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|Itinerary at a Glance
Captivating Cambodia & Vietnam
|4||Phnom Penh, Siem Reap
|6||Siem Reap, Lake Tonle Sap
& Ho Chi Minh City
|7||Ho Chi Minh City|
|8||Ho Chi Minh City
& Halong Bay
|9||Halong Bay & Hanoi|
|Style||Fully Escorted & Guided
Dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Highlights||Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh City, Halong Bay, Hanoi, Angkor Wat & Halong Bay cruise. Optional Bangkok extension.|
|What to Expect||This moderately-paced, locally hosted tour includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness.|
If you've put off a trip to Vietnam because of time or price, then our new Taste of Vietnam & Cambodia tour is for you. See for yourself why Cambodia and Vietnam have emerged as Asia's hottest new destination for Western travelers. Our 11-day escorted tour takes you to the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh as well as the amazing Angkor temple complex. Then onto Vietnam's two most important cities—Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi, as well as picturesque Halong Bay. Explore on your own or on exciting optional tours to the Cu Chi Tunnels, and more! You'll enjoy superior accommodations, bountiful daily breakfasts, included sightseeing tours in each city, discounted optional tours, and as always, the very best in Friendly Planet service. Of course, all of this is yours at prices that are downright amazing!
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Day 2: En route. Cross the International Dateline and lose a day. (You'll recover this day on your return trip.)
Day 3: Phnom Penh. Arrive in the mid-morning in Phnom Penh, the fascinating, bustling capital city of Cambodia on the banks of three rivers, the Mekong, the Tonle Sap and the Tonle Bassac. Meet your guide and transfer to your hotel for check-in. Enjoy some time to relax from your flight, perhaps stroll the lovely streets around your centrally located hotel, or take a nap before dinner.
This afternoon, take advantage of an included bonus tour of Phnom Penh, beginning with an overview of the city from atop Wat Phnom. Proceed to the incredible Silver Pagoda in the Royal Palace complex where you will find a dazzling green-crystal Buddha and a life-size Buddha made of solid gold and encrusted with 9,500 diamonds, resting on a floor covered with 5,000 silver tiles. Continue to the National Museum which has a wonderful collection of Khmer art and sculpture. Time permitting, pay a respectful visit to Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes, a Khmer Rouge prison and torture chamber from which only seven out of more than 30,000 inmates survived. Return to your hotel and prepare to join your fellow travelers at a "Welcome to Cambodia" dinner. Accommodations: InterContinental Phnom Penh Hotel. Dinner provided.
Day 4: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap & Angkor. After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport to board your flight to Siem Reap. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.
Set off for the Angkor Archeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which contains the ruins of more than a thousand stone temples. The temples are the surviving remnants of a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis whose other buildings were built of wood and are long since decayed and gone. Built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD, the temples and the great city that surrounded them are one of mankind's most astonishing architectural achievements.
Satellite photographs reveal Angkor to have been the largest preindustrial city in the world, with an urban sprawl of 3000 square kilometers and supporting a population of up to one million people. Mysteriously abandoned in the 15th century, the site remained largely cloaked by the forest until the late 19th century, when archaeologists began to clear away the forest and embark on a long restoration process that continues today.
Begin your explorations at the mysterious royal walled city of Angkor Thom. Its temple is an awesome and surreal sight that most visitors never forget. Atop each of its 50 towers, staring out in the directions of the four points of the compass, are four giant, barely-smiling faces, depicting Khmer royal rulers as Buddhist deities. You are engulfed by the silent, heavy, enigmatic gaze of those faces, staring out through half-closed eyes from a remote time in history.
Other sites you'll visit in this complex include the Baphuon, Elephant Terrace, Leper King Terrace and Royal Palace area, from which the Khmer kings ruled over a vast domain that reached from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal. Accommodations: Borei Angkor Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 5: Siem Reap. After breakfast, depart for your exploration of the temples of the Small Circuit. The most famous is Ta Prohm temple, shrouded in jungle and left untouched among twisted banyan trees and stone pillars, it is has the most mysterious atmosphere of the temples in the Angkor area. Visit Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the 12th century and Srah Srang, also known as the "pool of ablutions", as well as the twin towers of Chau Say Tevoda and Thommanon.
This afternoon, depart by local Tuk-Tuk to visit the intricately carved ruins at Angkor Wat, built by Suryavarman II during the early years of the 12th century to honor the Hindu god Vishnu. Consisting of an enormous temple symbolizing the mythic Mt. Meru, its rectangular walls and moats represent chains of mountains and the cosmic ocean. Hundreds of fine carvings and scenes from Hindu mythology can still be viewed here. Enjoy the sunset over Angkor Wat before returning to your hotel. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 6: Siem Reap, Lake Tonle Sap & Ho Chi Minh City. After breakfast, depart Siem Reap to visit Lake Tonle Sap, South East Asia's largest freshwater lake. During the dry season the lake is roughly 2500 square kilometers, swelling to about 4 times its size during the wet season. Board a boat and visit the Chong Kneah village to see the floating houses, farms and even a floating hospital. This afternoon, enjoy some free time to visit Siem Reap market. Transfer to the airport for your short flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. Upon arrival, enjoy a city tour of dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by many locals, take in the former Presidential Palace and continue to visit the major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City including the Notre Dame Cathedral, Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), the Continental Hotel, Opera House, and City Hall. Later, check-in at your hotel. Accommodations: New World Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 7: Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy a full day to explore this vibrant city on your own. We recommend an optional full day excursion to the Mekong Delta with lunch and an evening vespa ride to sample some of the local cuisine and experience the nightlife of Saigon. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Depart your hotel this morning heading south to the Mekong Delta, arriving at Ben Tre, where you cross the Mekong River on a motorboat. You'll drive through the second biggest coconut tree orchard in Vietnam. Stop along the way to observe the daily life of the villagers and discover how Vietnamese farmers work their rice fields. Since rice is the most important crop produced in the country and is eaten in many forms every day, rice farming is serious business requiring dedication, great planning and patience. Continue exploring the Mekong as you cruise through its small canals and arroyos lined with palm and coconut trees. Stroll through the fragrant fruit orchards, sip Vietnamese honey tea, and take a short donkey cart ride before stopping for an included lunch at an open-air Vietnamese restaurant specializing in delicious "elephant ear fish." Return to Saigon for an afternoon at leisure. This optional excursion can only be purchased locally. ($80 per person).
Optional Excursion: Tonight offers a chance to experience the nightlife of Saigon from the back of a vintage Vespa scooter. The city comes alive come sundown and people congregate on sidewalks, parks and all over the city. The first stop on your culinary exploration will be to sample some light evening snacks. Continue to a traditional quan (bia hoi) for dinner and drinks. An evening out in Ho Chi Minh City is not complete without a visit to a Vietnamese-style coffee shop. Conclude the evening at one of the many local clubs, where the new generation of Vietnamese unwind and flaunt their unique style. This optional excursion can only be purchased locally. This optional excursion can only be purchased locally. ($119 per person).
Day 8: Ho Chi Minh City & Halong Bay. After breakfast enjoy the morning at leisure, or take advantage of an optional morning excursion to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. This afternoon, transfer to the airport for your early afternoon flight to Hai Phong. On arrival, transfer through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta to your hotel in Halong Bay for check-in. The balance of the day is at leisure. Accommodations: Halong Plaza Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 9: Halong Bay & Hanoi. This morning, transfer to the pier to set sail on your private junk for a 5-hour cruise on the emerald green waters of Halong Bay. Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch as you cruise amongst the spectacular limestone islands. This afternoon, return to Halong Harbor then transfer to Hanoi. Upon arrival, you will be escorted to your hotel for check-in. Accommodations: Nikko Hotel. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 10: Hanoi. This morning’s half-day tour of Hanoi begins with Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum as well as his private residence from 1954 until 1969. The wooden ethnic minority style house, which was built on stilts, is surrounded by lovely peaceful gardens. In the same complex you will see the One Pillar Pagoda, founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049. This structure has become an important symbol for the people of Hanoi. Continue on to Hoa Lo Prison (formerly known as the “Hanoi Hilton” during the American war). Before returning to your hotel, visit the Museum of Ethnology where you observe Vietnam's diverse culture through the Museum’s unique presentation of articles and dress used in daily life. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Your afternoon optional excursion offers you the chance to explore Hanoi on an hour long tour by cyclo, a chauffeur-pedaled three-wheeled carriage, through the city's Old Quarter known as the 36 Streets. This bustling area of narrow streets and lanes is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. There's no doubt that this is an entrepreneurial people and you'll see the evidence as you wind your way slowly through the quarter. There are tiny restaurants, with single burner kitchens set out on the sidewalk, kiosks for shoes, hats, suitcases, clothing and food, and many women carrying herbs and vegetables in flat baskets suspended from each end of a bamboo pole which is carried perfectly balanced on one shoulder. You find plenty of photo opportunities all around you, so have your camera ready. After your tour, you'll continue to the theater where you'll enjoy an ancient form of Vietnamese entertainment known as Mua Roi Nuoc, or Water Puppets, a wonderful performance art form well loved by locals and tourists alike. Puppeteers control their puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanisms hidden beneath the water's surface to depict scenes from rural life and national history. This optional excursion can only be purchased locally. ($50 per person, minimum 3 passengers to operate).
Day 11: Depart Vietnam/Arrive USA. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Later today, transfer to the airport to check in for your return flight to the USA. If your schedule permits, take advantage of an optional extension to Bangkok, Thailand! Breakfast provided.
Why not take advantage of your already included international airfare and add three days in exotic Bangkok, bustling capital of Thailand? Your extension includes airfare from Hanoi to Bangkok, three nights at the deluxe Dusit Thani hotel, full buffet breakfast daily, and all group transfers!
Day 11: Vietnam & Bangkok. Transfer to the airport to board your short flight to Bangkok, bustling capital of Thailand, situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Upon arrival, you'll be escorted to your deluxe, centrally located hotel. The rest of the day is yours at leisure to take in your new surroundings and explore the city independently. Your hotel boasts a prime location within walking distance to many attractions. And with a metro stop located right outside the hotel's front door, you can travel easily and quickly to many other areas of the city. Accommodations: Dusit Thani. Breakfast provided.
Day 12-13: Bangkok. Enjoy two full days at leisure to discover Thailand's vibrant capital at your own pace. Bangkok offers no shortage of shopping, dining, and sightseeing. Your hotel concierge will gladly offer suggestions for independent exploration.
We recommend a visit to the Grand Palace, which for 150 years functioned as the home of the King and his court as well as the entire administrative seat of government. Within its grounds, you'll also visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) built to house a large Buddha image carved from a solid piece of green jadite (jasper).
Temples, along with the monarchy, are the fabric that binds together the national identity that is Thailand, and some of the most interesting of Thai temples are found in Bangkok. We suggest visits to three of Bangkok's most visually stunning temples: Wat Trimitr, which houses the 700-year-old, 5-ton Golden Buddha, the largest in the world; Wat Po, the oldest temple in Bangkok and home to the amazing Reclining Buddha; and Wat Benchamabophit, with its abundance of white Italian marble.
Often called the "Venice of the East" for its network of canals (klongs), Bangkok can also be explored by boat. From this vantage point, you can gain close-up views of traditional Thai life. And of course, no visit to Bankgok would be complete without a visit to the colorful Damneon Saduak floating market, held daily. It is an experience not to be missed! Breakfast provided.
Day 14: Depart Bangkok/Arrive USA. Today, transfer to the airport for your return flight. Your memorable journey to Vietnam and Thailand comes to an end as you arrive in the US later today. Breakfast provided.
It was a very good trip! I came to see the beauty of the world around me. I love Kuching. Bako was such a gem. I would have loved to have stayed longer. The hotel in Batang Ai was nice. I took the Phuket Island extension and all I can say is wow, wow, wow! I am trying to figure out how I can move and live there. It was more than a perfect way to end a perfect trip. I have recommended your company to friends and family. I will always treasure the memories. Thank you.
Mary Jo Riley