Xin Chao and welcome to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam! With large boulevards, tree lined lakes and French inspired architecture Hanoi is blessed with charming atmosphere. You will be met by an Emerald Waterways representative and be transferred to your hotel. This evening meet your Tour Director for a tour briefing and then enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Two Night Stay: Hanoi
This morning visit historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (view from outside) and learn about the man who liberated his country from French Colonial rule. See Ho Chi Minh’s former home then the iconic One Pillar Pagoda. Continue to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university established to educate royalty. Being over 900 years old with well-preserved architecture this is a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past. Take a walking tour through Hanoi’s historic Old Quarter. Consisting of bustling streets and lanes named after the products sold in each street, it is an area oozing with character and is a great way to see local life in Hanoi. Finish with a stroll around picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake and the Ngoc Son Temple in the middle of the lake. EmeraldPLUS: Stop for lunch at KOTO restaurant, a unique restaurant that trains and educates disadvantaged street children in English and hospitality skills. EmeraldPLUS: Attend a traditional Water Puppets performance. Dating back to the 11th century, the Water Puppets are a unique Vietnamese art form. After the show we take you backstage to meet the puppeteers and get an intimate look at this fascinating art form.
Hanoi – Halong Bay
Travel to Halong Bay and join your luxurious traditional style junk. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its stunning scenery. Thousands of karst limestone pillars rise dramatically out of the emerald water creating a surreal but incredibly beautiful seascape. Settle in for an unforgettable overnight cruise through the bays and islets of this magnificent region. After a sumptuous lunch, visit a fishing village and discover more about the main livelihood of the locals in the area. In the evening enjoy the breath-taking surroundings as you relax on board. Discover More: Take the opportunity to view this spectacular landscape from the air with a 45 minute seaplane flight from Hanoi over Halong Bay (must be prebooked, additional cost).
Overnight Stay: Bhaya Classic Junk or similar
Halong Bay – Hanoi – Hoi An
After breakfast visit an islet to explore one of the many caves with their impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations. Sail back to the mainland leaving the majestic scenery behind. Transfer to Hanoi and take your flight to Danang where you will be picked up and transferred to the historic port town of Hoi An. From the 17th to 19th centuries Hoi An was a thriving port that saw trade from all parts of Asia as well as Europe. Today it is a well preserved town full of shops, great cuisine, history and architecture.
Three Night Stay: Hoi An
Hoi An’s old town is closed to cars so is great for exploring on foot. This morning take a short guided walking tour through the World Heritage listed ancient town. See old merchants houses, a mixture of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese architecture, including the beautifully carved Japanese Covered Bridge as well as the Assembly Hall of the Chinese Congregation. EmeraldPLUS: Visit Reaching Out, an organisation that assists people with a disability to learn skills and gain meaningful employment. Receive an engaging and interactive glimpse into local life in Vietnam as you visit the studio of a local painter who will teach you the art of Vietnamese painting. Afterwards, enjoy a lantern making class. Silk lanterns line the streets and are a fixture in the local homes and shops of Hoi An. You will have the opportunity to learn about Vietnamese life through interesting discussions with the class instructor and Lifestart members. The afternoon is free for you to discover this wonderful town.
Today is free to explore Hoi An and it’s surrounds. Wander the streets, visit the shops and markets, relax by the river or on the beach. Discover More: Learn how to cook like a local at a Vietnamese cooking class, or tour the historic ruins of the Champa Kingdom at My Son (additional cost).
Hoi An – Hue
Drive along one of Vietnams most scenic roads travelling over the Hai Van pass with views of the picturesque coastline and quaint villages. Arrive in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. On the banks of the Perfume River, Hue hides secrets of an impressive past with a plethora of cultural sights. Visit the Imperial Citadel, a wonderfully historic structure that was the seat of the former Nguyen Dynasty. Modelled on Beijing’s Forbidden City, it houses the emperor’s residence, temples and palaces. EmeraldPLUS: Cyclos are a Vietnamese institution and are a fun and relaxed way to get around. Experience a traditional cyclo ride through the Dai Noi or ‘Old City’ to Tinh Tam Lake where the Emperors used to come to relax. Board a boat for a tranquil ride down the Perfume River to Hue’s most significant and iconic temple, the Tien Mu Pagoda, a seven story octagonal tower that is a Buddhist Temple. EmeraldPLUS: Royal cuisine under the Nguyen Emperors’ banquets were legendary, and tonight we live like an Emperor of Hue and dress up in royal costume for an Imperial banquet. Savor an unforgettable dinner with typical royal dishes which gives a glimpse of the city’s splendid past.
Overnight Stay: Hue
Hue – Ho Chi Minh City
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City. More commonly known as Saigon, it is a city with a turbulent and colourful past, although today it is the country’s commercial centre with over eight million inhabitants and four million motorbikes. Tonight enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Two Night Stay: Ho Chi Minh City
Cu Chi Tunnels
EmeraldPLUS: Travel from the city, through the countryside to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels. An ingenious network of over 200km of underground tunnels, they were built by the Viet Cong guerrillas as a means of protection, communication and deception against both the French and American forces. At its peak, the network included sleeping quarters, kitchens, meeting rooms and hospitals serving more than 18,000 fighters. Join a Vietnamese Veteran and learn of the wars, strategies, atrocities and the resourcefulness of the Vietnamese which eventually led to the defeat of their enemies. See traps, bombs, weapons, tanks and if you dare, you can even go underground and experience what it was like to be a guerrilla. Hear fascinating stories from first-hand experience to allow a real insight into one of the most famous wars of our time. Return to Saigon and spend the afternoon exploring the city. Discover More: Evening street food walking tour introducing you to some hidden culinary delights of Ho Chi Minh City, or discover Saigon old and new with a tour of modern, traditional and historical sights (additional cost).
Ho Chi Minh City – My Tho – Embarkation
Be guided on a city tour seeing Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Old Saigon Post Office, bustling Dong Khoi Street, Opera House, City Hall and the War Remnants Museum. Transfer to My Tho in the Mekong Delta. From here we will begin our journey upstream aboard the luxurious RV Mekong Navigator. Meet your Cruise Director and crew followed by a welcome reception. This evening enjoy a Vietnamese “Mekong Delta” Theme Dinner.
Seven Night Stay: RV Mekong Navigator
Cai Be – Sa Dec
Following breakfast we board traditional sampans and sail through Cai Be’s floating market, a fascinating and iconic scene of the Mekong Delta. Watch as the locals trade and barter a variety of wares and exchange goods across the river. Sail past the city’s attractive French gothic cathedral, then tour the historic Anh Kiet House with its beautiful surrounding gardens. Visit a traditional rice factory where workers produce rice paper, rice wine, popped rice, and many varieties of traditional candies. Afterwards we return to the ship for a sumptuous lunch and enjoy a scenic cruise upstream. We reboard our sampans to navigate the narrow canals of the Mekong, where we can observe daily routines of the villagers en route to the historic town of Sa Dec. Along the way, we stop at a local brick factory to view the complete process of brick-making by local men and women utilising clay from the Mekong. Upon arrival to Sa Dec, we visit the home of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, who inspired Marguerite Duras’ novel, L’Amant (The Lover), and take a fascinating walk through the town’s market experiencing the local sights and sounds.
Tan Chau – Vietnam/Cambodia border crossing
Tan Chau is an interesting border town with a variety of ethnicities and is famous for its silk. Board a sampan and sail to a colourful temple of the Cao Dai religion. This is one of the unique amalgam religions founded in Vietnam and its unique cast of saints include Jesus Christ, Sun Yat Sen and Victor Hugo. We then board a xe loi (traditional Vietnamese tuk-tuk) for a 15-minute ride through the town to a family-owned mat weaving workshop. This is a fascinating look into an integral Mekong Delta industry where the products are made by hand or with the help of a manually operated loom. Reboard our sampans and sail to a floating fish farm to learn about various types of fish in this region and the importance of this industry to Vietnam’s economy. Disembark at Evergreen Island for a walk through the local village which provides an interesting view into authentic rural Mekong Delta life. Return to the ship for lunch and cruise toward the border. Sous Sdei and welcome to Cambodia! Following clearing formalities and crossing the border, we witness a fascinating change in the architecture along the riverfront as we sail into Cambodia. This evening join the culinary team and watch them demonstrate the art of Vietnamese and Cambodian cooking. Please note we are unable to dock or proceed into the city until the customs office is open tomorrow morning.
Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh was once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, but it was almost entirely evacuated by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Today it is an inspiring and buzzing centre of hope and opportunity with plenty to see and do. EmeraldPLUS: After breakfast, we meet our cyclo drivers for an exciting morning city tour of Phnom Penh. Cyclos, a Phnom Penh institution are three wheeled bicycles built for transporting passengers. They are a traditional mode of transport throughout the Mekong and provide a unique view of the capital. Prepare for a leisurely journey as we are taken along the riverfront to the magnificent Royal Palace complex which is a highlight of any visit to Phnom Penh. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the grounds, viewing Throne Hall and Moonlight Pavilion before visiting the famous Silver Pagoda, home of Cambodia’s Emerald Buddha and Maitreya Buddha, encrusted with more than 9,000 diamonds. The cyclos then transport us to the National Museum, ending the morning with a comprehensive tour of the many Angkorian and pre-Angkorian artifacts discovered in the Angkor Archaeological Area in Siem Reap. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Phnom Penh. Go shopping at the local markets, or simply relax at one of the many restaurants and pubs such as the famous Foreign Correspondents Club. EmeraldPLUS: Before dinner, visit the Sun Deck to enjoy a cultural performance by the Cambodian Children’s Group. The performance includes Apsara, Cambodia’s national dance as well as local traditional folk dances. Discover More: Backstreets, temples and communities tour, or street food tour (additional cost).
This morning we learn about the darkest days of Cambodian history. A short drive will take us to the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek which is a disconcerting reminder of the recent atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime. We have the opportunity to walk through the fields, visit the small museum and Memorial Stupa, and learn about this sad history. We continue to what is possibly the most powerful museum experience in Indochina, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (also known as S-21). This is a former school that was converted to the main prison and torture headquarters of the Khmer Rouge and is a chilling reminder of the brutal history. Our afternoon is again at leisure.
Today we have a great opportunity to get to know traditional life in the Mekong with a visit to the charming town of Angkor Ban. Here, you will have a glimpse into the lives of the local people starting with a visit to a family’s home to see how the locals live, along with an opportunity to meet the family and discuss their lifestyle. Continue through the village to the local school where you will join the children in their classroom and experience what a typical school day is like. Then walk back through the village to the ship, including a brief stop at the local monastery complex.
Wat Hanchey – Kampong Cham
Wat Hanchey is an ancient hilltop pagoda which is the home to Buddhist Monks and offers some of the best views of the Mekong River. EmeraldPLUS: Receive a traditional Buddhist Water Blessing from the monastery’s resident monks. After enjoying a walk around the monastery and the amazing views of the Mekong River valley, we descend the enormous stairway, surrounded by the incredible view of the Mekong below. Following lunch, we drive through the city of Kampong Cham to visit the hills of Phnom Pros (man hill) and Phnom Srei (woman hill), the incredible Stupa, the 10-metre long reclining Buddha, and the 13-metre tall preaching Buddha. Today’s final visit is to the 12th century, Angkorian-period complex of Wat Nokor Bachey, which features several original statues of Buddha and stone inscriptions. We then return to the ship and gather for a farewell reception and Royal Cambodian Theme Dinner as we prepare for our journey to Siem Reap, home of the archaeological wonders of Angkor Wat.
Kampong Cham – Siem Reap
Disembark and bid farewell to the RV Mekong Navigator and her crew. Transfer to Siem Reap, the gateway to the magnificent Temples of Angkor. EmeraldPLUS: This evening witness the incredible Phare Cambodian Circus, a spectacle of acrobatics, theatre and music.
Phare is an NGO founded by Cambodian refugees to assist disadvantaged young people by teaching them performing arts. Discover More: Uncover either Banteay Srei or Beng Mealea temples, or take a Cambodian cooking class, or explore the Roluos temple group (additional cost).
Two Night Stay: Siem Reap
Start at the famous Angkor Wat, known for its elaborate decorations and intricate carvings throughout. Continue to the unique Ta Prohm temple which is overgrown by jungle trees. Visit the impressive Bayon Temple, and finish at the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King known for their intricate bas-reliefs. This evening enjoy a farewell banquet.
Depart Siem Reap
Transfer to Siem Reap airport for your onward flight.
Please note: The Mekong River is subject to extreme variations in water levels. Every effort is made to provide the routing and inclusions stated however depending on water levels prevalent at the time of sailing, this itinerary may be amended.