Cruise on the Mekong River: Vietnam & Cambodia Cooking Vacation
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Cruise on the Mekong River
Mekong River, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Siem Reap

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The Mekong River is one the longest and most biodiverse rivers in Asia. Translating to “Mother of Water,” the Mekong River is the route from which you'll experience the rich food, people, culture, and history of both Vietnam and Cambodia located in the Indochina Peninsula of Southeast Asia. The people of Vietnam and Cambodia are passionate and happy people with a very close social and economic tie to their nearby rivers and sea. Fishing and farming rice paddy fields are their main industries that make up the main ingredients of their cuisine. They also have a profound history influenced by Chinese rule, French colonialism, and devastating war that you will learn about on your excursions.

During the start of your trip, you'll be based in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, staying at a beautiful and centrally located hotel. Enjoy a tour of the city’s famous landmarks, museums, and market followed by a special trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the famous war tactic used by the North Vietnamese to win the Vietnam War. You will also try your hand in the kitchen, learning traditional Vietnamese recipes from a local chef.

Map of your Mekong River cruiseYour river cruise begins on the fourth day, when you board the gorgeous and intimate cruise ship for a 9 day journey north up the Mekong River. The ship provides a unique, once in a lifetime perspective as few tour boats are allowed on the river due to its narrowness and active trading route among all six countries connected to it: China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Each day aboard the ship, you will be given the opportunity to disembark to visit local markets, artisans, farmers, stunning palaces, and ancient temples. When not on land learning about the passionate people, food, and history of Vietnam and Cambodia, the cruise ship is the perfect oasis to sit back and relax and watch the beautiful landscape pass by, especially with the panoramic lounge. Each cabin opens to the outside and the ship includes a fitness center, spa treatment room, library, free Wi-Fi access (when signal is available), and complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks, local beer and spirits when on board the ship. All meals will also be provided aboard the ship.

The river cruise ends in Siem Reap, where you'll see the famous temples from the great Khmer Empire. The Khmer Empire was one of the largest ruling empires in Southeast Asia from 800 AD to 1400 AD. They developed Hinduism and then Buddhism, which are represented in the beautiful temples. Your accommodations in Siem Reap for the last two days of your program offer a sense of tranquility and elegance with the colonial French inspired architecture of the early 20th century.

Cruise on the Mekong River Itinerary

Day 1 - Ho Chi Minh City

  • Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, and check in to your beautiful and centrally located hotel.
  • Once you are checked in to your room, feel free to explore the surrounding area on your own or relax and take advantage of your hotel’s amenities, including an outdoor pool, fitness center, and a full service spa (for an additional cost).
  • Dinner on your own and overnight in a Ho Chi Minh City hotel.

Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh City

  • Breakfast.
  • Depart on a walking tour of the city’s historic center and most popular attractions, including the Municipal Theatre, Ho Chi Minh Square, the Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and more.
  • Continue your tour to the Ben Thanh Market, the largest and oldest market in the city. The market provides you a unique opportunity to see where all the locals shop and what they shop for. It carries everything they could ever want or need too.
  • Now that you have explored Ho Chi Minh’s main attractions, food, and culture, head to the kitchen for your first lesson on Vietnamese cuisine. You will learn how to make traditional dishes using local techniques and once you are done creating the meal you will feast on it for lunch.
  • The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure. Perhaps continue to explore the vivacious city or relax at your hotel’s pool.
  • In the evening, meet for a special welcome dinner.
  • Overnight.

Day 3 - Ho Chi Minh City

  • After breakfast, go back in time and explore the remarkable tunnel system known as the Cu Chi Tunnels which were used immensely during the Vietnam War. Stretching 120 miles, the discreet tunnel system was a vital tactic used by the North Vietnamese fighters for communication, protection, moving supplies, and medical attention. Although the tunnels were extremely difficult for the fighters due to limited visuals, air, food, water, and contained illnesses, the tunnels are what lead to the Viet Cong’s victory. Learn how the tunnels were made and get the chance to walk through a part of one to get a better understanding of what it was like down there.
  • Return to Ho Chi Minh City. The rest of the day and evening is at your leisure. Perhaps go to the Rex Hotel for a drink and panoramic views of the city before departing the city the following day.
  • Lunch and dinner on your own.
  • Overnight.

Day 4 - Ho Chi Minh City And Embark On The River Cruise

  • Breakfast.
  • Check out of your hotel and group transfer to the port on the Saigon River where you will board your river cruise.
  • Once aboard and once your voyage is underway, take time to explore all that the intimate but luxurious ship has to offer.
  • Lunch will be provided onboard the ship.
  • In the afternoon, take time to relax on the observation deck or take advantage of the onboard spa treatment room, fitness center, library, or complimentary wi-fi access and bar services.
  • A welcome reception will take place in the evening followed by a delicious onboard dinner.
  • Overnight.

Day 5 - Cruising: Cai Be And Sa Dec

  • Following breakfast, board sampans, tradition wooden boats, for side trips to Vinh Long.
  • Once you are on land, your first visit will include a workshop on how rice paper, rice wine, and other traditional candies are made. (For those who are brave, there might be a special treat for you too!)
  • Return to the ship for lunch.
  • Reboard the sampans and enjoy the scenes of daily life while heading to Cu Lao Gieng for a visit to local home, where you’ll get a chance to see how hand-craft sampans are made.
  • Following your visit, board a special motor cart to visit one of Vietnam’s oldest churches.
  • Return to the ship for dinner and overnight.

Day 6 - Cruising: Chau Doc & Cambodian Border Crossing

  • Breakfast.
  • Today is your last day in Vietnam before crossing the border into Cambodia. Take in the last of it with a stop at the local market, where you’ll see locals buying and selling meat and fish, as well as produce.
  • Board a sampan for a trip down the Mekong’s backwaters to the base of Sam Mountain, where there are a number of religious sites. During this trip, you’ll pass by a variety of traditional floating homes, as well as markets selling dried goods and speedboat merchants. Stop for a cotton-weaving demonstration at a local village.
  • Return to the ship for lunch and leisure time as the ship heads towards Cambodia.
  • Dinner onboard the ship and overnight.

Day 7 - Cruising: Phnom Penh

  • After breakfast, arrive in the capital city of Phnom Penh and tour the large city by private cyclos. You will visit the Royal Palace with its beautiful Silver Pagoda. Built in 1866 by His Majesty Preah Bat Norodom, the palace continues to house the current Cambodian king and his family. The Silver Pagoda is well known for housing an enormous 17th century emerald Buddha statue that is adorned with 9,584 diamonds among other highly treasured and beloved sculptures and frescoes of Phnom Penh.
  • Continue your city tour to the city’s National Museum, known for its spectacular collection of Khmer artifacts and other cultural treasures.
  • Lunch included today on board the ship.
  • In the afternoon, take your time to explore the city on your own.
  • Before dinner on board, come together to watch a group of children from a local orphanage put on a very special show for you.
  • Return to the ship and overnight.

Day 8 - Cruising: Phnom Penh

  • Breakfast.
  • Today, take some time to learn about the painful history of the Cambodian people by visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The museum was once a high school that was transformed into a prison holding over 17,000 prisoners during Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. According to the records, fewer than 15 prisoners survived the torture and killings when the Vietnamese Army finally stormed the camp in 1979. Overall, more than 200,000 Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rough in just 4 years.
  • After lunch, depart Phnom Penh and enjoy leisure time and dinner on the ship.
  • Overnight.

Day 9 - Cruising: Wat Hanchey & Angkor Ban

  • Breakfast.
  • Visit Wat Hanchey, an 8th century temple of the Chenla Empire. (Please note that it is a steep hike to Wat Hanchey and a car and driver can take you to the top if you cannot make the climb.) Once at the temple, take in the breathtaking views and take part in a traditional water blessing lead by local monks.
  • After lunch, visit Angkor Ban, a rural village, for a walking tour. Meet the people, see traditional Khmer houses and visit a local school.
  • Return to the ship for dinner and overnight.

Day 10 - Cruising: Konpong Louang, & Kampong Tralach

  • Breakfast.
  • Enjoy the day exploring the beautiful Cambodian countryside.
  • By motorcoach travel to the floating village of Kongpong Louang to meet skilled local silversmiths who use centuries-old techniques to make popular art out of pure silver.
  • Continue your day in Kampong Tralach for a scenic ox cart ride past local rice paddy fields and to meet a local farmer.
  • Return to the ship for lunch before departing for Tonle Sap (Great Lake), a 10,000 square mile lake that is the center of life for the nearby people. The lake provides the best breeding grounds for the fish, leading to a main food source and jobs. (During low water conditions, generally mid-December to August, the ship will not be able to go up the Tonle River to Tonle Sap.)
  • Enjoy your last dinner and night aboard the ship because tomorrow you will arrive in Siem Reap.

Day 11 - Cruising: Siem Reap

  • Breakfast and prepare for disembarkation in Siem Reap.
  • Arrive in Siem Reap, famous for its remarkable temples of Angkor and a popular tourist destination in Cambodia. The temples were built between the 9th and the 13th centuries as the Khmer religion transformed from Hinduism to Buddhism and therefore they display unique architectural designs of the time period. (Typically between December and June, due to low water conditions, cruising to Siem Reap will not be possible and instead a flight will be provided to Siem Reap.)
  • For the remainder of your day, choose to stay at the temples for a beautiful sunset or explore the rest of Siem Reap on your own.
  • Dinner is also on your own.
  • Overnight in your Siem Reap hotel.

Day 12 - Siem Reap

  • Breakfast.
  • For your last day, take in all that Siem Reap has to offer. Your day will start at Angkor Thom so you can explore Bayon Temple, one of the few Buddhist temples in Angkor. The temple features about 200 face carvings.
  • Next stop: Ta Prohm, a unique Angkor temple that is relatively untouched compared to the other temples seen the previous day with tree roots growing around and through it.
  • Lunch on your own.
  • In the afternoon, visit Les Artisan D’Angkor, an artisan workshop for young adults who desire to learn traditional craftsmanship techniques of their heritage.
  • Tonight enjoy dinner and a private Apsara dance performed by local, talented dancers, singers, and musicians.
  • Overnight in Siem Reap hotel.

Day 13 - Siem Reap

  • Breakfast and check out.