The incredible Angkor UNESCO World Heritage sites, travelling the wide channels & quiet backwaters of the Mekong River, learning Vietnamese and Cambodian cooking, cycling the south Vietnamese countryside, Khmer classical dance, rural homestays, floating markets.
Duration: 14 days
Start: Ho Chi Minh City
End: Siem Reap
Maximum Group Size: 20
Cost: $TBA (land only, all inclusive based on double occupancy)
Join photographer, Brian K. Smith, and travel writer, Rick Green, on an adventure to the Mekong regions of southern Vietnam and Cambodia. Beginning our journey in Vietnam's bustling commercial capital, we'll then explore the Mekong Delta countryside by mostly bicycle and boat, enjoying the bounty of the land and even staying in a local home. Upon reaching the Cambodian border, a speed boat will whisk us to Phnom Penh for a short stay, before travelling overland to explore the marvels of the ancient Kingdom of Angkor.
Day 1 Arrive Ho Chi Minh City
Hotel transfer & check-in. Visit markets and temples in Saigon's Chinatown (Cholon) via a leisurely trip by cyclo.
Day 2 Ho Chi Minh City
The day is devoted to seeing some of the impact the American War had on Vietnam. In the morning we'll tour the impressive Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground defensive network used by the Vietcong on the outskirts of Saigon. Returning to the city in the afternoon, we'll see the iconic Independence Palace and visit the solemn War Remnants Museum.
Day 3 Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam has an international reputation for its delicious cuisine. This morning, we'll get a better appreciation for Vietnamese food by exploring it in more depth with a cooking school session. The afternoon is free for you to venture out on your own. We'll then have dinner while enjoying the city sights on a Saigon River cruise.
Day 4 Vinh Long
In the morning, we drive two hours to My Tho where we'll board a boat to travel the bustling arteries of the Mekong and the delta's tranquil rural canals. We'll pay a visit to a traditional home and sample seasonal fruit, tea, and local wine. Then we'll board small paddle boats to navigate the maze of channels dissecting this lush area. Following lunch, we enjoy a leisurely, two-hour bicycle ride along a narrow dirt road to Cai Be, traversing bridges and passing through small farms. At Cai Be, we board a boat to cross the 1.5km-wide Mekong to Binh Hoa Phuoc, where we'll have dinner and spend the night at a local homestay.
Day 5 Can Tho
After an outdoor breakfast at our homestay, we bike half an hour to the ferry crossing for Vinh Long, then take an extended ride to Can Tho, passing rice fields and riverside villages with terracotta roofs. Arriving in Can Tho, we have the option of strolling the city quay in the late afternoon or cycling along the riverside.
Day 6 Chau Doc
Early morning boat trip to Can Tho's fascinating Cai Rang floating market, followed by a three-hour bike ride along small canals and country road, appreciating the rural scenery and meeting locals along the way. Transfer by van to Long Xuyen for lunch, then continue by bike to Chau Doc. If time permits, we will hike to the summit of Sam Mountain for a panoramic view of the border between Vietnam and Cambodia.
Day 7 Phnom Penh
From Chau Doc, travel five hours up the Mekong by speedboat (includes border clearance formalities) to Phnom Penh. Hotel transfer & check-in. After lunch, visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.
Day 8 Phnom Penh
Visit the National Museum and Wat Phnom to discover the origins and founding legend of the city. In the afternoon, we'll learn about the dark history of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and its associated killing field of Choeung Ek on the city's outskirts.
Day 9 Kampong Thom
Overland to Kampong Thom with stops at Skuon – famous for its fried tarantulas – and Wat Kohear Nokor, an 11th century Hindu temple built from laterite. After lunch explore Prasat Sambor Prei Kuk, the ruins of Isanapura, the former capital of the Kingdom of Chenla. Sambor features over 100 pre-Angkorian brick temples surrounded by lush forest.
Day 10 Siem Reap
Travel by road to Siem Reap, gateway to the Angkor temples. Spend the afternoon at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat, staying until sunset for a classic photo of this world-renowned example of Khmer architecture.
Day 11 Siem Reap
This morning we'll learn about Cambodian cuisine with a half-day cooking class that ends with our lunch. Afterwards, explore the additional Angkor sites of Angkor Thom, the Bayon, Baphuon, Elephant Terrace, and the Terrace of the Leper King.
Day 12 Beng Mealea
Getting an early start, we depart for Koh Ker, 130 kilometres north of Siem Reap. Koh Ker was the Khmer capital from 928-944, moved from Angkor by King Jayavarman IV for unknown reasons. The highlight of this complex is the 7-tiered pyramid of Prasat Thom. After a picnic lunch here, we continue our journey through the Cambodian countryside to Beng Mealea, an abandoned 12th century temple complex that was the centre of a town surrounded by a large moat. We overnight at a nearby homestay.
Day 13 Siem Reap
Return to Siem Reap by way of Banteay Srei with stops at Preah Dark and Kbal Spean, where over 1,000 lingas are carved into the sandstone riverbed. Banteay Srei is a red sandstone temple dedicated to Shiva with well-preserved carvings and bas-reliefs that probably represent the height of artistic accomplishment from the Angkor period. Nearby, we'll pay a visit to the Cambodian Landmine Museum where you'll learn of the efforts of a former Khmer Rouge child soldier to make the land safe again for farming. End the day exploring the Ta Prohm temple complex made famous in the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie.
Day 14 Siem Reap
Morning at leisure. Airport transfer for onward journey.
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