Uncover the Old World charm and the vibrant mix of influences, from the French to Asian traders, settlers and indigenous peoples that make Cambodia and Vietnam a unique pocket of Asia. Experience one of the world’s greatest archaeological treasures at ancient Angkor. Stopping in Hoi An and Halong Bay, you’ll discover places of famed beauty and rich in ancient and recent history. Visit the cities of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi and discover how the combination of eastern cultures with western influences makes an eclectic and magical mix
Immerse yourself in the rich historic and cultural heritage of Cambodia and Vietnam. This special adventure enables us to sample the Old World charm in this pocket of Asia that was part of the former French Indochina. But equally as evocative are the oriental influences that stem from a historic mix of Asian traders, settlers and indigenous people that have made this part of the world a cornerstone for empires and colonies. By paying homage to ancient Angkor, we witness one of the world’s greatest archaeological treasures. By visiting cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, we uncover that vibrant mix of the various major influences. By stopping in Hoi An and Halong Bay, we discover places of eternal beauty that have also played their part in Vietnam’s history. The heritage of both Cambodia and Vietnam combines eastern cultures with western influences, resulting in the somewhat eclectic and magical mix that we enjoy today.
From experiencing one of the world’s great archaeological treasures at Angkor and navigating the various fusions of east and west in Hoi An, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, to exploring war time monuments and cruising the natural, UNESCO World Heritage listed wonderland of Halong Bay, this tour will immerse you in a vibrant mix of history, nature and tradition.
Breakfast Included: 12 Lunches Included: 3 Lunches Included: 3
Sua s'dei. Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You'll be transferred to your hotel – check with hotel reception for more information about your important group meeting this evening. If you have free time in the afternoon, perhaps stroll the streets of Phnom Penh and explore the city, taking in the interesting French colonial architecture. The National Museum, with its collection of classic Khmer craftsmanship, is well worth a visit. Dinner tonight will be at the restaurant run by the Friends organisation. You might decide to go for a drink at the Foreign Correspondents' Club afterwards.
Today a full city tour introduces you to the sights of Phnom Penh, a city that lies near the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The private quarters of the Royal Palace are home to King Sihamoni and are closed to the public. You will, however, be able to visit the Silver Pagoda that lies in the palace complex, which is the most sacred temple in the country. Phnom Penh remains a living relic of the country’s past struggles and successes. Your included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. There is an optional visit to Wat Phnom, the temple that gave rise to the foundation of the city in the 15th century. Later you head out of town to a working Monastery to learn more about the life of a Monk and Theravada Buddhism. Buddhism in Cambodia is a way of life that most people incorporate into their daily life. You will get to meet the Monks, enjoy a sacred water blessing for good luck and prosperity, have a red band tied around your wrist to keep you safe in your travels and see the temple’s fascinating Pagoda art.
Fly north to Siem Reap (approximately 40 minutes) where the great temples of Angkor await. After a relaxing morning at your hotel, travel into the countryside to a local farming community, walk through rice fields and learn about Cambodian stilt homes and life in a typical farming village. Hear about the myriad ways a non-government organisation called Husk Cambodia works directly with this community to improve the lives of Cambodian families. End the day with a stop for a sunset drink at a scenic point overlooking the countryside.
Siem Reap – Angkor Wat
Spend a full day visiting the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided exploration. Angkor Wat is the largest and most complete structure, and the only one of Angkor's temples that has its entrance facing west – the others face east. Then there is Angkor Thom, the 'Great Royal City', a temple famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone. Of all the temples visited today, Bayon temple is the centrepiece, with over 200 smiling carved faces and more than 50 gothic towers. For lunch you'll visit the Sala Bai Hotel School where underprivileged local youths learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. Here you can enjoy a meal prepared by students at the school. After lunch it’s off to the Ta Prohm temple, which has large trees embedded in the stone foundations of the structure – powerful symbols of nature.
Siem Reap – Angkor Wat
Embrace a very early start today if you wish to experience a sunrise visit to the Angkor complex (this is optional). From here, continue onto Banteay Srei. You'll see it's not a huge temple, but thanks to its intricate stone carvings it is sometimes referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art’. At this point you can either head back to your hotel or carry on exploring more temples, such as Preah Khan. This temple contains a maze of vaulted corridors and is another complex that has been largely reclaimed by the jungle. Your ticket for the Angkor ruins also lets you spend more time exploring this site. Otherwise you might like to take a free afternoon to explore the town. If you have time, perhaps indulge in a traditional Khmer massage. Tonight you will enjoy a final nights dinner at a great restaurant in town serving local cuisine.
Ho Chi Minh City
Leave Cambodia behind today with a transfer to the airport and a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Please note that you are likely to be unescorted on this flight, but you will be met in the arrivals hall of the Tan Son Nhat International Airport by a local representative and transferred to your hotel. This evening you will gather together for another briefing with your Vietnamese tour leader. This meeting is generally followed by an optional group meal out at one of Ho Chi Minh City's many fantastic eating spots.
Ho Chi Minh City
This morning you will head out of the city to the nearby Cu Chi Tunnels. Cu Chi is the name of the district that covers the extensive network (approximately 200 kilometres) of underground tunnels dug by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong. The tunnels contained hospitals, accommodation and schools, and were used for refuge, storage and as a military base for the Viet Cong close to Ho Chi Minh City. A section of the tunnels has been widened to allow visitors to enter and get a feel for what the life underground must have been like (please note that this will be hot and sweaty, and claustrophobic for some). You will then return to Ho Chi Minh City for an afternoon tour of the city, where daily life plays out on the streets and the dynamic atmosphere is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. Your leader will take you to the Reunification Palace, formally the Presidential Palace and the site of South Vietnam’s surrender in 1975, before visiting the War Remnants Museum. This illuminating museum features equipment and vehicles from the Vietnam War, and here you can gain a deeper understanding of the how the Vietnamese view the war. The rest of the evening is free - perhaps explore the food stalls at Cho Ben Thanh market.
This morning you will leave Ho Chi Minh City and fly (approximately 1 hour) north to Danang. You will have the chance to enjoy some spectacular scenery on the drive (approximately 1 hour) including the sensational Marble Mountains. The five peaks, limestone with marble outcrops, are seen to epitomise the five elements: fire, water, earth, wood and metal. The history of the mountains is rich - the Champas once used them for religious purposes, and in more recent times they were a haven for the Viet Cong. You will arrive in Hoi An in the afternoon, when you can settle in for your two-night stay in this atmospheric old town.
This morning you will take a tour of the unique town of Hoi An, influenced over the years by myriad traders from various cultures. Originally a busy Cham Port, the town also has Chinese influences scattered about, with pagodas and assembly halls found down the streets. For a small town it has a liveliness alongside its charm and serenity. The tour will take you down the streets of low tiled buildings, taking in a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy more of delightful Hoi An and the surrounding area. Perhaps browse the market for silk and other materials that can be tailored into fine garments on the same day, or hire a bicycle and ride along the lanes and out to a nice nearby beach. Later this afternoon, take a boat trip out on the Thu Bon River. There are few better ways to soak up the atmosphere of this wonderful town than with sunset drinks as you float down river.
Today you will transfer (approximately 45 minutes) to the airport for a morning flight (approximately 1 hour) to the capital Hanoi. After arrival and a brief stop at the hotel you will take a guided half-day tour of the city. Enchanting Hanoi stands in contrast to its southern counterpart, relaxed rather than frantic, full of lakes and parks to escape to and best explored by foot or bicycle. The tour will take in the major sites, including the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, and the former residence of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. The tour will also include lunch at the KOTO café, an amazing project aimed at providing vocational training and experience in the hospitality industry for underprivileged young people. In the evening there is an option to enjoy a performance of the unique Water Puppets.
Today you will leave Hanoi and drive north (approximately 4 hours) to the famous Halong Bay. You can leave your luggage behind at the Hanoi hotel and pack an overnight bag for staying on the boat. Halong Bay is listed as a World Heritage site and is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders. The views of sailing junks navigating past thousands of limestone islands with rocky outcrops are nothing short of spectacular. You will travel to Bai Chay (Halong City West) where you will board a boat for an exploration of the bay, enjoying a seafood lunch and dinner (non-seafood also available), as well as spending a night on board. We visit a cave in the area and, in the warmer months, you can enjoy a swim from Ti Top Island Beach. A night on the boat under the stars is very special, but another highlight of this evening is a delicious candlelit dinner out on deck (weather permitting). This is the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, dining on a seafood feast
After breakfast at Halong Bay, return by bus to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours). This afternoon you will enjoy a unique Peregrine experience when you sit down to a water-puppet performance hosted by a local family. Artist Phan Thanh Liem’s father and grandfather were important figures in this Vietnamese folk art, and the tradition of water puppet performance goes back six generations in the family. Liem was the first person to create a mobile puppetry stage, enabling him to take his art to a wider audience. You will visit his home, which is like a small-scale theatre and also a museum on the history of puppetry and the background of the artists. There’s also a workshop that shows how the puppets are made. You’ll have the chance to talk with Liem all about this traditional art, its history and development. Later, why not stop for a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter, relax at a café or explore the wealth of street food options.