Explore the stunningly scenic and culturally distinctive lands that lie along the remarkable Mekong River. On this 15-day cruisetour, from Vietnam’s bustling cities to the tranquility of Cambodia, discover two countries, two cultures and two ways of life linked by Indochina’s most important river. Encounter ancient Khmer monuments at Angkor Wat and the elegant French colonial capital of Phnom Penh in Cambodia; in Vietnam, visit the floating markets of the Mekong Delta, experience the intimate charm of Hanoi’s old quarter and tour dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Here you will find gracious hosts and some of the finest cuisine in the world, while enjoying the natural beauty and rich history just beyond the banks of the magnificent Mekong.
Day 1 - Ho Chi Minh City
Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, then transfer to your hotel. Check in for a two-night stay and then relax or take a walk to stretch your legs and begin getting acquainted with the city.
Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh City
After breakfast, begin your tour of this bustling metropolis. See the grand City Hall, the old Opera House with its soaring arched entryway, the double spires of the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office and Reunification Palace. This afternoon, head to the Chinatown area of the city for a stroll through Ben Thành Market for some handcrafted souvenirs and a visit to a lacquer factory. Afterward, enjoy free time to explore on your own, maybe choosing to walk along Dong Khoi Street, the main shopping boulevard in the old colonial heart. Dine in a local restaurant this evening. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Day 3 - Mỹ Tho
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to Mỹ Tho to embark your ship. Along the way, visit 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. As you settle in to your stateroom, we begin sailing along the Mekong River. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 4 - Sa Ðéc
This morning, visit the village of Cái Bè, where you will see local workers producing rice noodles, coconut candy and a host of other handmade products. This afternoon, enjoy an exciting sampan excursion along the canals and backwaters of the Mekong Delta. Small factories line the river channels; during your excursion, get a glimpse of industry in the region with a visit to a brick factory. Stop in Sa Ðéc to see the home of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, the protagonist in Marguerite Duras’s beloved autobiographic novel, l’Amant (The Lover). This evening, attend an onboard screening of l’Amant. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 5 - Tân Châu
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. 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.
Return on board for lunch and scenic cruising along the Mekong; this afternoon we cross over into Cambodia. Onboard activities include a fruit-carving workshop and a presentation about the history of Vietnam. This evening we screen the 1984 film The Killing Fields. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 6 - Phnom Penh
Dock along the picturesque waterfront of Cambodia’s capital and explore the city in style, in a cyclo (the ubiquitous passenger bicycles of Southeast Asia). This mode of transportation provides many Cambodians with a source of income and visitors with a speedy and enjoyable way to get around. See the magnificent Royal Palace with the Silver Pagoda, built in the 19th century by the French but inspired by the centuries-old architecture of the Khmer. Then see the National Museum of Cambodia, which houses treasures of Khmer art and craftsmanship and displays art that predates the mighty empire.
This afternoon, 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, you may choose to explore the city’s maze of small alleys, markets and busy streets on your own. Enjoy dinner on board, followed by a folkloric performance. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 7 - Phnom Penh
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. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 8 - Mekong River
Today, enjoy scenic cruising along the Mekong, one of the world’s great rivers. 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. Stop to visit a typical Khmer river community that is famous for its silk-weaving production. Return on board for lunch, then enjoy a lecture about life along the Mekong River while cruising this afternoon. This evening, you can attend a screening of the movie The History of Angkor Wat. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 9 - Kampong Cham
This morning, visit the Twin Holy Mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey, with their many temples and pagodas that are still used during traditional Khmer festivals. After, visit a Kampong Cham village and learn about the self-sustaining practices of its residents. This afternoon, enjoy free time to explore a Kampong Cham village. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 10 - Siem Reap
Bid farewell to your ship this morning as your cruise through Vietnam and Cambodia comes to an end. Disembark in Kampong Thom, then take a ride through the Cambodian countryside to Siem Reap. Check in to your hotel for a three-night stay and spend your afternoon relaxing or using the numerous facilities offered at the hotel. Tonight’s dinner is accompanied by a traditional Apsara dance show. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Day 11 - Siem Reap
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. Explore the fortified city of Angkor Thom, which houses several of Angkor’s most popular attractions, such as the dramatic bas-reliefs that decorate the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Day 12 - Siem Reap
Today you will visit Ta Prohm, one of the most popular of the Temples of Angkor. Unlike many other buildings, it has remained largely untouched since its discovery. Continue on to the spectacular 10th-century Hindu temple Banteay Srey (“Citadel of Women”) to see magnificent carvings of Shiva and Vishnu.
This afternoon, you will stop by an elementary school sponsored by Viking. Spend time amid the children’s contagious enthusiasm and get 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 positive contribution that Viking’s scholarship has made to the school and its community. 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. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Day 13 - Hanoi
After breakfast, check out of your hotel for your short flight to Hanoi. After lunch in your hotel, enjoy free time to explore the city and have dinner on your own. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Day 14 - Hanoi
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. Take a leisurely ride through the Old Quarter by electric car en route to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the final resting place of Vietnam’s revered revolutionary leader, then tour the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” the Hỏa Lò Prison where American POWs were held captive during the Vietnam War.
After lunch, visit the Museum of Ethnology, which includes a number of fascinating exhibits that bring Vietnam’s history and astonishingly diverse culture to life. Then, head to the 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 colonial landmarks such as the magnificent Opera House and St. Joseph’s Cathedral. This evening, enjoy a festive farewell dinner. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Day 15 - Hanoi
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to the airport for your return flight. Or, continue your Southeast Asia adventure with an additional night in Hanoi and one night in Ha Long Bay. (Breakfast)