Discover the lost civilizations of these two fascinating countries on a cruise from Vietnam to Cambodia with leading specialist operator Emperor Tours.
Your first day in vibrant and energetic Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) begins with a trip to the Vietnamese war fighter tunnel network at Cu Chi. Later in the day your guide will show you some of the many historic landmarks including the Old Saigon Post Office and Opera House.
At My Tho you’ll then board the RV Mekong Prestige for a seven-day cruise along the mighty Mekong discovering:
• Cai Be – with its colourful floating market
• Sa Dec – a maze of canals and backwaters, one of the hidden gems of the Mekong Delta
• Tau Chau – remote town with its floating farm and local workshops. Experience a rickshaw ride around the old town!
• Phnom Penh – Cambodia’s capital with the elegance of the city’s French colonial past. Be guided through the opulent Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda and learn about Khmer history at the National Museum
• Koh Chong village – leisurely walk around the village and glimpse of silk weavers at work
• Uudong – former ancient capital with hilltop houses of Khmer kings
• Kampong Chhnang – rural port and busy, bustling markets
• Tonle Sap – the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia – cross this magnificent expanse of water early morning and spot the amazing bird life
• Siem Reap – immerse yourselves in the ancient ornate temples including the world-famous Angkor Wat, extraordinary Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom and the giant mystical faces at Bayon, plus many more wonderful and memorable heritage sites showcasing Cambodia’s rich heritage.
Today we start our private Indochina guided tour today with departure from 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.
Upon arrival at Ho Chi Minh International Airport, you’ll be cordially welcomed by our guide and driver and privately transferred to the hotel in the centre of this amazing city.
The rest of the day will be free to rest and acclimatise.
This morning we will leave the city 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. You can even descend into the tunnels to learn more about the tunnel life.
In the afternoon, we’ll be on a city tour of Ho Chi Minh City, once the capital of French Indochina, taking in the historic landmarks such as the Reunification Palace, the Old Saigon Post Office, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Opera House and Ben Thanh Market.
This morning you’ll be picked up from your hotel and privately transferred to the Sofitel Plaza hotel for the cruise registration at 9:00 AM. Then we join other passengers on the drive to My Tho, located 70 kilometres away. En route, visit Binh Tay Market in Cho Lon, the Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh City, and a lacquer factory.
Upon arrival at the pier in My Tho, we’ll receive a cordial welcome from RV Mekong Prestige, followed by lunch on board. This afternoon we start cruising upstream on the mighty Mekong River.
In the evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner & traditional Music Show.
We arrive in Cai Be in the morning and take a sampan trip to visit a floating market. We also go ashore to visit a French Gothic Cathedral and stroll along the river bank to a factory producing rice paper and coconut candies.
Return to the ship for lunch and cruise past Vinh Long Province to the sprawling busy town of Sadec where the French writer of “The Lover”, Marguerite Duras, spent parts of her childhood. Both the school where Duras’ mother taught and the small house behind it where the family lived still stand. We’ll see the house of Marguerite’s Chinese Lover, now a small museum of ‘The Lover’ in Sadec. Continue to a Caodaist Temple and wander through the colourful market.
At night we’ll be navigating through the Delta toward the border with Cambodia.
This morning we arrive in Tan Chau, a remote town on the main Mekong River. After breakfast, we get on small boats to a floating farm to learn about an industry once regarded as more lucrative than gambling. We then go ashore to visit a local workshop producing woven mats, and a silk weaving workshop. Enjoy a rickshaw ride around this fascinating town before returning to the ship.
We relax and enjoy lunch while cruising to the Cambodian border. Once we clear immigration formalities we continue cruise towards Phnom Penh.
We arrive in Phnom Penh early in the morning. The capital city of Cambodia still retains its old French colonial architecture in riverside streets. Disembark and visit the opulent Royal Palace specially noted for the Silver Pagoda. Then delve deeper into Khmer history at the National Museum with its outstanding displays of Khmer crafts.
We return to the ship for a well-earned lunch.
In the afternoon, we confront the tragic history of Cambodia on a visit to the former High School <<S21>>, converted to a detention centre under the Khmer Rouge’s rule between 1975 and 1979.
Towards the end of the day, we’ll visit Wat Phnom after which the city was named.
Finally today enjoy dinner and a traditional Khmer Apsara Dancing Show on board.
Early this morning we sail from Phnom Penh to Koh Chong. Upon arrival, we take a leisurely walk through this silk weaving village and visit a local workshop, a pagoda, and a primary school where we can take the opportunity to chat with pupils.
Return to the ship for lunch whilst cruising past the Mekong’s timeless villages and river life with extensive fishing activities.
We’ll be back in Phnom Penh and the afternoon will be independent time. You can opt to relax aboard or further explore the city on your own. Shopping at the Russian Market is recommendable.
After breakfast we continue cruising upriver towards Oudong, 40 kilometres from Phnom Penh. Between 1618 and 1866, Oudong was the capital city of Cambodia. Erected on a hilltop this place houses numerous Stupas dating of the last Khmer Kings. We’ll visit the Vipassana Dhura Pagoda, a meditation centre for Buddhist monks.
Following Oudong, we travel by bus to Kampong Tralach to visit the very charming Wat Kampong Leu Vihara dating back to the last century, to see the beautiful wall paintings.
We then return to the ship by ox-drawn carriage.
This morning we’ll be sailing on the Tonle Sap River, which connects the Mekong River to the Tonle Lake. Approximately 90 km from Phnom Penh, we’ll board local boats to visit the authentic floating village in Kampong Chhnang, a rural port town with bustling markets. Local life is dependent on the river which branches out into criss-crossing canals throughout the town. We take a walk through the scenic market then return to the ship.
We cross Tonle Sap Lake early in the morning. The great lake dominates Cambodia and is over 150 km in length, with interesting and varied bird life resulting from the varied water levels in the lake and river depending on the time of year and rainfall.
Disembark after breakfast and transfer to Siem Reap. Meet up with your private guide at the meeting point and transfer to the hotel. The remainder of the day will be at your own leisure. A walk to see the lively Pub Street and the lucky Night Market is highly recommended.
*Important notice: It may not be possible to cross Lake Tonle if the water is low. Alternative arrangements will be made to cross the lake either by speed boat or bus. Passengers will be informed of details before departure. The cruise schedule and program timing are indicative and subject to modifications.
Meet your guide this morning after breakfast and head off to the marvellous temple of Angkor Wat, a world heritage site featuring the most extraordinary towers and bas-reliefs. Angkor Wat is one of the most astonishing monuments ever conceived by mankind, and was erected in the 12th century in honour of Vishnu.
Afterwards enjoy lunch and a soothing foot massage.
This afternoon, we visit the ancient monastery of Ta Prohm where the jungle has set roots in the stones – used in the film ‘Tomb Raider’ it is a fantastic photo opportunity.
After breakfast, we leave for Banteay Srei to admire one of the most impressive jewels of Khmer art. Erected in the 10th century, this small pink sandstone temple is known as the Citadel of Women.
Later, we travel further south to visit the two very beautiful temples – Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda – built during the reign of Suryavarman II in the 12th century. They stand out because of their very beautiful sculptured images honouring Shiva and Vishnu.
In the afternoon, we visit Angkor Thom, the Great City in Khmer language, from the South Gate to the Bayon. Built up in the 12th and 13th centuries, this Buddhist monument consists of 54 gigantic towers featuring 216 smiling faces of Avalokitesvara.
Round off the day with a boat trip at the South Gate of Angkor Thom, sipping fresh juice and watching the sunset.
Sadly we have come to the end of our fascinating journey. Enjoy some free time before private transfer to the airport for your departure flight.
Tour Prices include:
Tour Prices exclude:
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.
Ooc Om Bok (The Moon Festival) – 15th day – the Full Moon Day – of the 10th lunar month
Ooc Om Bok is a tradition of the Khmer minority group. The festival is held in honor of the moon deity and people pray for good luck, happiness and good weather. At the Khmer pagodas in the country, people release paper lanterns into the sky or into the rivers as a way of letting go of bad luck or sadness.
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.