From the heights of the Himalayas to the southern coasts of the South China Sea, winding over 2,700 miles, the Mekong is much more than just irrigation for Indochina - everywhere it flows, it fascinates men and shapes their lives. Cruise up this great and generous "water snake" beginning in the French-influenced Ho Chi Minh City, taking you through Phnom Penh and the Tonle Sap Lake and River, and following the footsteps of legendary explorer Henri Mouhot to the ruins in Angkor. We offer a meditative 9-day journey, allowing you to experience the rhythm of the Mekong River eight days aboard a ship combining charm and comfort. You’ll end your vacation visiting Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, followed by a romantic cruise on a junk across the legendary Halong Bay - between the islands, through the coves, and around the karstic peaks.
DAY 1: SIEM REAP - ANGKOR
Transfer to the hotel with your guide. Lunch at the TARA ANGKOR HOTEL or similar accommodations. You’ll be able to check into your rooms at 2:00 p.m. This afternoon we’ll visit the Senteurs d'Angkor: a diverse collection of silk and carvings, as well as a superb range of traditional beauty products and spices, all made locally. We’ll also visit the workshop and see how many of their products are made. We’ll have dinner in the city, and spend the night at the hotel.
DAY 2: SIEM REAP - ANGKOR
Enjoy breakfast before leaving early this morning to visit Banteay Srei, a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva - widely praised as the “Jewel of Khmer Art”. Rediscovered among the vines of the forest in 1914, it is the only temple carved in hard pink sandstone in the Angkor region. We’ll then visit the temple of Ta Prohm, built in the late 12th century and still as it was found centuries later with trees growing out of the ruins. We’ll have lunch in town. In the afternoon, we’ll explore Angkor Thom, a vast architectural complex which can be accessed through five gates. At its center, the monumental temple of Bayon - famous for its towers and 172 faces of Avalokitesvara. Stroll through the grounds of the former Royal Palace, where the Phimeanakas Sanctuary is found. Discover the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. We’ll enjoy dinner while watching classical Khmer dancing. Afterwards, you can join us for a stroll through the “Angkor Night Market” and enjoy the night air and local crafts. We’ll spend the night at the hotel.
DAY 3: SIEM REAP - TONLE SAP
Enjoy breakfast before visiting the Angkor Wat temple: the epitome of Khmer architectural art. It is the largest religious monument in the world and an architectural masterpiece. Lunch will be served at the hotel. In the early afternoon, transfer from the hotel to the RV INDOCHINE. After comfortably settling into your cabins, we’ll introduce our crew at a welcome cocktail and have dinner on board.
DAY 4: TONLE SAP - KAMPONG CHHNANG - KAMPONG TRALACH
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast this morning while we cross the lake. Located about 90 kilometers from Phnom Penh, Kampong Chhnang is one of the largest fishing ports on the Tonle Sap. Fish farming is abundant here. The region is best known for its particularly archaic pottery that can be found throughout the country and which gave the town its name (Kampong Chhnang means "port of pottery" in Khmer). We’ll taste the palm sugar harvested from the Thnot - a sugar palm that is also a national symbol, and visit the floating village on small boats. We’ll return back on board and depart for Kampong Tralach. We’ll have dinner on board this evening.
DAY 5: KAMPONG TRALACH - KOH CHEN - PHNOM PENH
Enjoy breakfast before visiting the beautiful Vihara at the Wat Kampong Tralach Leu pagoda. We access the Vihara by crossing through the village of Kompong Tralach in ox wagons and using a small road running perpendicular to the river, amid the beautifully landscaped paddy fields. The Vihara dates from the beginning of the last century and still retains its magnificent murals - although they are beginning to suffer from the ravages of time. Totally hidden within the rice fields, it is a modest pagoda attracting few visitors, and its isolation makes the site more enticing. We’ll return on board for lunch and cast off once again. Once we arrive in Koh Chen, you can explore this small village where craftspeople specialize in silver and copper work and where ornaments used in traditional ceremonies at the pagoda or for marriages are fashioned. We’ll visit a local private school, and then return onboard to cruise towards Phnom Penh, arriving in the late afternoon. Join us for a "Tuk-tuk" ride: a motorized three-wheel cycle and traditional means of transportation in Phnom Penh. We’ll return to the ship and enjoy a performance of classical Khmer dancing and music. We’ll have dinner and remain in port overnight. The evening is free to do as you please.
DAY 6: PHNOM PENH
Enjoy breakfast before our visit to the capital city. Founded in 1434, Phnom Pehn, after much rehabilitation of part of its architectural heritage, still retains a good deal of its charm from the French colonial period. Visit the Silver Pagoda and the Royal Palace, one of the finest examples of Cambodian architecture inspired by the traditional Khmer style. The Silver Pagoda houses many national treasures including gold and jeweled Buddha statues. Most notable is a small 17th-century crystal Buddha and a life-sized gold Buddha decorated with 9,584 diamonds, the largest of which weighs 25 carats. Onward to visit the National Museum, which houses the Museum of Fine Arts, built in 1917 by the French but using the traditional Khmer style. The museum houses one of the world's largest collections of Khmer art, including sculptures, ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects and includes over 14,000 items from prehistoric times to after the Khmer Empire. We’ll have lunch in town. In the afternoon, tour the Tuol Svay Prey School, a former detention, torture and execution center run by the Khmer Rouge during the civil war. Afterwards, spend some free time at the market. We’ll return on board for dinner and the night.
DAY 7: CHAU DOC - SA DEC
Enjoy breakfast as we spend the morning cruising to the Vietnamese border. We’ll spend the morning taking care of customs formalities. We’ll have lunch and arrive in Chau Doc in the early afternoon. Chau Doc, on the edge of the Mekong Delta, is the stepping stone between each country. And there are floating farms everywhere! Now-prosperous Chau Doc has developed around fish and fish farming. The town is a busy, lively place with few tourists and several charming colonial buildings. The market is in the heart of the city, and it has a color scheme to match its ambience: with bright pastel hues of green, blue and purple adorning many of the newer shop fronts. We’ll set out on small boats to visit a fish farm, and if the weather permits, go up to the top of Nui Sam. We’ll return through Chau Doc and visit the temples of Ba Chua Xu and Tay An. We’ll return on board and continue towards Sa Dec. We’ll have dinner and spend the night on board this evening.
DAY 8: SA DEC - VINH LONG - CAI BE
Enjoy breakfast before continuing to the small sleepy town of Sa Dec. We’ll visit the former house of Huynh Thuy Le, the man who Marguerite Duras based her book The Lover on. In colonial times, Sa Dec was known as the “Garden of Cochin-China” because of its famous floral gardens. We’ll have lunch on board and cruise to Ving Long - located in the middle of the delta, between two distributaries of the Mekong River. Hundreds of small boats abound between houses built on stilts. We’ll take a boat ride through the arroyos and orchards to Cai Be. We’ll discover a brick and pottery factory, a fruit-tree nursery in Binh Hoa Phuoc, puffed riced and the rice paper wrappers used to make nems, rice alcohol and coconut candies. Afterwards, we’ll return on board and start to cruise once again. We’ll have dinner on board this evening.
DAY 9: MY THO - HO CHI MINH CITY
Enjoy breakfast on board. The islands near My Tho are well-known for their abundant orchards and fruit garden. The climate is warm and pleasant all year round. The surrounding countryside is considered one of the most luxurious in Vietnam and abounds in coconuts, bananas, mangos and longans. On one of the largest islands, Thoi Son, we’ll visit a honey farm and taste their honey tea and exotic fruits. Afterwards, we'll have a ride in a sampan through the canal bordered with nipa palms and observe the daily life of the inhabitants. We’ll have lunch on board and begin our magnificent cruise through the very narrow Cho Gao Canal towards Ho Chi Minh City. We’ll have dinner on board and remain in port overnight. The evening is free to do as you please.
DAY 10: HO CHI MINH CITY
Enjoy breakfast before visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Conquered by the French in 1859, a number of classical Western-style buildings and French villas in the city still reflect this colonial era. We’ll tour the city to see the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Central Post Office. We’ll have lunch on board, and this afternoon we’ll visit a lacquer painting workshop. Afterwards, enjoy some free time in the local souvenir market. Tonight, we'll have a cocktail together followed by dinner. We’ll remain in port overnight. The evening is free to do as you please.
DAY 11: HO CHI MINH CITY - HANOI
After enjoying breakfast on board, you’ll disembark and spend the morning visiting Cholon, the Chinese-influenced section of the city. We’ll have lunch in town. After lunch, you’ll be transferred to the airport and board a flight to Hanoi. Once we arrive in Hanoi, you’ll check into the Movenpick Hotel (or similar accommodations). We’ll have dinner at the hotel this evening.
DAY 12: HANOI
After breakfast, you’ll spend the day on a guided tour of the capital visiting the outside of the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum on Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh's humble stilt house behind the mausoleum, and the unique One Pillar Pagoda Buddhist temple. Then, we’ll move on to the Temple of Literature, which was home to Vietnam's first national university, the Imperial Academy, and is one of several temples in Vietnam dedicated to Confucius. The interior of the temple is divided into five impressive and unique courtyards, arranged south to north. The first courtyard is reached through a monumental gate known as the Great Portico. We’ll have lunch in town. Afterwards, we’ll discover the old quarter of the city by pedi-cab or electric car. Also known as the “36 Streets”, the quarter reflects the different guilds concentrating their businesses along these streets. During our tour, we’ll see many French colonial buildings and Hoan Kiem Lake. We’ll finish up our day with a traditional water puppetry show, have dinner in the city, and spend the night at the hotel.
DAY 13: HANOI - HALONG BAY
Enjoy breakfast before leaving early in the morning for Halong Bay (approx. 3.5 hours travel time). We’ll be welcomed aboard a junk, enjoy a cocktail, and have lunch on board. We’ll begin our cruise to discover the thousands of various limestone islands dotting the emerald-colored bay, and go on a tour of a floating fishing village. We’ll have dinner on board and spend the night on the 4-star junk Bahia (or similar accommodations).
DAY 14: HALONG BAY - HANOI
Rise early with us this morning and participate in a Tai Chi class on deck. We’ll continue our cruise through the bay, discovering more of its extraordinary scenery and visiting one of the largest caves. This morning, brunch will be served on board. You’ll disembark at 11:00 a.m. and begin the trip back to Hanoi. Before arriving, we’ll stop off at the Dinh Bang communal hall, one of the largest and finest communal houses in Vietnam. You’ll be served a light dinner. End of our services.