearby the river.

After lunch, you head toward Muong Hoa valley. You will pass through Lao Chai village of Black Hmong minority and then Tavan village of Giay minority by following a very popular trekking route.

Mid to late afternoon transfer to the Railway Station for your overnight journey back to Hanoi in soft sleeper berths on the express train (4 berth shared cabins). The train departs around 10:00pm and arrives into Hanoi the following day at around 05:00am

Accommodation: Overnight Train
Meals included: breakfast, Lunch

Day 16
HOIAN – HALONG BAY

Early morning arrive Hanoi in time to catch the bustle of the vibrant Quang Ba flower market. The market is at its busiest from midnight to 6am as growers from Dalat come to sell their flowers to traders in Hanoi. As the sun rises and the morning mist clears, it sets the scene for a refreshing morning walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake to watch the locals practising Tai Chi and aerobics in the gentle dawn light. This will be followed by breakfast in Hanoi at the Hotel.

Here you will have the chance to re-pack for the next 2 days on Halong bay with the day’s schedule:
8:00 – Take a 3-hour scenic drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay
12:30 – Enjoy a Welcome cocktail upon embarking Bhaya
13:00 – Savor a delicious Vietnamese buffet lunch as your cruise begins
14:30 – Spend the afternoon cruising amongst the limestone islands – Explore the Cave of Surprise (Sung Sot Cave) – Meet with local people at Van Gia fishing village – Enjoy optional onboard activities: e.g.  Sunbathing, traditional massage, cooking demonstrations
17:00 – Swim or kayak at Ho Dong Tien anchorage (weather permitting)
19:00 – Feast on a delicious Vietnamese Buffet Dinner
21:00 – Relax at leisure

Accommodation: Overnight aboard Bhaya Luxury Boat (twin share cabin with ensuite)
Meals included: breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 17
HALONG BAY – HANOI

Early morning Tai Chi on the sun deck, followed by a buffet breakfast. You will cruise the peaceful waters of Halong Bay until your disembarkation at 10:00am. After driving back to Hanoi you will have some free time in the afternoon to explore.
Accommodation: Tirant Hotel
Meals included: breakfast

Day 18
HANOI

Discover the monuments, markets and neighborhoods that make Hanoi so special. Spend a half day in Hanoi wandering with a local guide. Explore the vibrant Old Quarter, admire the iconic One Pillar Pagoda and get a taste of history at the Temple of Literature and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Today’s tour begins at 8:30. Set off on a half day guided tour of Hanoi’s highlights. Start with a visit to the Temple of Literature. Explore the incredible compound which was constructed in 1076. Hear stories of the buildings’ history, getting a glimpse into the past when it served as a university and temple.

Next up is a visit to Ho Chi Minh complex. See locals paying homage to this historic figure and ‘father’ of modern Vietnam. Take a short walk to his house on stilts, where he lived from 1958 to 1969. Walk around the tranquil grounds, learning about Ho Chi Minh’s life and legacy. Visit the One Pillar pagoda, built in 1049, is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples.

After transfer back to your hotel, take a chance to experience a one-hour cyclo tour through the narrow, chaotic streets of the Old Quarter. Snap some photos and chat with the locals on the way.

In the late afternoon, you will attend a water puppet show (45 minutes), this is a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history.

After the show, your guide will take you to one of the best restaurants in Hanoi, the Wild Rice Restaurant for a farewell dinner.

Accommodation: Tirant Hotel
Meals included: breakfast, Dinner

Day 19
HANOI – DEPARTURE

After breakfast you may have some free time before your transfer to the airport for your departing flight. Taking with you many remarkable memories.
Meals included: breakfast

Inclusions

INCLUDED WITH THIS TRIP

  • English speaking guides
  • All entrance fees
  • Hotel Accommodation as detailed in the itinerary (twin share)
  • Soft sleeper train Hanoi – Lao Cai – Hanoi ( 4 person/cabin)
  • Speed boat from Pnom Penh to Chau Doc
  • Private transportation in air conditioned vehicles
  • Domestic flights from SAIGON to DANANG and DANANG TO HANOI
  • Cruise on Halong Bay
  • Boat trip in Mekong Delta
  • Meals as detailed in the itinerary

NOT INCLUDED WITH THIS TRIP

  • International Airfare
  • Visa for both Vietnam and Cambodia
  • Visa fees – each member of the group must carry a valid passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the duration of your trip) and have obtained the appropriate visas
  • Tips, personal telephone charges.
  • Travel Insurance (compulsory) – You will need to give the policy number prior to departure
  • Items of a personal nature; postage, drinks and souvenirs
  • Additional optional activities and entrance fees during free time
  • Other meals not mentioned on the itinerary
  • Drinks – water, soft drinks, alcohol and other beverages
  • Spa Treatments
  • Medical Advice – Please refer to your GP or local travel clinic for up to date travel health advice for the area(s) you are visiting.

IMPORTANT NOTES Food & drinks – All food quality is carefully selected following the true local tradition. Local Guide – The group will be accompanied by a local English speaking guide. Our guides are highly professional, very friendly with an extensive knowledge of the area. They know every hidden corner and will give you the opportunity to experience all the unspoiled places and the real culture of the region. Transport – A private bus and driver will be available for the group for its everyday transfers and transportation of luggage.