Starts Wednesdays. January to December11 days from $6745.00
Arrive Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Welcome to Vietnam. You are met on arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, and taken to your luxury hotel in the heart of the vibrant city.
Ho Chi Minh City wears its history on its sleeve as modern skyscrapers grow taller each day. Enjoy the remainder of your day at leisure to explore this growing cosmopolitan city.
Ho Chi Minh City
Begin your full day tour of this exciting city in the historic center. Stroll along Dong Khoi Street, formerly known as the Rue Catinat, the main shopping thoroughfare and heart of old colonial Ho Chi Minh City. See the ornate City Hall, the old Opera House and neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral. Visit the Emperor of Jade Pagoda, before learning about more recent history at the Reunification Palace. Preserved as it was when stormed by tanks on April 30, 1975, you can see the original tanks on display near the entrance gates. Then view the vast collection of planes, tanks and weapons at the War Remnants Museum.
In the afternoon, explore Chinatown, visiting the Cantonese Thien Hau Pagoda, and then exploring the vast array of goods and handicrafts at the busy and colorful local markets. (B)
Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong River
This morning you will travel along the scenic 90-minute country-side drive to My Tho with others boarding the ship.
The M/V Aqua Mekong is a new luxury cruise ship with just 20 guest suites that feature floor to ceiling windows for unparalleled views of the river. Ship facilities include an outdoor pool, spa, indoor and outdoor dining areas, a library, game room, a screening room, boutique shops, an observation deck with outdoor sunbeds and more. Your suite is air-conditioned, with a private screened outdoor balcony and an en suite bathroom with a large walk-in shower.
Welcome to the laid back luxury of the Aqua Mekong. Settle into your elegantly appointed, river facing suite as the vessel begins to cruise and thus begins one of life’s most memorable and photogenic adventures. Ascend to the Observation Deck if you wish, to take in the view of the swaying palms and bustling waterways of My Tho.
Over the next four nights, the Aqua Mekong sails from here along the one of the world’s great rivers, the Mekong, towards remote natural and cultural destinations visited by only a few. Begin with a Safety Drill followed by a briefing on the Observation Deck in the air-conditioned Indoor Lounge with the cruise director and hear from our expert guides about your Mekong adventures ahead. (B,D)
We start by going native, so to speak. People of the Mekong Delta rely on flat-bottom wooden boats called sampan to get around and transport goods to market. We climb aboard to paddle through the Cai Be floating market, where more than 400 sampans gather every day, starting in earnest from 5 a.m. Each boat has one bamboo stick on the front to display that vendor’s product, be it Vietnamese fish sauce, rice paper for wrapping dumplings, or colorful sweet confectionery. We continue our exploration of this area on foot or by bicycle for more up close glimpses of Mekong Delta dwellers.
Begin the afternoon excursion by skiffs to Binh Thanh Island, where the villagers weave mats and baskets from Mekong river reeds and water hyacinths. At the village’s simple temple where worshippers adhere to the indigenous practice founded in 1939 known as Hòa Hảo Buddhism, in which emphasis is placed on modesty over ornate offerings, we will have an interaction with village elders to learn about their life before, during and after the war. On our return skiff journey, we stop by one of the local fish farms to learn how these farmer fish directly underneath their floating home. (B,L,D)
We leave the Aqua Mekong this morning to head by skiff for Tam Nong – the largest bird sanctuary of South Vietnam at 7,300 hectares. This protected national park is home to 233 waterfowl species and accounts for one fourth of the countries bird population.
By skiff we will cruise through lush cajuput forest, looking out for rare white-winged wild ducks, painted storks, lesser adjutants, spot-billed pelicans and sarus cranes – the largest among the crane species.
Time to relax by the pool with a Mekong Colada or Aqua Pisco Sour, try a Traditional Khmer Massage in our floating spa or learn more about Vietnam from our expert guide’s lecture in the air conditioned lounge while border crossing formalities are completed. (B,L,D)
We begin our Cambodia adventures with a visit to Koh Oknha Tey – a beautiful island on the Mekong. Here we will explore by tuk-tuks, heading to one of the villages where renowned weavers have invited us to wander freely among their looms, admiring their skills as they work at this knotty art form. Witness the entire process, learning how silk starts with the worms, see silk thread being looped and dyed, then admire and purchase, if you wish, the final shimmering Khmer silk accessories. A biking option is also available for those who wish to explore deeper into the island.
This afternoon, we cruise further north along the Mekong towards the remote village of Preah Prosop. Here, as we walk through this typical Khmer village of stilt houses, we will see and experience authentic Cambodian village life untouched by the outside world. We have the opportunity to stop along the way as we wish and to interact with local families and to speak with students on their way home from school. We will also pass a local brick factory, which will be more interesting than you might think, before reaching one of the oldest Buddhist temples of this area. More sportive explorers among us may opt to venture around Preah Prosop by bike. (B,L,D)
Disembark Mekong River Cruise
Shifting gears from the sleepy countryside to this country’s political and economic capital, we sail into Phnom Penh where Art Deco buildings still stand in the shadows of ever-rising skyscrapers and vintage cyclos cruise alongside imported European sports cars. Buddhist temples, French colonial villas and the Royal Palace provide a photogenic backdrop to international business and a new generation of boutique hotels, chic shopping and cosmopolitan nightlife.
Following your goodbyes and disembarkation from the Aqua Mekong, an urban adventure by two wheel motorized tuk-tuks takes you through this historic city’s most important sites including the 1866 Royal Palace that is still home to the reigning monarch and its Silver Pagoda, the royal compound’s most famous attraction. Today the pavilion houses many jeweled statues and images, including the 17th century Emerald Buddha, made of Baccarat crystal and a life size gold Maitreya Buddha adorned with 9,584 diamonds, the largest of which weighs 25 carats.
Just next door, the National Museum of Cambodia houses the world’s largest collection of Khmer art, much of it removed from Angkor Wat to prevent looting. Here we can linger among the linga, representations of the Hindu deity Shiva, and thousands of other artifacts including an imposing 11th century bronze sculpture of a reclining Vishnu that is considered a monumental example of Khmer statuary.
You will then be transferred to your hotel for an evening at leisure. (B)
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Today you will depart Phnom Penh on a flight to Siem Reap. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel and have an evening at leisure. (B)
In 1992, UNESCO declared the whole city of Angkor, a World Heritage Site. This morning, arise early to witness sunrise at Angkor Wat, an incredible temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, and the crowning jewel of Khmer architecture. Built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat displays beautiful examples of Khmer and Hindu art. Spend the day exploring this, the largest, best preserved, and most religiously significant of the Angkor temples. Appreciate its size, layout, and the delicate artistry of its engravings. Intricate stone carvings adorn nearly every surface, with some 1,700 Apsaras, or celestial dancers, sculpted into the walls. (B)
Angkor Thom & Ta Prohm
Start today’s tour by exploring the fortified city of Angkor Thom, a four sq. mile site surrounded by a wall and wide moats. Walk amongst the many monuments and statues of ancient Hindu demons and gods, including the Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper Kings, the ruined Baphuon, the Royal Enclosure and Phimeanakas. Visit the mysterious Bayon Temple, with its galleries of beautifully preserved bas-reliefs and its central sanctuary housing giant smiling stone faces.
Next, travel to Ta Prohm, where the jungle still covers much of the monuments - giving you a rare, raw look at this mysterious and incredible place. (B)
Depart Siem Reap
Enjoy time at leisure until you are transferred to the Siem Reap airport for your flight home or onwards to your next destination. (B)
Sofitel Saigon Plaza, Ho Chi Minh City
The hotel is located in the city center, in the heart of the business district and close to Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification Palace. Its features include a swimming pool, a fitness center, massage rooms and a business center. There are two restaurants offering international, French and Mediterranean cuisine, as well as two relaxing bars. The 286 elegant rooms and suites are modern, with stunning views of the city or the Saigon River. Room facilities include a minibar, in-room safe, free coffee/tea making facilities, international TV channels, a flat-screen TV, and a hairdryer in the marble bathroom.
M/V Aqua Mekong, Mekong River
M/V Aqua Mekong is a custom, architecturally-designed luxury cruiseship including a spa, screening room, outdoor pool and 20 guest suites with floor to ceiling windows offering unparalleled river views of Vietnam and Cambodia. In addition, the on-board restaurant, bar/lounge and gourmet cuisine make travel in Vietnam and Cambodia supremely comfortable when cruising on the M/V Aqua Mekong.
Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, Phnom Penh
French colonial elegance greets guests in each step of their experience at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra an inspired 5-star hotel located in close vicinity of businesses embassies and the charms of the riverfront. Hardwood floors and a colonial-influenced aesthetic evoke a timeless refinement in each luxury hotel room and suite. Guests enjoy a riverside setting minutes from landmarks and attractions like the Royal Palace, National Museum and Sisowath Quay. The charms of Phnom Penh French colonial character and the warmth of an expert team unite to make Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra a spectacular reflection of the city's character and a luxurious base to make the most of your stay.
Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, Siem Reap
Ancient faces peer out from temple towers. The sun rises over a serpent-causeway at Angkor Wat. Jungle climbs through crumbling ruins. The majesty of Angkor is considered to be one of the modern worlds wonders. Just 10 minutes away from the famed monuments French colonial elegance sits amidst the manicured gardens of Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort. A lavish swimming pool beloved by guests is surrounded by lush and opulent landscaping. A 2015 Travel+Leisure World's Best Hotel