You’ll begin 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. 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 for eight days aboard a ship combining charm and comfort.
Day 1 : HANOI
Participation in today‘s activities will depend on your arrival time in Hanoi. If you arrive between 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., your program will be:
Spend the day on a guided tour of the capital. You’ll visit 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. Enjoy lunch in town. Afterwards, we’ll discover the old quarter of the city by pedi-cab or electric mini-bus. 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 go to our hotel (Movenpick or similar accommodations) for dinner and the night.
Day 2: 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 begin our cruise to discover the thousands of various limestone islands dotting the emerald-colored bay. We’ll have lunch, and then and go on a tour of a floating fishing village. We’ll have dinner on board the 4-star junk Bahia (or similar accommodations).
Day 3: 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. We’ll disembark at 11:00 and return to Hanoi. Before arriving, we’ll stop off at the Dinh Bang communal hall, one of the largest and finest communal houses in Vietnam. Once we arrive in Hanoi, you’ll check into the Movenpick Hotel (or similar accommodations). 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 4: HANOI - HO CHI MINH CITY
After breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the Hanoi airport and fly to Ho Chi Minh City. Once you arrive, you’ll join the group arriving from Paris.
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 have lunch in town. In the afternoon, take a tour of the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Central Post Office. Afterwards, you’ll be transferred to the RV INDOCHINE to begin your cruise. After comfortably settling into your cabins, we’ll introduce our crew at a welcome cocktail. We'll have dinner and remain in port overnight. The evening is free to do as you please.
Day 5: HO CHI MINH CITY
After breakfast, join us for a visit of Cholon (whose name means "Big Market"), a neighborhood teeming with life, where nearly half the population lives and where commerce is king. We’ll visit the market and Thien Hau Pagoda, dedicated to the Lady of the Sea. We’ll have lunch on board and this afternoon, we’ll visit the Museum of Vietnamese History and then a lacquer painting workshop. Afterwards, enjoy some free time in the local souvenir market. We’ll return to the ship and begin our cruise towards the Cho Gao Canal. We’ll have dinner on board this evening.
Day 6: CHO GAO - MY THO - VINH LONG - CAI BE - SA DEC
Our early morning cruise to My Tho through the Cho Gao Canal will bring us from the Saigon River to the Mekong Delta. Everything is organized along the riverbanks of this waterway, and you’ll witness the frenzy of activities by its everyday inhabitants and workers. The Delta has numerous distributaries and thousands of different-sized canals. We'll arrive in My Tho after breakfast. My Tho is well-known for its orchards and fruit gardens. 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 taste honey 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 return on board for lunch and cruise to Vinh Long-Cai Be. Ving Long is located in the middle of the delta, between two distributaries of the Mekong River. We’ll set out in smaller boats and travel through creeks and orchards before arriving in Cai Be. Here, you’ll encounter a brick and pottery factory, fruit-tree nursery, puffed rice and the rice paper wrappers used to make nems, rice alcohol and coconut candies. We’ll then leave for Sa Dec. We’ll have dinner and spend the evening on board.
Day 7: SA DEC - CHAU DOC
After breakfast, we’ll spend the morning visiting Sa Dec, famous for its flower gardens. In colonial times, Sa Dec was known as the “Garden of Cochin-China.” There is a very busy, authentic market near the river and a lot of architecture from the colonial period, such as the old market, as well as numerous old mansions and merchant homes. We’ll also visit the former house of Huynh Thuy Le, the man whom Marguerite Duras based her book The Lover on. We’ll return to our ship and cruise towards Chau Doc, a city on the border of Vietnam and Cambodia. We’ll have lunch on board. Chau Doc, on the edge of the Mekong Delta, is the stepping stone between the two countries. 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 then go to the top of Nui Sam, returning through Chau Doc and visiting the temples of Ba Chua Xu and Tay An. We’ll have dinner on board this evening.
Day 8: CHAU DOC - PHNOM PENH
Enjoy breakfast as we spend the day cruising to Cambodia. We’ll spend the morning taking care of customs formalities, and have lunch on board. We’ll arrive mid-afternoon in Phnom Penh. Join us for a "Tuk-tuk" ride: a motorized three-wheel cycle and traditional means of transportation in Phnom Penh. We’ll have dinner on board and remain in port overnight. The evening is free to do as you please.
Day 9: 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. First, we’ll visit the Silver Pagoda, built in wood in 1892 and rebuilt in 1962, and the Royal Palace, the symbolic heart of the nation and one of the finest examples of Cambodian architecture inspired by the traditional Khmer style. Then we’ll tour the National Museum - built in 1917 by the French but using the Khmer style. 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 to the ship and enjoy a performance of classical Khmer dancing and music. We’ll have dinner on board and remain in port overnight. The evening is free to do as you please.
Day 10: KOH CHEN - KAMPONG TRALACH - KAMPONG CHHNANG
We’ll begin to cruise early in the morning. Enjoy breakfast before exploring the small village of Koh Chen, 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 have lunch on board. We’ll then head to Kampong Tralach to visit the beautiful Vihara at the Wat Kampong Tralach Leu pagoda. We’ll 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. After our tour, we’ll return on board and begin to cruise to Kampong Chhnang. We’ll have dinner on board this evening.
Day 11: KAMPONG CHHNANG - TONLE SAP
Enjoy breakfast before touring Kampong Chhnang. Located about 90km kilometers from Phnom Penh, it 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 some palm sugar and visit a local pottery. Then we’ll visit the floating village on small boats. In this village, everything floats - the schools, shops, and town hall - and life follows the rhythm of the rising and falling of the water level. We’ll return on board for lunch. Afterwards, we’ll cruise to Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater “lake” in Southeast Asia, whose flow changes direction twice a year, expanding and shrinking dramatically with the seasons. Tonight we’ll have our farewell cocktail and dinner.
Day 12: SIEM REAP - ANGKOR
We’ll spend the morning cruising, and depending on the water level, we’ll cross the Tonle Sap on board the RV Indochine. After breakfast, we’ll arrive in Siem Reap, where our local guide will greet us. We’ll have lunch at the hotel and check in. After you’ve settled into your room, we’ll visit the Angkor Wat temple: the epitome of Khmer architectural art. It is the largest religious monument in the world and an architectural masterpiece. We’ll return to our hotel (TARA ANGKOR HOTEL or similar accommodations) for dinner and the night.
Day 13: SIEM REAP
After breakfast, we’ll leave for an early visit of 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. Tonight, we’ll have dinner and enjoy another performance of classical Khmer dancing. Afterwards, you can join us for a stroll through the “Angkor Night Market” and enjoy the night air and local crafts. Spend the night at the TARA ANGKOR HOTEL (or similar accommodations).
Day 14: SIEM REAP
Enjoy breakfast before visiting 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 its workshop and see how many of their products are made. Lunch will be served at the hotel. End of our services.