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This relaxing cruise journey over the Mekong river on the way from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Siem Reap is perfect for anyone who enjoys spending time exploring a country by river and at a more leisurely pace. Beginning with a couple of days to explore Saigon, you then board the luxurious RV Mekong river cruise vessel on its eight day journey to Siem Reap, passing along the Mekong Delta’s charming town. Spend a few days to discover the Cambodia's riverside capital Phnom Penh, located at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers then gain insight into its recent turbulent and tragic history, as well as its former colonial charm with wide, verdant tree-lined boulevards and classic colonial architecture buildings. The trip ends with a few days in Siem Reap to explore the incredible temples of Angkor.
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DAY 01: HO CHI MINH CITY ARRIVAL
Welcome to HO CHI MINH CITY (HCMC), formerly known as Saigon, the city which is the Vietnam’s financial heart, named after communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Upon arrival, your guide will be awaiting to provide the transport to hotel for check in. Take a short rest before embarking on a city tour.
After having experienced the frenzy of Saigon by day, discover the lively local street tour by night. Join the locals then have chance to sample authentic Vietnamese food. Start the tour around 1830 and try “banh xeo” which is a large rice pancake filled with vegetables, shrimps and pork. The second stop will be made at the Tan Dinh Market for street food with a delicious local soup inspired by Chinese recipes.
Next, it is time for a tasty “com suon non nuong muoi ot”, a local dish with rice and pork ribs. Cross a busy intersection, indulge yourself with a delicious dessert and a Vietnamese coffee. Wrap up the experience at a live music café playing traditional Vietnamese songs.
Begin the second day in HCMC with a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the remarkable underground tunnel network where Vietcong guerrillas hid out during the Vietnam War. Containing over 170 miles of networks and just 20 miles away from Ho Chi Minh City, the tunnels continue to burrow through the countryside, constructed deep enough below ground to not have been affected by rumbling tanks or aircraft. You’ll see secret trap doors, living areas, meeting rooms and underground kitchens while you can also view excavated areas if you prefer to remain above ground. Have lunch in Cu Chi Tunnels.
Late in the afternoon, return to HCMC, the city once known as Saigon, continuing its whirling energy, filled with vitality that carries you along for the ride. After lunch, continue to the War Remnants Museum (or History Museum) where exhibition halls display imagery of both the French and ‘American’ wars, followed by a visit to the Jade Emperor Pagoda located on the fringes of District 1.
NOTE: History Museum is closed on Mondays.
Visit Ben Thanh Market where an incredible display of fresh produce is offered. Enjoy a stroll through the market exploring the variety of goods for sale.
Next stop is the Reunification Palace, formerly known as the Presidential Palace. From the Palace, stroll to the other major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City: the elegant 19th century Old Saigon Post Office, elegant artistry of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), Opera House. The Palace was also where the Vietnam War concluded in 1975, when a Communist tank of the North Vietnam crashed through its gates. Return to the hotel then have a rest.
Today, you start the journey from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap. In the morning, your guide will transport you to a port in the Mekong Delta Region, often referred to as ‘the rice bowl of Vietnam’, to embark on your Pandaw vessel. It takes you 2 hour drive to reach the town of My Tho in Tien Giang province.
Arrive at the vessel in time for welcome drinks, then get a briefing and have lunch. Sail across the vast Mekong Delta. Your guide will collect your passports at the meeting point then help you arrange the immigration formalities.
Do the Mekong Delta tour today. In the morning we will visit Cai Be floating market along canals and backwaters. Its colourful floating market, vast emerald rice fields and lush back waterways; these are the things that make Cai Be such a desired destination.
Then continue to SA DEC via Vinh Long Province. Sa Dec has an interesting local market and the ancient house of Mr, Huynh Thuy Le, the 'lover' of Marguerite Duras, a famous French novelist whose book was imortalised in the film L’Indochine.
Crossing the border then sailing into PHNOM PENH, Cambodia's riverside capital, located at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and a place once called the Pearl of Asia, is highlight to any Mekong delta cruise and voyage. Upon arrival, your guide will be awaiting to transfer you to the hotel for check in. Whilst in Phnom Penh, take an orientation city tour on a private cyclo, arranged by the Cyclo Centre Phnom Penh, a charity that provides basic welfare and medical services to cyclo drivers.
Despite its recent turbulent and tragic history, the city still retains much of its former colonial charm with wide, verdant tree-lined boulevards and classic colonial architecture buildings. Firstly, head to the Khmer-style National Museum, housing the world's foremost collection (over 5,000 pieces) of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artifacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries.
Travel along the lively riverfront to the impressive French built Royal Palace, whose spectacular pagoda style structure is without doubt one of Phnom Penh's most impressive sights. A replica of King Norodom's old wooden palace, the building presents an ostentatious display of elaborate Khmer architecture, with golden nagas, orange, sapphire and green tiles and scenes from the Ramayana painted on the ceiling. The Palace also houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. In this temple, view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.
In the afternoon, continue to the Tuol Sleng Museum and the Killing Fields, which provide gruesome testaments to life under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, the skull filled glass tower a vivid memorial to the 17,000 men, women and children who were murdered there between 1975-1978.
NOTE: You should be aware that by their very nature, Tuol Sleng and the 'Killing Fields' can be a distressing experience for some people.
This morning, make the explorations up Tonle River to a silver making village, KAMPONG TRALACH, and Chong Koh either by ship or by coach depending on water levels. This river is very pretty and there is a vibrant local life to be viewed along the river banks and in lesser craft.
Morning walk at Angkor Ban and after an all day sail through delightful Cambodian countryside we reach charming French colonial town of KRATIE in the evening. No other river ships get this high but thanks to the Mekong Pandaw’s shallow draft we can attempt it.
From Kratie we go further upstream using a local bus to view the dolphin grounds in a national park protected area. In the afternoon on our return downstream we stop at a curious shrine known as the Monkey Temple on the way to moor overnight near KAMPONG CHAM.
This early morning, being transferred by coach to your hotel. Soon you will find yourself within reach of Siem Reap, the charming gateway to the famed Angkor Wat Temple. Refreshments will be provided and we will stop at KAMPONG THOM along the way. Arrive at Siem Reap mid-afternoon. Free at leisure then relax.
This afternoon, begin our SIEM REAP exploration at the South Gate of the colossal fortified city of Angkor Thom and continue to the inspirational Bayon Temple. Surrounded by an 8-metre-tall wall, the entrance to the Angkor Thom complex is through an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path there’s a row of 54 gods or demons holding a sacred Naga snake.
Continue to the Bayon Temple in the exact heart of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. Late In the afternoon, drift a relaxing cruise in a gondola paddle boat at the moat of Angkor Thom compound while enjoying a beautiful sunset at Prasat Chroung Temple. Overnight in Siem Reap.
OPTIONAL: In the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at the incredible Chanrey Tree, one of the best fine dining restaurants in town, offering traditional Khmer cuisine in a lush contemporary setting.
Instead of joining visitors hoping to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat, start the day with a tour to the temples of the Small Circuit in Angkor by local tuk tuk then make your way to the illustrious Ta Prohm, built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. This temple is recognizable for its feature in the movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie, but is also a true treasure due to the surrounding nature that has attempted to overtake the stone. It is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple having crumbled to the ground.
The visit will also include Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th Century, and Srah Srang, also known as the “pool of ablutions”.
After relaxing at your hotel to escape the heat of the midday, enjoy a 20-minute drive from Siem Reap to Kompheim Village then embark on a two-hour walking tour which provides insight into village life in Cambodia. Visit local homes for a firsthand look at how the local villagers live. Get to learn about rice farming and see ox and buffalo while strolling through rice paddies, and interacting with locals. By participating the village tour, half the proceeds go directly to a village enrichment fund managed by HUSK, a non-profit NGO that works with communities to improve the lives of Cambodians. Afterwards, head back to the hotel and spend the rest of the evening at leisure.
After breakfast in the morning, head out of Siem Reap center to the countryside to see the most remote and exquisite ruins of Banteay Srei - The Citadel of Women - built in the 10th century and renowned for its superb decoration. This “gem” of the Angkor area is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone and remains the best-preserved temple in Cambodia.
Travel north to Kbal Spean, one of the earliest Hindu pilgrimage sites in Cambodia. A short 3 km trek up the hill through dense jungle is rewarded with a remarkable sight of the “River of 1,000 Lingas”, with some remarkable stone carvings of Hindu gods, animals and other symbols in the river bed. During the rainy season, enjoy a refreshing bath in the waterfall, which is extremely popular with the local families.
Returning to Siem Reap to have lunch before visiting the Angkorian temples. Its construction was started during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolising the Mount Meru, home of the Buddhist and Hindu gods. The divine residence of Vishnu, the King himself was to reside here after his death. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Moreover, Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labour. Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag. The visit coincides with the ‘Golden Hour’ the perfect time to take amazing photos of the temple. Return to the hotel and relax. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure.
Wrap up your Cruising the Mekong from Saigon to Siem Reap today. You have visited all the best highlights of Vietnam and Cambodia on the waterways, from picturesque landscape, tranquil villages, ancient capitals, tasty food and cuisine to iconic museums within a culture that was once foreign but is now familiar and endlessly friendly. Laid back until your private transfer will ferry you to the airport where you will catch your return flight home.
For additional Cambodia & Vietnam cruise tour options, read about other Vietnam tours offered by Asia Senses. For traveler experiences, read the Vietnam river cruise reviews.
Private Tour (for 02 pax, cheaper if more)
Tour Price Includes
05 hotel night accommodation
Local English speaking guides
Meals as mentioned
Saigon Street Tour by night
Gondola paddle boat in Siem Reap
Village tour in Siem Reap
All sightseeing as specified and entrance fees included
Bottled drinking water per touring days
Tour Price Excludes
Visas for Vietnam and Cambodia if required
Other meals not mentioned in the program
Cruise package Saigon - Siem Reap
Domestic & International flights
Items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks, etc...
Tips for your guides and drivers
Any camera or video fees at any sites
When to Go
See estimated monthly temperature and rainfall for this itinerary