• Saigon • Cu Chi Tunnels • Floating Markets • Phnom Penh • Siem Reap • Temples of Angkor
The Mekong Delta is an extremely fertile area and is responsible for providing the rice that feeds the entire region. The colourful villages and the floating markets of the Mekong give you an insight into the daily life of the Vietnamese and Cambodian people. This Mekong adventure is extremely popular with travellers, combining the attractions of Vietnam's capital, Saigon, with the rich history of the cities and temples in Cambodia. Travel up the Mekong River to Phnom Penh, crossing the border between Vietnam and Cambodia on an exciting speedboat journey. This fascinating tour then explores the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and continues to Siem Reap and the enchanting Temples of Angkor.
Day 1: Saigon On arrival in Saigon, you will be met and transferred to your hotel by private car.
Day 2: Saigon Today enjoy a walking tour to admire Saigon's historic landmarks. Transfer to Dong Khoi Street, or Rue Catinat as it was known in the time of the French occupation, to discover some of the beautiful French colonial buildings built in the late 19th and early 20th century. Appreciate the splendidly restored exteriors of the Opera House and the former Hotel de Ville which are still two of the finest buildings in Saigon. Wander up to the Notre Dame Cathedral, a red brick edifice with twin spires based on the original construction from Paris, then head across the square to the Central Post Office, designed by the French architect Gustav Eiffel before he had risen to fame for the Eiffel Tower. The former Presidential Palace, the headquarters of the Saigon Government during the American war, is a short drive away and reveals the history of Saigon during its turbulent recent past. Head out of the city centre on a short drive to District 5 to visit Thien Hau temple, built by the Cantonese congregation in the early 19th century to honour the Goddess of the Sea. The temple's ornate interior courtyard is always full of life as worshippers from the local Chinese community who come to offer their prayers. Take time to make a wish, write it on a small card and attach it to one of the incense coils in the local custom. Finally, visit FITO, the first museum of traditional medicine in Vietnam, before returning to your hotel for the evening.
Day 3: Saigon > Cu Chi > Tay Ninh > Saigon Start early in the morning with a two hour drive northwest of Saigon to the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnel complex was initially started in 1948 to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from the French air and ground sweeps. The tunnels also served as communication routes, storage facilities for food and weapons, and hospitals and living quarters for guerrilla fighters throughout the American war. A visit to the underground villages will provide a better understanding of the hardship of life underground and the Vietnamese resilience during combat. Continue your journey with 1.5 hour drive the Cao Dai Great Temple. Indigenous to Vietnam and founded in the early 20th century, Cao Dai is a fusion of the best from Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism along with influences from Christianity and Islam. The elaborate temple's architecture reflects the combination of religions. Visitors are welcomed inside the temple to observe the colourful service at midday. A Vietnamese lunch is served at a simple, local restaurant. Transfer back to Saigon in the late afternoon.
Day 4: Saigon > Ben Tre > Can Tho Depart on a 1.5 hour drive from Saigon to Ben Tre, situated in the Mekong River Delta. Take in the lush surroundings of rice paddies and fruit farms as you leave the busy city behind. Embark on an excursion by motorboat, passing houses built on stilts and local fish farms along the way. Stop at Turtle Island to visit a local house and sample freshly picked fruit and coconut milk. Chat with your host and stroll through the garden to get an insight into daily farming life. Next, take a leisurely walk through the village and see a family run-business where they make coconut candy directly in front of the pier. Continue on your journey by sampan through a maze of small canals, then take a short stroll through a shaded area of coconut gardens. Enjoy a cup of honey tea and a traditional folk song performance before a lunch of local delicacies is served at My Tho. Afterwards, drive two hours to Can Tho for check-in at your hotel and an evening at leisure.
Day 5: Can Tho > Chau Do > Tra Su Nature Reserve This morning, rise early and get a unique taste of life in the Mekong. Board a local boat and explore the colourful Cai Rang floating market, where many boats laden with fruits, vegetables and fish jostle for trade. Sellers advertise their wares by crying out across the waters or tie their goods to a tall pole attached to their boat so that buyers can see from a distance what is being sold. This memorable experience makes for many excellent photo opportunities. Back on shore drive northwest for 3 hours towards Chau Doc. Situated on the Vietnam and Cambodia border, Chau Doc is where Vietnamese, Champa and Khmer ethnic groups live in harmony. Upon arrival in Chau Doc, transfer to your hotel for check-in and lunch.
Later this afternoon, head out to the Tra Su Nature Reserve, an ecological heaven. It is the habitat of many unique water birds and colonies of bats. Tra Su's flooded indigo forest covers about 845 hectares and is best visited from July to February as the bird colonies gather in the reserve to breed. You can explore the area by motorboat and rowing sampan on the carpet of water-fern. On the way to Tra Su Forest, stop by a Khmer village and see the local technique of palm sugar production. Palm trees are very important to the Cambodian minority in the southern province of An Giang, as the stem, leaf, trunk and flowers can be used to create palm juice and sugar. Return to your hotel in the early evening.
Day 6: Chau Doc > Phnom Penh After an early breakfast, transfer to the pier and take the speedboat to Phnom Penh. On arrival, you will be met at the pier and taken on a tour of the city. The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda are two of the most striking buildings in the capital and considered as some of the finest examples of Khmer architecture. They were initially constructed in 1866 by the French. The Royal Palace is home to the current King Sihamoni. The neighbouring Silver Pagoda stands out in its own distinctive way. The floor consists of 5,329 solid silver tiles to which the building owes its name. The building houses many gold and jeweled Buddha statues including the highly prized 17th century baccarat crystal Buddha. Other important buildings that can be found within the compound include Wat Preah Keo Morokat, where Royal ceremonies are performed, and stupas such as King Ang Doung Stupa - the burial site of former King Norodom.
Day 7: Phnom Penh > Siem Reap Transfer to the airport for your morning flight to Siem Reap. On arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to the city, where you can start exploring the stunning temples by tuk tuk. Begin with a visit to one of the wonders of the modern world, the intricately carved Khmer ruins at Angkor Wat. The temple still displays hundreds of fine carvings of Apsara and Hindu mythology in its bas-relief. Stroll around the massive hallways and discover small shrines still in use today by the local people. You will be led by a Cambodian scholar who will give you a better understanding of Khmer history, culture, archaeology and civilisation. To end this eye-opening first visit to the complex of Angkor, rise 200 metres by a tethered helium balloon (if weather permits) from the plains to witness sunset over the temple and jungle. This evening, enjoy a simple home-cooked dinner with a typical Khmer family, enjoy the well-known Khmer hospitality and interact with family members.
Day 8: Siem Reap Head to the ancient royal city of Angkor Thom with its centrepiece, the Bayon temple. At first glance, it may seem like a shapeless mass of stone, but further scrutiny reveals towers with enigmatic faces of former King Jayavarman VII looking into every direction. Continue your exploration with a visit to the Terrace of the Elephants, which served as a platform from where the King could welcome back his victorious army. Attached is the Terrace of the Leper King which holds detailed carvings winding along a narrow passage way that leads to the Baphuon complex. Head back to Siem Reap to rest and to enjoy lunch on your own before continuing to Ta Prohm. This beautiful temple is overgrown with fig trees, giving a haunting yet exotic atmosphere. The magnificent roots of the trees have merged over the centuries with the temple's huge stone blocks, emphasising a 'forgotten city' feeling. In the late afternoon, visit Artisans d'Angkor, an organisation focusing on training unschooled rural youth in traditional handicraft skills. Ancient techniques such as wood and stone carving, lacquering, gilding and silk painting are still practiced here. Bid farewell to the artisans and return to your hotel.
Day 9: Siem Reap > Kampong Khleang > Beng Mealea > Siem Reap Located 50 km away from downtown Siem Reap, Kampong Khleang is one of the most impressive settlements on the Tonle Sap Lake. Around 20,000 people still live there as generations before them did. Discover how the lake's ecosystem sustains people's way of life on a two hour boat ride. Enjoy the amazing views and colours of the floating houses and the flooded forest (during high water season). Have lunch in a traditional wooden house located on the shores of the lake. Served in a picnic basket, enjoy some of the tastiest delicacies from downtown Siem Reap in an atypical atmosphere. Afterwards, head to Beng Mealea temple, an hours' drive north of Kampong Khleang. The ruins of Beng Mealea (Khmer for Lotus Pond) include a 900 year old temple spread over several acres of jungle, completely abandoned to the forces of nature.
Day 10: Siem Reap Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
• Tailor-made journey with local English speaking guides • 9 nights' accommodation in selected category • Economy class flight Phnom Penh > Siem Reap, including airport tax • Transfers and transport • Sightseeing and entrance fees • Speedboat Chau Doc > Phnom Penh • 9 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 1 dinner
Pricing (per person) $NZD
Booking conditions • Surcharges apply during TET Vietnamese New Year, Cambodian New Year Chaul Chnam Thmey and other public holidays
• Compulsory Gala Dinner on 24 and 31 December
• Surcharges apply during TET Vietnamese New Year, Cambodian New Year Chaul Chnam Thmey and other public holidays • Compulsory Gala Dinner on 24 and 31 December