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Angkor Wat and the Mekong River: Life Along the Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam

Program Number: 19033RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/10/2014 - 1/22/2014; 3/3/2016 - 3/17/2016; 8/16/2016 - 8/30/2016; 8/24/2016 - 9/7/2016; 8/31/2016 - 9/14/2016; 9/8/2016 - 9/22/2016; 9/15/2016 - 9/29/2016; 9/23/2016 - 10/7/2016; 10/8/2016 - 10/22/2016; 1/6/2017 - 1/20/2017; 2/4/2017 - 2/18/2017; 2/11/2017 - 2/25/2017; 3/6/2017 - 3/20/2017; 3/13/2017 - 3/27/2017;
Duration: 12 nights
Location: Vietnam/Cambodia
Price starting at: $4,590.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; River Boats; History & Culture
Meals: 28; 10 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 9 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

In the 19th and 20th centuries the nations of Vietnam and Cambodia — the offspring of empires that dominated Asia for more than 1,000 years — were beset by imperial warfare and ethnic violence. Today, these modern states are integrating into the global community even as they mend the wounds of an era of atrocity. Consider legacies both bleak and beautiful as you navigate up the Mekong River to access villages and rice paddies where authentic Khmer and Vietnamese culture lives on.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to 1 mile per day and standing for up to 1 hour at a time; uneven sidewalks and stairs without railings. Climbing ramps and stairs to board and get off boat. Hot and humid conditions. Program cost excludes 2 meals to enjoy on your own.

Please note that some dates operate in reverse.

Please note that the 3/13/2017 date is designed with a Moderate activity level and is meant for participants who feel that an Active program would be too strenuous. Field trips on this date will be slower paced and will follow less strenuous routings wherever possible.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), 2 nights; aboard mv Toum Teave, 7 nights; Siem Reap (Cambodia), 3 nights.

Days 1-2: Overnight flight from the U.S.A./Cross International Date Line

Days 3-4: Arrival Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) / embark vessel:

Explore Saigon sites including the Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification Hall. Lodging: Comfortable hotel.

Days 5-7: Cho Gao Canal / Mekong Delta:

Observe life along the canal: people tending the land, fishing and going to market. Explore the Cai Be floating market. View the Mekong Delta at sunset from Sam Mountain. Chat with Vietnamese schoolchildren eager to practice their English or French.

Days 8-11: Phnom Penh / Kampong Chhnang / Tonle Sap:

Step back in time as you visit the cultural sites of Cambodia’s capital. Learn about the depredations of the Khmer Rouge, visiting the Killing Fields and the S-21 Interrogation Center. See farmers working in their emerald green rice paddies. Cross the Tonle Sap (“Great Lake”).

Days 12-15: Disembark / coach to Siem Reap / departure:

Explore the magnificent Angkor temples and learn about the civilization that built them. Lodging: Four-star hotel.

Toum Tiou

Built in 2001, this river vessel has two large decks with 10 air-conditioned rooms accommodating up to 18 participants on exclusive charters. Each room has a window facing the water and a private toilet, shower and sink.

Meals and Lodgings
   Grand Hotel
  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 2 nights
   Toum Tiou (Teave)
  Toum Tiou (Teave), At Sea 7 nights
   Tara Angkor Hotel
  Siem Reap, Cambodia 1 night
 Grand Hotel
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Surrounded by a downtown ambiance, handicraft shops, restaurants - Grand Hotel, a modern comfort in a very classical French atmosphere and architecture since 1930, is an ideal place for businessmen, travellers as well as the ones who seeking rest and entertainment.
  Contact info: 08 Dong Khoi, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City,   Vietnam
phone: +84-8-823-0163
  Room amenities: Satellite TV (65 channels...), Mini-bar, IDD telphone with bathroom extension In-room safe box, Electricity current: 220 volts Water purification, Air Conditioning, Hair dryer, Wireless Internet access.
  Facility amenities: Souvenir Shop, Concierge, Currency Exchange, Laundry and dry cleaning service, shoe-shining service, internet access, roof-top restaurant, swimming pool.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Contact Road Scholar Travel Extra nights can be arranged with Road Scholar Travel Services.
  Check in time: 2:00 PM

 Toum Tiou (Teave)
Type: Barge
  Ship Information: Built in 2001, the Toum Tiou (Teav ) is 124.67 ft long and 21.33 ft wide in the middle. Accommodates 20 passengers.
  Contact info: N/A
N/A,   Cambodia
phone: +855 12 24 08 59
  Room amenities: It has 10 comfortable cabins (10.83 ft x 8.20 ft), 4 on the first deck and 6 on the second, each air-conditioned and with a private bathroom (8.20 ft x 4.59 ft) including toilet, shower and sink featuring a fan, one 220V plugs, and one 115V (razor outlet).
  Facility amenities: Public services include half-open out door restaurant and bar, lounge deck, inside library, sun deck, and forward deck.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: Bathroom with showers only.

 Tara Angkor Hotel
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: The Tara Angkor is equipped with modern amenities and elegantly furnished to make your stay luxurious and enjoyable. With exceptionally warm hospitality and traditional Cambodian sincerity and kindness your stay will be something not to be forgotten.
  Contact info: Vithei Charles de Gaulle
Siem Reap,   Cambodia
phone: (+855) 63 966 661
  Facility amenities: The Tara Angkor Hotel's stylish 4 star property has cemented its status as one of the jewels in Siem Reap’s accommodation sector. Our facilities include 213 magnificent rooms and suites, two restaurants, a lobby bar, and a swimming pool with jacuzzi, fitness center and sauna.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: TBD Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services for more details.

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
During orientation at program hotel on Day 3 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. You will be staying at Grand Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
At the program hotel on Day 13 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. You will be staying at Tara Angkor Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Driving in these countries is not recommended. It can be difficult to drive with the traffic and the driving habits.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: Participants can reach the site from the airport via taxi.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Ho Chi Minh City
  Transportation to site: If independent flights do not coincide with the designated group transfer, it will be the responsibility of the participant/s to make arrangements to get to the program site. At Tan Son Nhat International Airport, taxis line up, with proper police regulation outside of the airport. A metered taxi ride to the city costs about US $5-7 (subject to change) or you can ask for a fixed rate ($4-6) (subject to change). Airport Taxi and Saigon Taxi are among the most popular and reliable companies. It is better that you line up to get the regulated taxi than waving one off the road. The transfer from the Tan Son Nhat International Airport to the Grand Hotel will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes (7 km) depending on the traffic. Private arrival and departure transfers -at an additional cost- may be arranged in advance by calling Road Scholar Travel Services.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Siem Reap
  Nearest airport:  Siem Reap International Airport.
  Transportation from site: Taxis from the Tara Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to the airport are available and cost approximately $10 (subject to change). The transfer from the Tara Angkor to the Siem Reap International Airport will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Private arrival and departure transfers -at an additional cost- may be arranged in advance by calling Road Scholar Travel Services.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Departure for Vietnam
(Friday, January 10)
 Depart From: Depart US for flight to Vietnam.

Day 2: En Route
(Saturday, January 11)
 In Transit: Overnight flight to Vietnam

Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City/Orientation
(Sunday, January 12)
 Arrive To: Arrive to Ho Chi Minh International Airport. Transfer to the hotel for check in.
 Afternoon: Convene at the hotel with other participants for your Program Orientation.
 Dinner: 'Welcome Dinner' featuring a taste of local food at the hotel.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 4: History of Vietnam/City Orientation/City Field Trip
(Monday, January 13)

Note: Will need to be able to walk nearly 2 miles. Must be able to keep up with group in busy streets with noise and lots of movement.

 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast transfer to the National University for a lecture on the History of Vietnam, then enjoy tea with University students. Speak with these students about the cultural climate of today's Vietnam.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: The vibrant city of Saigon is a thriving metropolis reflecting Vietnam's contentious past as well as its fast-forwarding future. On a walking tour, take notice of the past and present as you take a city orientation admist intricate traditional French colonial architecture, Chinese pagodas and sleek skyscrapers. Visit such sites as the Rex Hotel, the People's Committee Building, Notre Dame Cathedral and the General Post Office. Continue down Le Duan to the Reunification Palace (the former Presidential Palace) built as a modern administrative center. Then continue to the War Remnants Museum, which holds a large collection of weapons, machinery, artifacts and photographs illustrating the War.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own - pick a cuisine of your choice.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Free time/Transfer to boat/Scenery of Vietnamese life
(Tuesday, January 14)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at Hotel.
 Morning: Enjoy free time or attend a lecture on about the history of the Mekong Delta and its economic significance to the region given by your Study Leader.
 Lunch: For lunch enjoy the taste of Vietnam as you sample Pho - a local favorite!
 Afternoon: Transfer to the Toum Tiou and begin your fascinating journey, through small villages, up the Mekong River. A ship information session will take place on this first day aboard.
 Dinner: Join the captain and crew for a welcome drink and dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Tiou (Teave)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: My Tho/Ci Be/Vinh Long
(Wednesday, January 15)

Note: This will be an active day. Though there won't be a lot of walking, participants must be able to easily climb ladders on the side of the barge. Participants must also be comfortable getting in and out small wooden boats at least 3 to 4 times a day.

 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: Arrive at My Tho. On the banks of a northern arm of the Mekong, My Tho, which translates as "fragrant herb", is where vistors come to discover the beauty of the delta. It's a quiet, prosperous city of about 100,000 inhabitants, famous for its many fruit orchards, gardens and the huge rice fields that surround it. The climate is warm and pleasant year round. Here, disembark the barge and transfer to a coach to Vihn Trang Pagoda. Then continue to Cai Dai temple and the noodle factory.
 Lunch: Lunch on board the boat.
 Afternoon: Continue for Vinh Long - a brick and pottery factory, the Binh Hoa Phuoc Islet Nursery of fruit trees as well as a typical house and a show room of traditional farming tools. Vinh Long, which translates as "Majestic Dragon", is right in the middle of the delta, between two arms of the Mekong. The soil of Vinh Long is enriched by silt deposits, making it ideal for growing mandarins and other citrus fruits. Life is organized around the water. Houses on stilts, hawkers on boats, hundreds of small crafts crisscross in all directions.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Tiou (Teave)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Sa Dec / Chau Doc
(Thursday, January 16)

Note: Must be able to comfortably walk anywhere from 1 to 1/12 mile in the morning.

 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: Arrival at Sa Dec and transfer to Trung Vuong primary school and visit with the students there. Stroll around Sa Dec Market along Sa Dec River bank. This small city of 30,000 inhabitants is fascinating in its unspoiled authenticity and undisturbed by visitors. It provides a glimpse of the delta where a few colonial houses still remain, including the "Chinaman's house" (from Duras' novel "The Lover", also made into a movie). Return to the boat with stopover at a nursery of flower and bonsai trees. Famous for its horticulture (it has many varieties of fabulously exotic flowers) Sa Dec was known as the "Garden of Cochin Chine" during colonial times.
 Lunch: Lunch on board ship.
 Afternoon: Take a field trip to Sam Mountain, the highest elevation on the Mekong provides a spectacular view of the region's Rice Paddies and canal system and the Cambodian border. Stop at a few spots to look at some of the temples such as Tay An Pagoda, the Temple of Lady Xu and the Tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau.
 Dinner: Dinner at Victoria Hotel.
 Evening: Overnight onboard at the jetty of the hotel; passengers are free to enjoy the hotel facilities (swimming pool, billiards, bar, internet) or stroll in Chau Doc.
Accommodations: Toum Tiou (Teave)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Cruising the Mekong Delta toward Phnom Penh
(Friday, January 17)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: Depart for the Vietnamese Cambodian border. Arrival at Vinh Xuong check-point in Vietnam and obtain your visa. The Toum Tiou undergoes some formalities as it clears through the border. The ship leaves the border and proceeds toward Phnom Penh.
 Lunch: Lunch on board the ship.
 Afternoon: Relax after lunch while the boat crusies towards Phnom Penh.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Tiou (Teave)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Phnom Penh / S-21 / Killing Fields / Free afternoon
(Saturday, January 18)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: This morning, learn about the recent tragedy of Cambodia. This morning's presentation serves as a precursor to the depredations of the Khmer Rouge followed by a field trip to Choeung Ek Killing Fields, where thousands of Cambodians were executed for unwarrented crimes. Then return to town to visit the the S-21 (Tuol Sleng) Interrogation Center, where Cambodians were tortured and forced to confess to crimes they did not commit. Through these visits, you will hopefully gain a better understanding of the recent tragic period in Cambodian History, the scars it left, and how it affects both the social and economic development in the country today.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Free afternoon to explore Phnom Penh. Visit one of the local markets, walk the city streets, or just relax.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
 Evening: Enjoy an 'Apsara' dance preformance. As evidenced in part by the innumerable apsaras (celestial dancers) that adorn the walls of Angkorian and pre-Angkorian temples, this dance has been a part of Khmer culture for more than a millennium.
Accommodations: Toum Tiou (Teave)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Royal Palace/National Museum/Kampong Tralach
(Sunday, January 19)

Note: Will be walking and standing on and off for at least 3 to 4 hours minium.

 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: This morning, step back to ancient time in Phnom Penh renowned for its traditional Khmer and French influenced architecture. Start in the ancient past by exploring the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, finishing the afternoon at the National Museum. The National Museum in Phnom Penh is the most significant public repository of Khmer artifacts in the country, displaying many important Angkorian artifacts and rare pieces from later periods.
 Lunch: Lunch on board the boat.
 Afternoon: Arrive at Kampong Tralach to visit its wonderful Vihara belonging to Wat Kampong Tralach Leu pagoda. To get to it, cross Kampong Tralach Krom village along a small road perpendicular to the river, crossing some gorgeous stretches of emerald rice paddy. The Vihara dates back to early last century. It was probably built on an older site, as indicated by the laterite foundations. The Vihara is home to some outstanding mural paintings. Standing by itself in the middle of rice fields, it is a modest pagoda that receives very few visitors. Its isolation may well be its undoing, as was the case for Wat Tani Pagoda in the province of Kampot.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Tiou (Teave)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Kampong Chhnang / Chnuok True
(Monday, January 20)

Note: Must be comfortable climbing up and down the barage ladder. Will require that participants get in and out of small wodden boats. Must be able to be active between sitting and standing for at least 4 hours a day.

 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: A great day awaits you in Kampong Chhnang village, or Pottery Village, where villagers still produce pottery using traditional methods. Located some 56 miles from Phnom Penh, the town of Kampong Chnang is one of the largest fishing ports on the Tonle Sap. Fish farming is also widely practiced in the area. The area is famous for its pottery ware, unchanged in style for centuries, which is produced in sufficient quantities to supply the entire country. The village has other products that are not to be overlooked such as the Thnot tree (sugar palm a real national symbol) that abounds in the area: a mellow tasting, caramel-colored sugar sold in large cakes and palm wine.
 Lunch: Lunch on board boat.
 Afternoon: Spend the afternoon packing for your trip tomorrow.
 Dinner: Captain's farewell dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Tiou (Teave)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Arrive in Siem Reap / Transfer to hotel
(Tuesday, January 21)

Note: Due to low water at this time of year, you will transfer to Siem Reap by coach.

 Breakfast: Breakfast during navigation.
 Morning: Spend the morning transferring via coach to Siem Reap. Along the way, stop at a floating village to learn about this unique community on the Tonle Sap. Arrive at the pier near Siem Reap.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel or in town.
 Afternoon: Free time in Siem Reap. Time to pack and relax, or to prepare for the extension.
 Dinner: Dinner in town or at the hotel.
Accommodations: Tara Angkor Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Departure
(Wednesday, January 22)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to the airport for onward travels home.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Dragon Apparent, Travels in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

Author: Norman Lewis

Description: A classic account of travels and adventure during the last years of French Indochina, strong on atmosphere and including wonderfully detailed descriptions of local cultures and archaeological treasures. First published in 1951.

A Traveller's History of Southeast Asia

Author: J.M. Barwise, Nicholas J. White

Description: A compact history of the region, including the Khmer and the various ancient kingdoms that produced Borobudur, Angkor and other architectural marvels.

Arts of Southeast Asia

Author: Fiona Kerlogue

Description: A handsome guide to the art, architecture, textiles and crafts of Southeast Asia.

Birds of Southeast Asia

Author: Craig Robson

Description: This authoritative, masterfully illustrated guide, featuring 140 color plates covering 1,270 species throughout the region, also includes Malaysia, Burma, Borneo and Indonesia.

Cambodia's Curse, The Modern History of a Troubled Land

Author: Joel Brinkley

Description: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joel Brinkley returns to Cambodia a generation after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime to report on the country's continuing struggle to recover from its past.

Communion, A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam

Author: Kim Fay

Description: Fay recounts in savory detail a five-week journey with two friends from Hanoi to Saigon in search of the traditions, rituals and pleasures of food from local markets and street foods to haute cuisine.

Eyewitness Guide Vietnam and Angkor Wat

Author: Eyewitness Guides

Description: Featuring innovative site diagrams, local maps and hundreds of color photographs, this handy companion introduces the culture, history and attractions of Vietnam.

Fire in the Lake

Author: Frances FitzGerald

Description: A classic historical, political and cultural portrait of the Vietnam War, seen through the eyes of the Vietnamese. Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, FitzGerald, a staff writer at the New Yorker and a reporter in Vietnam, presents a vivid image of a revolution and a clear-sighted case for why the U.S offensive was doomed from the start.

Lonely Planet Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & the Greater Mekong

Author: Nick Ray

Description: This compact practical guide covers the entire Mekong from the heights of Yunnan to Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Temples of Cambodia, The Heart of Angkor

Author: Helen Ibbitson Jessup, Barry Brukoff (Photographer)

Description: Jessup (Art and Architecture of Cambodia) provides the accompanying essays to this oversized portfolio of dazzling color images by Barry Brukoff, who has been photographing the monuments of Cambodia since 1963.

The Eaves of Heaven, A Life in Three Wars

Author: Andrew X. Pham

Description: Pham recounts the story of his father's life during the French occupation, Japanese invasion and the American War, weaving such momentous events with anecdotes from his childhood and details of family, friends, food and daily life.

The Gods Drink Whiskey

Author: Stephen T. Asma

Description: Asma writes with verve and wit in this eye-opening account of his yearlong stint teaching at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh. His account is both an overview of Theravada Buddhism and a down-to-earth portrait of contemporary Cambodia.

The Mekong, Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future

Author: Milton Osborne

Description: A cultural history of the great river from prehistory to European exploration, colonial tensions and modern challenges. It's an engaging introduction to the history of Southeast Asia.

The Quiet American

Author: Graham Greene

Description: A classic, this is the most famous Western work of fiction on Vietnam. Greene writes of a love triangle between a war correspondent, his Vietnamese consort and an optimistic young American during the last days of French rule.

The River's Tale, A Year on the Mekong

Author: Edward Gargan

Description: A personal, probing chronicle of a 3,000 mile journey on the river from its source in China through Tibet, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

The Road of Lost Innocence

Author: Somaly Mam

Description: Sold into servitude by her grandfather, Mam recounts the experiences of her early life, her awakening as an activist -- and work to rescue thousands of women and children in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.

Vietnam Journeys

Author: Charles Fields

Description: Photographer and traveler Charles Fields portrays the cultures and landscapes of Vietnam from the World Heritage Site of Hue and the Phung Hiep floating market to its forests and coastline in stunning color photographs.

Vietnam, A Traveler's Literary Companion

Author: John Balaban, Nguyen Qui Duc

Description: From rain forest and rural countryside to the cities, these 17 stories from Vietnam's finest writers explore its landscapes, myths and changing traditions.

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia Map

Author: Nelles

Description: A convenient, double-sided map of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam at a scale of 1:1,500,000, with city maps of Hanoi, Vientiane, Ho Chi Minh City, Luang Prabang, and Phnom Penh. Includes the eastern portion of Thailand and Bangkok.

Vietnam, Rising Dragon

Author: Bill Hayton

Description: The veteran BBC newsman covers the tangled politics, rapidly changing economy, culture, history and people of Vietnam with great insight in this timely portrait of a nation in transition.

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