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15 Days | Magnificent Mekong


Day 1 | Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, then transfer to your hotel. Check in for a 2-night stay and then relax or take a walk to stretch your legs and begin getting acquainted with the city.

Day 2 | Ho Chi Minh City. Begin your tour of this bustling metropolis in the Chinatown area of the city. Walk along Dong Khoi Street, the main shopping boulevard in the old colonial heart. See the grand city hall, the old opera house with its soaring arched entryway, the double spires of the Notre Dame Basilica and the Central Post Office. Then get a different perspective on modern-day Vietnam at the War Remnants Museum, which provides a stark picture of the Vietnam War from a decidedly partisan point of view. This afternoon, head to Ben Thành Market for some handcrafted souvenirs and also visit a Lacquer Factory. Tonight, enjoy some of the country’s delicious French-influenced cuisine at a typical local restaurant. (B,D)

Day 3 | My Tho. Embark Ship. Cái Bè. After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to My Tho to embark your ship. As you settle in to your stateroom, we begin sailing along the Mekong River. This afternoon we visit the floating markets of Cái Bè where you see local workers producing rice noodles, coconut candy and a host of other handmade products. This evening, meet the ship’s officers over a welcome cocktail, and enjoy a screening of the film l’Amant (the Lover) which will prepare you for tomorrow’s visit to Sa Dec. (B,L,D)

Day 4 | Sa Dec. Cu Lao Gien. This morning, enjoy an exciting sampan boat excursion along the canals and backwaters of the Mekong Delta. Small factories line the river channels here; see local workers producing rice noodles, coconut candy and a host of other products, usually in a traditional manner, mostly with manual labor. Stop in Sa Dec to see the home of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, the protagonist in Marguerite Duras’s beloved autobiographic novel, l’Amant. Later this afternoon, visit Cu Lao Gien Island where you see the monastery of St. Paul of Chartres, built in 1875 and later known as “la Providence.” Once a thriving mission with an orphanage, a hospital to treat leprosy victims, a school and a hospice, it serves today as a retreat for some 180 retired nuns. This evening, attend an onboard screening of the 2002 film The Quiet American, based on Graham Greene’s novel set in 1952 Saigon. (B,L,D)

Day 5 | Châu Ðôc. Mekong River Cruising. Cambodia Border Crossing. Begin your morning with a tour of the busy riverside port of Châu Ðôc riding a trishaw. Afterwards, board a small boat to visit a Cham tribal village. Descended from an ancient Malay-Polynesian empire that arrived in Southeast Asia during the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C., the Champa people competed with the Khmer for dominance of the area. Observe village life and visit a catfish farm. Return aboard for lunch and scenic cruising along the Mekong; this afternoon we cross over into Cambodia. Onboard activities include a fruit-carving workshop and a presentation about the history of Vietnam. This evening we screen the 1984 film The Killing Fields. (B,L,D)

Day 6 | Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Dock along the lovely waterfront of Cambodia’s capital and explore the city in style, in a cyclo—the ubiquitous passenger bicycles of Southeast Asia. This mode of transportation provides many Cambodians with a source of income and visitors with a speedy and enjoyable way to move around. See the magnificent Royal Palace with the Silver Pagoda, built in the 19th century by the French but inspired by the centuries-old architecture of the Khmer. The National Museum of Cambodia houses treasures of Khmer art and craftsmanship and also displays art that predates the mighty empire. This afternoon, join an excursion to the sobering memorial in the Tuol Sleng detention center, a former high school in which thousands of victims of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime died, and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, or explore the city’s maze of small alleys, markets and busy streets on your own if you prefer. Tonight’s dinner is accompanied by a folkloric performance. (B,L,D)

Day 7 | Phnom Penh. After breakfast, take a tour of the National Museum of Cambodia, which houses treasures of Khmer art and craftsmanship and also displays art that predates the mighty empire. After your museum visit, continue to the beautifully preserved 14th-century Buddhist temple of Wat Phnom, with more modern murals inside and a sanctuary dedicated to Lady Penh, said to be the founder of this temple. Take some free time for exploration or shopping before returning to your ship for lunch. This afternoon there will be a presentation on board including a lecture on Cambodia’s history and culture and a film about the life of Pol Pot, leader of the infamous Khmer Rouge—or you are free to explore Phnom Penh’s historic riverfront area, with its restaurants, art galleries and silk shops, or perhaps visit the distinctive Central Market or the “Russian Market” where you can buy jewelry, curios, clothes and souvenirs. You might prefer to visit more of the city’s wats—Wat Langka, Wat Botum, Wat Koh or Wat Ounalom—each with its own special character and purpose. Dinner is served on board. (B,L,D)

Day 8 | Mekong River Scenic Cruising. Today, enjoy scenic cruising along the Mekong, one of the world’s great rivers. The Mekong is truly the Mother River of Southeast Asia, sustaining civilizations through the centuries. Pass by some of the Mekong rice fields—the Khmer empire was founded on a rice surplus and rice is still the main staple of Vietnamese cuisine. We stop to visit Chong Koh, a Khmer river community, and the village of Peam Chi Kang along the way. There will also be a film on board about the Mekong River and Angkor Wat. (B,L,D)

Day 9 | Kampong Cham. You will visit the hilltop temple of Wat Hanchey this morning, which affords stunning views of the Mekong River. The temple itself dates back to the 8th century and it is surrounded by smaller religious monuments dotting the hillsides. After lunch, visit the twin holy mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey with their many temples and pagodas, still used during traditional Khmer festivals. Continue to the ecotourism village of Choeungkok, supported by the French–Cambodian Amica organization. (B,L,D)

Day 10 | Kampong Thom. Disembark Ship. Siem Reap. Bid farewell to your ship this morning as your cruise through Vietnam and Cambodia comes to an end. Disembark in Kampong Thom, then take a ride through the Cambodian countryside to Siem Reap. Check in to your hotel for a 3-night stay. Tonight’s dinner is accompanied by a traditional Apsara dance show. (B,D)

Day 11 | Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archeological sites in the world. Begin your day with a visit to one of Angkor’s largest Khmer temples, Angkor Wat, built for King Suryavarman II in the 12th century A.D. With its beautiful proportions and extensive, intricate bas-relief stone carvings, it is one of the most spectacular sights in Southeast Asia. Spend some time exploring the fortified city of Angkor Thom, which houses several of Angkor’s most popular sights such as the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper Kings with their dramatic bas reliefs. Today you also visit the mysterious Bayon Temple, known for its giant, stone carved faces with their enigmatic smiles. Dine at a local restaurant and relax this evening. (B,D)

Day 12 | Angkor. Siem Reap. Today, continue your exploration of the temple ruins left behind by the mighty Khmer Empire, which ruled Cambodia from the early 9th century for some 400 years. Its founder, King Jayavarman II, was a contemporary of Charlemagne, and his dreams of empire were equally grandiose. At its zenith, the Khmer Empire covered most of the Indochinese Peninsula. Ride to the spectacular 10th-century Hindu temple Banteay Srey (“Citadel of Women”) to see magnificent carvings of Shiva and Vishnu. Then, journey to Ta Prohm, one of the most popular of the temples of Angkor. Unlike many other buildings, it has been largely left intact as it was when discovered, with trees and large shrubs growing over the ruins. Return to Siem Reap this afternoon and learn how local crafts are alive and well in the modern-day city. Visit a vocational center that trains 650 young apprentices every year in the traditional crafts of stone sculpture, wood carving and painting; then take a guided tour through Artisans d’Angkor, a network of studios for the newly trained craftspeople. Mingle with the locals at some of Siem Reap’s open air markets or just relax before your final dinner in Siem Reap. (B,D)

Day 13| Siem Reap. Hanoi, Vietnam. This morning, check out of your hotel and spend some time learning how local crafts are alive and well in present-day Siem Reap. Start with a visit to a rural silk farm, set amongst mulberry groves, which produces some of the country’s finest silk. Proceed to a vocational center that trains 650 young apprentices every year in the traditional crafts of stone sculpture, wood carving and painting; then take a guided tour through Artisans d’Angkor, a network of studios for the newly trained craftspeople. This afternoon, take a short flight to Hanoi; check in to your hotel for a 2-night stay and relax over dinner. (B,D)

Day 14 | Hanoi. This morning, tour this unique Asian capital where old and new combine for an inviting blend in a lush setting of parks and lakes. Visit the Temple of Literature, a maze of courtyards and graceful gateways, an excellent example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Proceed to the 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda, one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples, and the nearby Ho Chi Minh Memorial, a vast complex dedicated to the country’s 20th-century Communist leader. You will also see the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” the facility where American POWs were held captive during the Vietnam War. This afternoon, visit the Museum of Ethnology, with its numerous fascinating exhibits that bring Vietnam’s history and culture to life. Enjoy some free time this afternoon to explore Hanoi on your own before gathering for a festive farewell dinner. (B,D)

Day 15 | Hanoi. After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to the airport for your return flight. Or, continue your Southeast Asia adventure with a 2-night stay in gorgeous Ha Long Bay. (B)

NOTE: Itinerary is subject to change without notice. For the most up-to-date information, please refer to the itinerary schedule you receive with your final documents.

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