The Majestic Mekong – Vietnam & Cambodia cruise (12 days)

12 days from just £2,595 pp
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flag Saigon - Mekong River (cruise) - Phnom Penh - Siem Reap
What's included?
+ included - not included
  • International Flight
  • Accommodation
  • Water
  • Meals
  • Escorted Tour
  • Domestic Flights
  • Airport Taxes Charges
  • Visa
  • Insurance
  • Tipping

What better way to discover these two beautiful countries than by water?  On The Majestic Mekong river cruise with specialist operator Emperor Tours you’ll travel from sensational Saigon through to neighboring captivating Cambodia.

Your first day in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) will start with a trip to the intriguing tunnel network at Cu Chi, used by the Vietnamese warfighters as communication routes, storage, hospitals and living quarters during wartime.  In the afternoon your guide will show you some of the many historic landmarks in the former capital of French Indochina.

From here you start your cruise by boarding the ship at My Tho.  As well as discovering the many towns and villages along the mighty Mekong, the itinerary includes Cai Be with its colourful, floating market; Sa Dec – an exciting maze of canals and backwaters; and Chau Doc and the Cham tribal village.

After crossing the Vietnamese/Cambodian border you disembark in Phnom Penh, transfer to your 5* hotel and then spend a day with your local guide sightseeing this fascinating capital of Cambodia, including visits to the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and Russian market.

From Phnom Penh you’ll fly to your final destination Siem Reap and explore the ancient temples including the magnificent Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom.

 

Day 1 - UK Departure

We begin our private adventure today by departing London Heathrow for international economy flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

We can also arrange departures from your local airport at no extra cost.

Day 2 - Saigon arrival

On arrival at Ho Chi Minh International Airport, our tour guide will be there to greet us and transfer you by private car through the city to your hotel, located in the heart of this amazing city.

After check-in the rest of the day is free at leisure.

Day 3 - Saigon / Cu Chi Tunnels

This morning we will leave the city by private vehicle to visit the amazing tunnel network of Cu Chi. This incredible system, covering almost 250 km in length was shelter to over 16,000 Vietcong guerrillas during the wars. If you are interested (and game) you can even descend into the tunnels to learn more about the harsh conditions faced by Vietcong guerrillas who lived there.

In the afternoon set out on a tour of the former capital of French Indochina. We visit historic landmarks including the Old Saigon post office, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House. Continue your tour by visiting the Reunification Palace which was used as the headquarters of the Saigon Government during the American war in the 60’s. Afterwards visit the ethnic Chinese district of Cholon with Binh Tay market.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast

Day 4 - Ho Chi Minh City / cruise embarkation

Today we begin our Mekong Cruise. We join other cruise travellers for coach transfer from the Inter Continental Asiana Saigon Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City to the port of My Tho to embark the cruise.

Rest of day for settling into our cabin and relaxing on board.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Day 5 - Cai Be

In the morning we will visit Cai Be and its colourful floating market.

In the afternoon take an exciting Sampan boat excursion to Sa Dec via Vinh Long, along canals and backwaters and see the local market and the ancient house of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, the “lover” of Marguerite Duras, a famous French novelist.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Day 6 - Chau Doc

Today we visit a Cham tribal village, a cat fish farm, and enjoy a trishaw ride around Chau Doc, a little town bordering Cambodia with Chinese, Cham and Khmer communities.

We return to the ship by boat for lunch and cast off for the Cambodian border. After the usual formalities we continue upstream towards Phnom Penh and the start of our Cambodian tour.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Day 7 - Phnom Penh "Pearl of the East"

You will arrive in the early morning and disembark at the pier. Our guide will be waiting to transfer you to the hotel for check in.

Rest of day free at leisure to explore or relax. Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s busy capital and was the hub for both the Khmer Empire and French colonialists. There are many parks, restaurants, bars and interesting things to see and do. 

Meals Included

  • Breakfast

Day 8 - Phnom Penh sightseeing

Today is our chance to discover Phnom Penh City, capital of Cambodia located at the conjunction of four branches of the Mekong River. Our first visit is Wat Phnom, an ancient pagoda up on the hill, built by a wealthy Khmer woman named Penh 1372 to house the sacred relics. Continue to the Royal Palace built in 1866 and the Silver Pagoda located within the Royal Palace compound. The majority of treasures on display have been supplied by the King of Cambodia such as gift from various other countries. Among the treasures are a solid gold Buddha encrusted with 9,584 diamonds and weighing 90 kilos and a small 17th century emerald and baccarat crystal Buddha.

In the afternoon we visit the tragic side of Cambodian history, Toul Sleng, an ancient school which was used as a prison under the Khmer Rouge. Finally today we walk around the Russian market built in 1937 of a splendid architecture of colonial style.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast

Day 9 - Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

After breakfast our driver will collect us for private transfer to Phnom Penh Airport for the flight to Siem Reap.

We will be greeted on arrival in Siem Reap by our guide and take our private transfer to the hotel to check in. Siem Reap is the gateway to the ruins of Angkor and seat of the Khmer kingdom. Rest of day to relax or explore on your own.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast

Day 10 - Siem Reap / Angkor Wat

Meet your guide this morning to head off to the world-famouse temple of Angkor Wat, a world heritage site featuring the most extraordinary towers and bas-reliefs. This is one of the most astonishing monuments ever conceived by mankind, and was erected in the 12th century (1112-1152) in honour of Vishnu.

From the temple we are transferred by private vehicle (or if you prefer by cow carts!) to a secret place where a surprise picnic lunch is set up and waiting for you! After a delicious lunch, relax under the trees with a soothing foot massage before starting your afternoon activities.

In the afternoon, visit the ancient Ta Prohm monastery where immense branches have taken root in the stones. Here you will find splendid sculptured devatas (guardian angels) and experience an atmosphere entirely suited to this temple and all those built under the reign of Jayavarman VII generally.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Day 11 - Siem Reap / Sunset Gondola boat cruise

After breakfast we leave for Banteay Srei, where one of the most impressive jewels of Khmer art exists. Erected in the 10th century, this small pink sandstone temple is known as the Citadel of Women. Continue your exploration of Angkor by heading further south to visit the two very beautiful temples – Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda – dating from the 12th century and built during the reign of Suryavarman II. They stand out because of their very beautiful sculptured images honouring Shiva and Vishnu.

In the afternoon we visit Angkor Thom (the Great City) beginning by the south gate and the famous Bayon of the 12th and 13th centuries, dedicated to Buddhism and composed of 54 gigantic towers featuring 216 smiling faces of Avalokitesvara. Then, visit the Elephant Terrace, which was used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall; and the raised Leper King Terrace, built in the 12th century and which features many beautifully sculptured Apsaras.

Late afternoon, round off your last day by enjoying a unique experience of watching the sunset on a Gondola boat at the South Gate of Angkor Thom, accompanied with a cold fresh drinkA truly wonderful way to end our holiday!

Meals Included

  • Breakfast

Day 12 - Siem Reap Departure

Today it is time to say goodbye to Cambodia and transfer to the airport for your departure flight home.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
Deluxe (5*)

Saigon – 5* Hotel Des Arts Saigon (for information click here)

Mekong River – Pandaw River Expeditions / Main Deck (for information click here)

Phnom Penh – 5* Raffles Le Royal (for information click here)

Siem Reap – 5* Heritage Suites Hotel (for information click here)

First Class (4*)

Saigon – 4* Grand Hotel (for information click here)

Mekong River – Pandaw River Expeditions / Main Deck (for information click here)

Phnom Penh – 4* White Mansion Boutique (for information click here)

Siem Reap -4* Shinta Mani Resort (for information click here)

Tour Prices include:

  • International economy flights;
  • Vietnamese and Cambodian visa;
  • Hotel accommodation as shown (based on twin occupancy);
  • Meals as described (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner);
  • Meeting and assistance on arrivals and departures;
  • Sightseeing excursions with English speaking guides;
  • All transfers and road transportation in air-conditioned vehicles;
  • Entrance fees for visits mentioned in program;
  • Train/Boat journeys where mentioned in program;
  • Domestic flights where mentioned in program;
  • Daily supply of bottled water;;
  • All currently applicable taxes.

Tour Prices exclude:

  • Drinks during meals;
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, souvenirs etc;
  • Travel insurance (can be arranged, please ask for details);
  • Tips to guides and drivers;
  • Optional tours;
  • Early check-in or late check-out;
  • Flight and accommodation upgrades.

 

FLIGHT TIMES: 12.35 hours direct from London Heathrow to Saigon (Vietnam Airlines Sat-Mon-Wed only). Other airlines fly indirect every day of the week. There are no direct flights from Siem Reap to the UK.

 

TIME DIFFERENCE: +6 hours in summer time / +7 hours in winter time (BST).

 

CURRENCY: Vietnamese dong £1 = approx. 31,000 VND / Cambodian riel £1 = approx. 5,480 riels

 

MONEY: Almost all goods and services are calculated and paid for in US dollars. Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, restaurants owned by foreigners and souvenir shops. Travellers cheques and currencies other than US Dollars are accepted only by major banks. We recommend changing a small amount into local currency on arrival, for drinks and gifts etc.

 

TIPPING: If you are happy with the services of the driver and guide in each city then tipping is an accepted way of showing your gratitude. We recommend anything from $10 upwards for each, usually more for the guide. We advise placing any tips in separate envelopes and handing to the guide and driver at the end of their service in a particular city.

 

VISA: No visa is required for UK passport holders if stay is 15 days or less in Vietnam. A visa is required for Cambodia and can be obtained on arrival at entry airport/port or in advance through the embassy website.

 

LANGUAGE: The official language spoken in Vietnam is Vietnamese. The official language spoken in Cambodia is Khmer.

 

BEST TIMES TO VISIT: From October to April are the best times to visit both Vietnam and Cambodia combined. March to April will experience least rainfall and more pleasant temperatures too.

 

FESTIVALS:  Here are the main Vietnamese and Cambodian festivals and what you will expect to see and experience during these festivities…

Vietnamese New Year ‘Tet’ – mid to late February 

Vietnamese people gather with their families to exchange best wishes and pray for prosperity over the coming year. In big cities, the streets are adorned with beautiful flower decorations. It’s a great time to see the preparations and immerse in the festive atmosphere before Tet, but travel during the festival is not recommendable.

Mid Autumn Festival (Vietnam) – 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the Chinese lunar calendar

Marked with fanciful lanterns, the festival is a favourite with children, as the occasion calls for more toys, candies, fruit, and entertainment than any other time of the year. Mid-Autumn parties serve cakes, traditional and modified. Lion dances are commonly performed by travelling troupers who go from house to house to perform for tipping.  

Reunification Day (Vietnam) – 30th April yearly

Also known as Victory Day or Liberation Day, this national holiday marks the fall of the Saigon government on 30 April 1975. The communist troops captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and brought the Vietnam war to an end. This began the process of reuniting the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and the Republic of Vietnam in the south

National Independence Day (Vietnam) – 2nd September yearly

This day commemorates Vietnam’s declaration of independence from France in 1945. On that day, President Ho Chi Minh, read out the Declaration of Independence. Nowadays, national red flags are raised high everywhere. People are entitled to one day off. Public and official celebrations can be found in all cities.

Hue Festival – end of April to beginning of May

A biennial festival celebrated in the former imperial capital of Hue, the Hue Festival condenses the best of Hue’s culture into a single week-long festival. Theatre, puppetry, dance, music, and acrobatics will be performed in different places around the city, although most of the activities are conducted around the grounds of former imperial citadel.

Lantern Festival (Hoi An) – 14th day of each lunar month

The festival features many hundreds of colourful lantern lit up throughout the town. The houses and shops are beautifully decorated and activities are often held in the streets and along the Thu Bon River.

Dong Da Festival (Hanoi) – 21st February 

The festival celebrates the victory of King Quang Trung who defeated the army of 200,000 Qing dynasty soldiers at Dong Da Hill. A dragon procession, games and martial arts activities are performed to celebrate the strength of the Vietnamese people during this historic victory.

Victory Day (Cambodia) – 7th January yearly

This day marks the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. During the four years of the regime, it is estimated that two million Cambodians died (almost a quarter of the population). Remembrance services are carried out to honor those who lost their lives.

Meak Bochea Day (Cambodia) – coinciding with the full moon of the 3rd month of the lunar calendar

This day commemorates the final sermon of Buddha, in which he summarised the three fundamental principles of Buddhism: avoid evil, perform good deeds and achieve purity of the mind. Buddhists celebrate Meak Bochea by joining candlelit processions within temples in their vicinity.

Chaul Chnam Thmey (Khmer New Year – Cambodia) – 13th to 15th April yearly

It marks the end of the harvest before the beginning of the rainy season. Cambodia grinds to a halt during New Year, drawing families together from all across the country into a celebration that turns wet and wild on the third day.

On the first day, people give thanks to Buddha by lighting candles and incense sticks. The second day is for charity where people donate or offer help to the poor and needy. On the third day, people wash statues of Buddha with scented water, which is symbolic of washing away sins of the past.

Pchum Ben (Ancestors’ Day – Cambodia) – celebrated on the 15th day of the 10th month of the Khmer lunar calendar

It is actually the culmination of a fifteen-day observance called Dak Ben, throughout which Khmers are encouraged to visit at least seven pagodas to make offerings to dead ancestors and light candles to guide the spirits of the dead to these offerings.

Observant Khmers will also throw a rice-sesame seed mixture onto temple grounds. This observance helps feed the spirits of the ancestors who roam the world on Pchum Ben and are consequently hungry from not having eaten all year.

National Independence Day (Cambodia) – 9th November yearly

This day marks the anniversary of Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. The celebrations are centered around the Independence Monument at the center of Phnom Penh, where the King lights a victory fire in the presence of the country’s politicians, generals, and diplomats.

The celebrations also include cultural activities, parades down Norodom Boulevard, and fireworks in the evening.

 

FOOD & DRINK: Light, subtle in flavour and astonishing in their variety, Vietnamese dishes are boiled or steamed rather than stir-fried, and a huge emphasis is placed on herbs and seasoning. In the south, Indian and Thai influences add curries and spices to the menu, while other regions have evolved their own array of specialities.

Buddhism introduced a vegetarian tradition to Vietnam, while much later the French brought with them bread, dairy products, pastries and the whole café culture. The quality and variety of food is generally better in the main towns than off the beaten track, where restaurants of any sort are few and far between.

Freshwater fish is the most commonly used meat in the Cambodian diet, with pork and chicken also being popular.

 

SOCIAL ETIQUETTE: People throughout Indochina are very kind and easy going. People are very relaxed with foreigners and their different habits. 

Showing anger is seen as a weakness.

Respect and care should be shown when visiting temples and shoes should always be removed before entering.

 

HEALTH ADVICE: Although no vaccinations are officially required for entry to Indochina, they are highly encouraged. Visitors are advised to check with their GP or travel immunisation clinic regarding protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B. Any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee they will be available in the areas you will be visiting.

If travelling in Summer months, please bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent etc.

It is not safe to drink tap water in Vietnam and Cambodia – please drink boiled water or bottled water only.

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N.B. There is an additional surcharge for single supplement applied for travellers occupying a room on their own. The tour is quoted as a minimum of two people travelling. Please select below if this applies.
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