Fly to Hanoi, former capital of French Indochina, then transfer to your hotel. Check in for a 2-night stay, then relax or take a walk to stretch your legs and get acquainted with the city.
After breakfast, take a tour of this unique, thousand-year-old Asian capital where old and new combine in a lush setting of parks and lakes. Visit the Museum of Ethnology, which includes a number of fascinating exhibits that bring Vietnam’s history and astonishingly diverse culture to life. Then tour the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” the Hỏa Lò Prison where American POWs were held captive during the Vietnam War.
In the afternoon, visit Hanoi’s Temple of Literature. Founded in 1070 as Vietnam’s first university, this maze-like compound features inviting courtyards, gateways, pavilions, walkways, lakes and a museum. Continue on to the One Pillar Pagoda, an 11th-century monument that was rebuilt after being destroyed by the French in 1954. En route, pass some colonial landmarks such as the magnificent Opera House and St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Relax this afternoon before dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
In the morning, take a leisurely ride through Hanoi’s Old Quarter by “green” electric car. Enjoy some free time before your short afternoon flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Check in to your hotel for a 3-night stay; tonight’s dinner is accompanied by a traditional Apsara dance show. (B, D)
Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Begin your day with a visit to one of Angkor’s largest Khmer temples, Angkor Wat, built for King Suryavarman II in the 12th century AD. With its beautiful proportions and extensive, intricate bas-relief stone carvings, it is one of the most spectacular sights in Southeast Asia. Spend some time exploring the fortified city of Angkor Thom, which houses several of Angkor’s most popular sights such as the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King with their dramatic bas-reliefs.
Today you also visit the mysterious Bayon Temple, known for its giant, stone-carved faces with their enigmatic smiles. Dine at a local restaurant and relax this evening. (B, D)
Today, ride to the spectacular 10th-century Hindu temple Banteay Srey (“Citadel of Women”) to see magnificent carvings of Shiva and Vishnu. Then, journey to Ta Prohm, one of the most popular of the Temples of Angkor. Unlike many other buildings, it has been left as it was discovered, with trees and large shrubs growing over the ruins.
During your visit, you will stop by an elementary school sponsored by Viking. Spend time amid the children’s contagious enthusiasm, perhaps getting to know a little about them. Your young hosts will share some of their lessons, and you can talk with the teachers and learn about the impact of the Viking-sponsored scholarship and other sponsorship programs. This evening, enjoy dinner in a local restaurant followed by a Cambodian Circus show that uniquely blends together theater, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and aerial acts. (B, D)
After breakfast, check out of your Siem Reap hotel and begin your coach tour through the Cambodian countryside, which brings you to your ship in Kampong Cham, via the provincial capital of Kampong Thom. Due to its central location, this area is rapidly becoming an important hub for fishing and agriculture. It also has a rich archaeological heritage, to which the 200 temples, some of which predate the Khmer Empire, attest. This afternoon, board your ship. After you get settled in, meet the ship’s officers over a welcome cocktail. (B, L, D)
This morning, visit the Twin Holy Mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey with their many temples and pagodas, still used during traditional Khmer festivals. After, visit a Kampong Cham orphanage where students create beautiful paintings that are available to purchase. This afternoon the ship sets sail toward a silk-weaving village. Take a walk through the village and admire the rich silk fabrics. (B, L, D)
This morning’s excursion takes you through a Cambodian village. Afterward, take a short ride to Udon Monastery for a tour and to receive a blessing by the monks. Then continue to the next village, famous for its silversmiths. Rejoin your ship and have lunch as we cruise into Phnom Penh.
Your afternoon is free to explore Phnom Penh’s historic riverfront area with its restaurants, art galleries and silk shops, or perhaps visit the distinctive Central Market or the “Russian Market” where you can buy jewelry, curios, clothes and souvenirs. You might prefer to visit more of the city’s wats (monastery temples): Wat Langka, Wat Botum, Wat Koh or Wat Ounalom, each with its own special character and purpose. Late this afternoon, enjoy an onboard presentation about recent Cambodian history by a local expert. Dinner is served on board the ship. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, disembark in Cambodia’s lovely waterfront capital and explore the city in style, in a cyclo. This mode of transportation provides many Cambodians with a source of income and visitors with a speedy and enjoyable way to move around. See the magnificent Royal Palace with its spectacular Silver Pagoda, built in the 19th century by the French, but inspired by the centuries-old architecture of the Khmer. Then take a tour of the National Museum of Cambodia, which houses treasures of Khmer art and craftsmanship and also displays art that predates the mighty empire.
After lunch, join an excursion to the sobering memorial in the Tuol Sleng detention center, a former high school in which thousands of victims of the Khmer Rouge died, and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, or explore the city’s maze of small alleys, markets and busy streets on your own. Tonight’s dinner is accompanied by a folkloric performance. (B, L, D)
Sail down the Mekong, one of the world’s great rivers, toward the Vietnamese border. The Mekong is truly the “Mother River of Southeast Asia,” sustaining civilizations through the centuries. Pass by some of the Mekong rice fields. The Khmer Empire was founded on a rice surplus, and rice is still the main staple of Vietnamese cuisine. (B, L, D)
Savor a rare glimpse of rural life as it has been lived for ages. Begin your morning with a ride on a traditional rickshaw in Tân Châu. Observe the making of floor mats from sedge and slippers from uzu. Afterward, visit the floating fish farm by wooden sampan, then take a boat ride to Vinh Hoa, known as “Evergreen Island.” Here, you can take a short walk to see various methods of traditional Vietnamese farming and the crafts and other daily activities of local people firsthand.
Set sail in the afternoon, observing daily life along the way. This evening, enjoy a screening of the film l’Amant (The Lover), which prepares you for tomorrow’s visit to Sa Ðéc. (B, L, D)
This morning, board a sampan to explore the backwaters and canals of the Delta. Small factories line the river channels; get a glimpse of industry in the region with a visit to a brick factory. Stop in Sa Ðéc and see the house of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, the protagonist in best-selling author Marguerite Duras’s autobiographical novel, l’Amant (The Lover). After lunch, visit the colorful floating market of Cái Bè; see local workers producing rice noodles, coconut candy and a host of other handmade products. This evening, attend an onboard screening of the 2002 film The Quiet American, based on Graham Greene’s novel set in 1952 Saigon. (B, L, D)
Ho Chi Minh City
Bid farewell to your ship this morning as your cruise through Cambodia and Vietnam comes to an end. Disembark in Mỹ Tho, a busy river port not far from the capital of South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. On your way to Ho Chi Minh City, tour the Cu Chi tunnels—mysterious, once-secret tunnels used as supply routes, hospitals and living quarters by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. These subterranean passageways outside Ho Chi Minh City are a tiny part of a huge network that extends through much of Vietnam. Upon arrival in the city, check in to your hotel for a 2-night stay, then spend the rest of the day at leisure, getting acquainted with Ho Chi Minh at your own pace. See some of the historic French colonial architecture and soak up some of the city’s youthful energy. Tonight’s dinner is in a local restaurant. (B, D)
Ho Chi Minh City
After breakfast, begin another tour of this bustling metropolis with a visit to its historic center. Take a stroll along Dong Khoi Street, the main shopping boulevard in the old colonial heart. See the grand City Hall, Reunification Palace, the old Opera House with its soaring arched entryway, the Chinatown area and a lacquer factory. Complete your morning tour at Ben Thành Market.
The rest of your afternoon is free. Explore the city’s neighborhoods or do a bit of last-minute shopping at the local markets before this evening’s festive final dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
Ho Chi Minh City
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to the airport for your return flight. Or, continue your Southeast Asia adventure with a 3-night stay in Bangkok, Thailand’s exciting capital. (B)