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Cruising the Mekong: Saigon to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)

(14 Days - Departs Daily on a Private Basis)

Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho, Cai Be, Chau Doc, Phnom Penh, Kompong Cham, Siem Reap (Angkor)

 

Travel in the style of a bygone era onboard one of the luxury river cruise ships for a journey from Ho Chi Minh City to the temples of Angkor. All the Pandaw boats have ultra shallow drafts allowing travel to remote areas, and to cruise along riverbanks where local life can be observed. After some time to experience Saigon, board the Pandaw for a 7 night river expedition through the waterways of southern Vietnam and Cambodia, exploring the Mekong Delta, Phnom Penh, Lake Tonle Sap and many small temples and rural towns and villages en route. After an enthralling river cruise enjoy a 3 night in Siem Reap which will be your base for exploring the temples of Angkor.

 

** All our tours are Exclusive Private Tours, so you will not be put together with other guests **

 

 

Day 1: Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City

Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, VIETNAM                                                

 

Welcome to Vietnam. Upon arrival at Ho Chi Minh City Airport, obtain your Vietnam visa (please refer to your Special Program Note), and then clear Immigration and Customs. After collecting your baggage, exit the airport to meet outside a local Guide of Global Travel & Tours. He/she will be holding a sign with your names on it. Please note that local guides are not allowed inside the airport.

 

From the airport, you will be privately transferred to your lovely boutique hotel. Formerly known as Saigon, today’s Ho Chi Minh City is the bustling and vibrating economic centre of the South. Over the past few centuries, Saigon was called the “Pearl of the Far East” and was an important trading centre for Chinese, Japanese and Western merchants who travelled along the Saigon River.

 

Settle in and enjoy the afternoon and evening at your leisure.

 

Accommodation: Stay 2 nights in Ho Chi Minh City

 

First Class 4 Star Hotels: Grand Hotel, Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel, Villa Song Saigon

 

Luxury 5 Star Hotels: Park Hyatt Saigon, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, The Reverie Saigon

 

Day 2: Discover Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels

Meals Provided: Breakfast

 

This morning, enjoy scenic drive through the countryside as people work on their rice paddies and thatched hut villages scattered along the way. Visit a local village making rice paper, a well-known product used to make the delicious spring rolls. Arriving at the Cu Chi Tunnels to explore part of the 151-mile underground network that zigzagged from the southern tip of the Ho Chi Minh Trail near Cambodia to the Saigon River. Cu Chi is a must for anyone interested in understanding a vital aspect of guerrilla warfare fought by the Vietnamese against both the French and the Americans. These criss-crossing tunnels were begun in the late 1940s by local resistance fighters looking for a place to hide their weapons from the French. Discover secret trapdoors, field hospitals, command posts, underground kitchens, living areas and meeting rooms.

 

After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to discover Saigon's historic landmarks including the former Presidential Palace which was once headquarters for the Saigon Government during the "American War", and the War Remnants Museum, established in September 1975 in Ho Chi Minh City. It contains countless artifacts, photographs and pictures documenting some of the less heroic activities carried out by the US army in Vietnam. Planes, tanks, bombs and helicopters are also on display. Next visit the 1880's General Post Office and the late 19th century Notre Dame cathedral, located in a peaceful part of the city.

 

Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City/ My Tho / Setting Sail

Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

Private transfer to your cruise boat: After breakfast you will be transfer to My Tho and board the luxurious Mekong River cruise boat for the cruise from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap.

 

Cruising the Mekong: Upon arrival in My Tho you will embark the luxurious cruise boat and settle in to your cabin, the ship will begin by meandering along the busy waterways of the Mekong Delta. My Tho is the hub of the Delta, but not of great cultural interest, so once on board you set sail at 13.00 and have lunch. In the afternoon you will moor near Cai Be and make a fascinating trip by traditional junk to explore evergreen islands and the former Imperial residence - An Kiet House. Surviving members of the Kiet family will welcome you with tea and you can wander in the fruit orchards around the house. On the way back stop at Dong Hoa Hiep Island to see boat yards, brick works and traditional roofers. Moor overnight mid-stream at Cai Be.

 

Accommodation: Spend 7 nights on board the RV Pandaw, Aqua Mekong, The Jahan

 

Day 4: Cai Be

Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

Cruising the Mekong: Today you will take a morning junk trip around Cai Be to see the floating market and go ashore to visit the French Gothic Cathedral and colourful port area, with its colonial buildings, delightful flower gardens and local coconut candy and rice paper manufacturers. Return to the ship and cruise over to Vinh Long to visit a Bonsai Garden and fruit farm, followed by a visit to a brick and pottery factory. Return to ship and cruise past Vinh Long City and evergreen islands. The remainder of the day is spent cruising through the Mekong Delta.

 

Day 5: Chau Doc – Cambodia Border Crossing

Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

Pandaw Cruise: From the main Mekong channel at Tan Chau you travel down the canals and backwaters by local ferry boat. At Chau Doc you will transfer to small boats to visit a Cham tribal village. You will also visit a cat fish farm. Later take a trishaw ride round this fascinating town with its fine French colonial buildings and its bustling market. Return to the boat, for lunch, and then cast off for the Cambodian border for the necessary formalities, which in this part of the world can take time. In the evening cruise up the broad Mekong channel, which is an international shipping route. Moor overnight just downstream from Phnom Penh.

 

Day 6: Phnom Penh

Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

Cruising the Mekong: Today you reach the capital of Cambodia which retains much of its French charm. The old colonial architecture makes an attractive backdrop to busy cafes, and the renovated river "corniche" is full of life. The city has several impressive wats, including Wat Ounalom, Wat Phnom and the newly painted Wat Lang Ka. Pride of place goes to the spectacular Silver Pagoda, one of the few places in Cambodia where artefacts embodying the brilliance and richness of Khmer culture were preserved by the Khmer Rouge. The National Museum is another highlight, with outstanding displays of Khmer crafts. An afternoon excursion is arranged to the Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge's grim Tuol Sleng, or S21 detention centre, situated in the suburbs of the city. More happily, Phnom Penh has a lively night life, and some passengers choose to dine ashore or try one of the capital's many watering holes; a favourite being the Foreign Correspondents' Club.

 

Day 7: Phnom Penh – Kompong Cham

Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

Cruising the Mekong: Early morning departure from Phnom Penh and a stop at the little-known Chong Koh silk weaving village for a morning walk at leisure. You will then cruise past the Mekong's timeless villages and river life with extensive fishing activities. The scenery is very lovely here, and in the distance, forested hills rise. On the river above Phnom Penh there is little shipping, just real Cambodian life. In the afternoon we stop at Peam Chi Kang village to visit the monastery and school. You are at leisure to explore this peaceful and friendly community. In the wat the village's splendid racing boats are stored.

 

Day 8: Kompong Cham area

Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

Cruising the Mekong: This morning journey upriver to the hilltop pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey. Dating from the 8th century, these ancient brick structures characterise the architecture of the Chenla Empire which predated the glories of Angkor. Sail back downstream over lunch for an exploration of the Kampong Cham Area. You will travel by bus to the 12th century Angkorian temple of Wat Nokor. This colourful temple is unique in Cambodia, as a modern wat is set within the ruins of an ancient temple. Continue on to the twin holy mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei, or Man and Woman Hills. Legends abound about the origins of these hills and there are many pagodas and shrines on the hilltops.

 

Day 9: Tonle River

Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

Cruising the Mekong: Pass by the capital Phnom Penh in the early morning, and then sail the Tonle River which connects Tonle Lake with the Mekong and Bassac Rivers that merge at Phnom Penh. This river journey is one of the highlights of the trip. The cruise boat winds its way through jungle, and as the river narrows you feel as though you can almost reach out and touch the houses and people who come wave at the ship. Temples abound along the river banks at Kampong Chhnang, and we see the rich tapestry of Cambodian rural life. This is a busy rural port town with bustling markets. Mooring mid-stream, you take a wonderful motor boat excursion into the lakeside wetlands that form the mouth of the river. Here a stunning variety of birdlife may be seen and of considerable interest are the great fish traps, some hundred's of feet long, which net a huge tonnage of fish after each monsoon as the fish migrate from the falling lake into the Tonle River.

 

Day 10: Tonle Sap / Siem Reap / Discovering the Ancient Capital

Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch

 

Cruising the Mekong: The great Tonle Sap Lake dominates Cambodia and is over 90 miles in length. Here bird life is profuse and from the middle of the lake one cannot even see the shores. There is a great stillness and tranquillity as the boat cruises past floating fishing villages towards the pier in Siem Reap.

 

Private transfer: On arrival at Siem Reap's pier you will be met and transferred to your lovely boutique hotel. Siem Reap is the base for exploring the fabled temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire.

 

Settle in and enjoy the afternoon and evening at your leisure.

 

Accommodation: Stay 4 nights in Siem Reap

 

First Class 4 Star Hotels: Shinta Mani Resort, Viroth’s Boutique Hotel, Pavillon d’Orient Boutique

 

Luxury 5 Star Hotels: Park Hyatt Siem Reap, Belmond La Residence d’Angkor, Victoria Angkor Resort

 

Day 11: Siem Reap

Meals Provided:  Breakfast

 

These temples were built from the 9th to 12th centuries by a Khmer empire that controlled not only Cambodia but large parts of what are now Laos, Thailand and Vietnam as well. With their grandeur of scale and extraordinary delicacy in detail, the temples rank among humankind's most supreme artistic expressions. Spend the early morning visit the ancient capital of Angkor Thom (12th century). See the South Gate with its huge statues depicting the churning of the ocean of milk, visit Bayon temple (unique for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avolokitesvara), Baphuon (recently re-opened after years of restoration), the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Elephants Terrace, and the Terrace of the Leper King.

 

In the late afternoon and sunset hours, explore the most famous of all the temples on the plain of Angkor: Angkor Wat. The temple complex covers 81 hectares and is comparable in size to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Its distinctive five towers are emblazoned on the Cambodian flag and the 12th century masterpiece is considered by art historians to be the prime example of classical Khmer art and architecture. Angkor Wat’s five towers symbolize Meru’s five peaks – the enclosed wall represents the mountains at the edge of the world and the surrounding moat, the ocean beyond. Sunset at Angkor Wat.

 

After dusk, you'll be returned to your hotel with the evening free to relax or explore independently.

 

Day 12: Siem Reap

Meals Provided:  Breakfast

 

Today, meet your personal guide and driver. Rise early to travel to Ta Phrom. Built in 1186, Ta Phrom was dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. Its atmospheric dark gray sandstone towers and courtyards exude an aura of reverence and mystery. Unlike most of the other inner temples of Angkor, Ta Phrom has been left to the elements and looks very much as it must have when "discovered" by Henri Mouhot in the 1860s. Navigating through its narrow passages, immense kapok trees and jungle-covered ruins is an unparalleled experience and one of the highlights of Angkor. Next, you’ll visit Preah Khan or 'Sacred Sword', built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. Sister temple to Ta Prohm, the cruciform corridors here are impressive and there are some wonderful carvings adorning the walls, including the spectacular hall of dancers. Look out for the curious two-storey structure that is almost Grecian in inspiration. This is one of the few temples originally dedicated to Buddhism and Hinduism. The original eastern entrance was for Mahayana Buddhists, while the other cardinal points represented the Hindu trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Next, to Banteay Kdei This temple was the first great Buddhist monastery in Cambodia, constructed by Jayavarman VII during the 12th and 13th centuries. Its system of galleries and vestibules that were added after the construction of the main towers makes it look like a cloister. It was built in sandstone, which has deteriorated quite badly. However, there remain some very beautiful lintels and pediments. Although it is in a ruinous state. You’ll then visit Ta Keo King Suryavarman I commissioned this temple in the 10th Century, but it was never completed so has no elaborate decoration like its contemporaries. It is a pyramid on 5 levels and is dedicated to Shiva. Some scholars contend this was due to an inauspicious lightning strike during construction. Others have suggested the high quality sandstone was simply too hard to carve in detail.

 

Later this afternoon, journey north to visit Banteay Srei. This petite pink temple is the jewel in the crown of Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia and the name translates as ‘Fortress of the Women', thanks to the intricate detail here, considered too fine for the hands of a man. Originally believed to date from the latter part of the Angkor period, inscriptions at the site suggest it was built by a Brahman in 967. However, some architectural historians have suggested that the inscriptions may date from an earlier structure on this site and the temple is in fact later, marking a high-water mark in Khmer sculpture. Stop at a local village to visit families who are producing palm sugar. Make a short stop at the Land Mine Museum, a rather humble look at the land mine problem, past and present, in Cambodia.

 

This evening, walk up Phnom Bakheng for a sunset view of Angkor Wat and the surrounding areas. This view provides a wonderful overview of the entire area. (Please note that this site becomes very crowded at sunset, so you may choose to walk up to Pre Rep instead.) 

 

Day 13: Siem Reap

Meals Provided:  Breakfast & Lunch

 

This morning you will be met at your hotel at 8.00am and travel to the lost temple of Beng Mealea, the titanic of temples, a slumbering giant lost for centuries in the forests of Cambodia. It is the most accessible of Angkor’s lost temples, a mirror image of Angkor Wat, but utterly consumed by the voracious appetite of nature. Constructed by Suryavarman II (1113-1150), the builder of Angkor Wat, the forest has run riot here and it is hard to get a sense of the monument’s shape amid the daunting ruins. Here it is possible to enjoy an Indiana Jones experience clambering about the vast ruin. For those who want a more gentle adventure, there is also a sturdy wooden walkway running right into the heart of the temple. It is also possible to visit a nearby Angkor-era quarry from where stone was cut to build these massive monuments.

 

We then head into the bush to the remote Angkor capital of Koh Ker is an Angkorian site in northern Cambodia 70 miles northeast of Siem Reap; it was briefly the capital of the Khmer empire between 928 and 944 under king Jayavarman IV and his son Hasavarman II. After the Khmer empire had been established in the Angkor area (Roluos), Jayavarman IV moved the capital in 928 to Koh Ker. Here a vast number of temples were built under his reign, until his successor returned to the Angkor area about twenty years later. The Koh Ker site is dominated by Prasat Thom, a 30-meter-tall temple-mountain raising high above the plain and the surrounding forest. Great views await the visitor at the end of an adventurous climb. The area was only recently de-mined and the road improved. This makes Koh Ker very attractive for anyone who would like to experience what Angkor must has been like half a century ago. Picnic lunch at Koh Ker.

 

After exploring Koh Ker through the afternoon, begin the drive back to Siem Reap arriving this evening for a well-deserved opportunity to freshen up and good night's rest.

 

Day 14: Depart Siem Reap

Meals Provided:  Breakfast

 

Today enjoy free day at leisure until your guide and driver transfer to the Siem Reap airport in time for your flight to next destination. We wish you a safe and pleasant journey.

 

 

Price guideline:

 

The above tour costs from $2,695*per person, based on 2 people sharing a double or twin room.

 

*Please note this price is subject to change at the time of booking, and depends on the date of travel and the availability of accommodation.

 

Our price includes (Private tour): 

• Accommodation base in a shared double or twin room throughout

Daily buffet breakfast at hotel and all hotels taxes and service charges.

Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary.

Travel by private, air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced, safe driver.

Private sightseeing with local, English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary.

Meals included as indicated as in program: B: breakfast, L: lunch & D: dinner.

Boat cruise as specified in the programmed.

Entrance fees according the above program.

Local bottled water while sightseeing and transfers.

VAT and all taxes and service charge.

 

The price does not include

International flight tickets and Visas

Any items of purely personal nature such as laundry and telephone calls

Personal, travel and health insurance

Early check in and late check out

Drinks during meals

Meals that are not specified

Gratuities/tipping to tour guide, driver and hotel staff and restaurant’s staff

 

 

All of our itineraries can customized as you wish, add extra days, change a hotel, and see different sights. For information on this or our other tours please email us at: info@globaltravel-asia.com