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Riverways and Backroads: Experiencing Life Along the Mekong by Bike and Barge

Program Number: 16502RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/16/2014 - 1/31/2014;
Duration: 15 nights
Location: Vietnam/Cambodia
Price starting at: $3,190.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Bicycling Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 35; 13 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 11 Dinners    

In the 19th and 20th centuries the nations of Vietnam and Cambodia — the offspring of ancient empires that dominated Asia for more than 1,000 years — were beset by imperial warfare and sundered by 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 bike through villages and rice paddies where authentic Khmer and Vietnamese culture lives on.


• Visit Vietnam’s National University to lunch with students who discuss Vietnamese life now and in the future.
• Bike through rural villages and interact closely with local communities in both Vietnam and Cambodia.
• Based in Siem Reap, discover the Angkor Temple Complex and magnificent Angkor Wat.

Activity Particulars

Cycling up to 20 miles per day. Walking up to one mile, standing one hour; broken, uneven sidewalks, stairs. Weather is hot and humid year-round.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Siem Reap (Cambodia), 4 nights; embark MV Toum Teav, 7 nights; disembark Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), 2 nights; departure.

Overnight flight from U.S.A.
1 night
Cross International Date Line
1 night
Arrival Siem Reap (Cambodia)
4 nights

Cycle to the Angkor Temple Complex and Angkor Wat to explore it with an expert. At the Cambodian Land Mine Museum, hear about Cambodia’s landmine crisis, then pedal out of modern Siem Reap to the pre-Angkorian temples known as the Roulous Group. Join a local family for lunch in Kampong Phluck.

Embark MV Toum Teav and Barge to Kampong Tralach
3 nights

Board the barge and cross the Tonle Sap Lake to a floating village to learn about its people. Pedal to a small temple adorned with traditional paintings in Kampong Tralach. Visit Kampong Chhnang village and stop at a pottery house to learn the traditional Cambodian method of pottery. Continue biking to Oudong, once the capital of Cambodia, climbing the stairs to the top of Phnom Oudong.

Barge to Phnom Penh (Cambodia)
1 night

Board a coach in Phnom Penh for a presentation on the depredations of the Khmer Rouge, arriving at Choeung Ek where thousands of Cambodians were unjustly executed. Return to town to visit the S-21 (Tuol Sleng) Interrogation Center as you improve your understanding of this tragedy’s social and economic effects on today’s Cambodia.

Barge to Vietnam-Cambodia border and the Mekong Delta
3 nights

View the Mekong Delta at sunset from Sam Mountain. Cycle to a brick kiln to learn about brick production and chat with school children eager to practice their English or French. Bike the road that follows the Cho Gao canal, greeting locals as they tend the land, fish and travel to and from market and stopping to explore Vinh Trang Pagoda and the Cai Be Floating market.

Barge to and disembark Ho Chi Minh City
2 nights

At National University, discuss the history of Vietnam with a professor and lunch with students. Explore Ho Chi Minh City on foot with an expert.

Siem Reap: Four-star hotel. Aboard the Toum Teave: Comfortable, air-conditioned cabins. Ho Chi Minh City: Comfortable hotel.
Meals and Lodgings
   Tara Angkor Hotel
  Siem Reap, Cambodia 4 nights
   Toum Teave
  Aboard the Toum Teave, At Sea 7 nights
   Grand Hotel
  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 2 nights
 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 prior: TBD Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services for more details.

 Toum Teave
Type: Barge
  Ship Information: Built in 2001, the Toum 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, one 115V (razor outlet).
  Facility amenities: Public services include outdoor restaurant and Lounge deck, inside library, sun deck, and forward deck.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: Bathroom with showers only.

 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 after: TBD Please contact RS Travel Services for additional nights.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Program begins in the late afternoon at the program hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia on Day 3. You will be staying at Tara Angkor Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
This program ends after breakfast in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Day 16. You will be staying at Grand 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:  Siem Reap
  Nearest airport:  Siem Reap International Airport.
  Transportation to site: Outside the terminal is a ticket booth for registered taxis into town. Independent taxis and motorcycles wait just outside the airport. Usually, the price ranges from $2 for motorcycles and $10 (subject to change) for taxis. Most hotels also offer free transportation from the airport but you must notify them in advance of your arrival. The transfer from the airport to the hotel 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.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Ho Chi Minh City
  Transportation from site: Transfer at the end of the program can be arranged two ways. Participants can always contact the concierge desk at the Grand Hotel to get more information about taxi or private car services to the airport. Participants can also ask the group leader to arrange for a local taxi. The transfer from the hotel to the airport 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
Equipment Requirements: Since this is not a technical biking program, participants are not required to bring technical gear for this program. However, if participants want to bring own cleats, helmets, biking shoes, etc... they can. The program will provide trek bikes and helmets. There are no baskets or holders on the bikes. The barge will follow the cycling route so that participants can leave most of their belongings on the barge.
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 Cambodia
(Thursday, January 16)
 Depart From: Overnight Flight.

Day 2: En Route to Cambodia
(Friday, January 17)
 In Transit: Overnight Flight.

Day 3: Siem Reap / Orientation
(Saturday, January 18)
 Arrive To: Arrive at Siem Reap International Airport and transfer to program hotel.
 Afternoon: Convene at the hotel with other Participants for Orientation.
 Dinner: Welcome Dinner featuring local food.
Accommodations: Tara Angkor Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 4: Ta Prohm / Angkor Wat / Angkor Thom
(Sunday, January 19)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast test and fit your bicycles in preparation for your cycling days. Today is spent discovering the Temples of the Angkor region. Begin the day at Ta Prohm, the temple that gives a feel of a jungle as its massive trees intertwine with ancient carved walls. Lead by a local expert learn about the rediscovery of these magnificent temples. Then cycle to Angkor Wat, passing by ancient structures through the forested area. Explore the temple of Angkor Wat, and learn about the Khmer architectural style as you discover this marvelous place. TOTAL BIKING THIS MORNING IS 3 MILES
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, continue your cycling around the Angkor Temples to the Angkor Thom complex. Begin exploring the Bayon, one of the most beautiful structures in the area, situated in the heart of Angkor Thom, once the capital of the Khmer Empire. Explore the Terrace of the Leper King and Terrace of the Elephants before continuing your ride out of the North Gate of Angkor Thom. Then cycle to the last temple of the day, Preah Khan and explore this temple. TOTAL BIKING THIS AFTERNOON IS ABOUT 3 MILES
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Tara Angkor Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Cambodian Land Mine Center / Banteay Srei
(Monday, January 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at hotel. TOTAL BIKING TODAY IS ABOUT 18 MILES
 Morning: Begin the day visiting the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, a center containing information about Cambodia’s current landmine situation. A representative of CMAC gives a briefing and presentation of about this place. Then continue to Banteay Samre temple, a small temple and a miniature of Angkor Wat. Begin your cycling from here through a mixture of paved and smooth unpaved roads, passimg small villages and endless paddy fields.
 Lunch: Picnic lunch at a local temple.
 Afternoon: Continue cycling through the countryside of Siem Reap towards Banteay Srei where your cycling ends for the day. Discover this temple, the citadel of women, one of the best preserved temples in this area with well defined carvings, bas-reliefs and pink sandstone.
 Dinner: Dinner on own to choose your cuisine.
Accommodations: Tara Angkor Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6: Roulous Group / Orphanage / Free time
(Tuesday, January 21)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at hotel. TOTAL BIKING THIS MORNING IS ABOUT 14 MILES
 Morning: This morning, depart for your cycling adventure to Kampong Phluck. Cycle 15km on rural roads out of Siem Reap to the 8th and 9th century pre-Angkorian temples, the Roulous Group. Explore by foot the temples there. Then continue riding over a good dirt road towards Kampong Phluck. Stop by a small orphanage where children from Phnom Penh learn to read and write. Enjoy a show performed by the children. The director of the orphanage explains the stories behind some of the children. Continue cycling through small rural villages and enjoy the scenery before arriving at the port where 2 local boats will transfer you for a trip around Kampong Phluck, a Cambodian village on the water.
 Lunch: In Kampong Phluck join a local family for lunch.
 Afternoon: After this exploration of living on the water transfer back to Siem Reap in the late afternoon. Then free time for you to explore Siem Reap on your own.
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
Accommodations: Tara Angkor Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: National Museum / Board the Barge
(Wednesday, January 22)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer by bike to the National Museum and get an introduction to the temples. TOTAL BIKING THIS AFTERNOON IS ABOUT 3 MILES.
 Lunch: Lunch on own.
 Afternoon: Transfer to board the Toum Teave. Then begin your journey down the Tonle Sap lake to the Mekong River.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the barge.
Accommodations: Toum Teave
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8: Tonle Sap / Kampong Chhnang
(Thursday, January 23)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: This morning cruise towards Kampong Chhnang.
 Lunch: Lunch on board the boat.
 Afternoon: A great day awaits you in Kampong Chhnang village, or Pottery Village, where villagers still produce pottery using traditional methods. Upon arrival cycle towards the pottery villages that lie between the paddy fields and mountains. Stop at a pottery house and learn the Cambodian traditional pottery method. See the making of traditional rice wine and if you are strong enough you could have a taste! TOTAL BIKING THIS AFTERNOON IS ABOUT 10 MILES
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Teave
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Kampong Tralach / Oudong
(Friday, January 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: Boat cruises towards Kampong Tralach. At this small village, bike on well maintained dirt roads that lead to a small temple with traditional paintings. Return to boat and continue cruising upstream. TOTAL BIKING THIS AFTERNOON IS ABOUT 5 MILES
 Lunch: Lunch on board the boat.
 Afternoon: Being the afternoon with a visit to Oudong temple, climb the stairs to the stupa on top of Phnom Oudong and get a view of the town and countryside. Then start your biking journey to Phnom Penh along flat dirt roads passing many rural villages and Pagodas. Friendly people greet you with broad smiles while you bike past magnificent rice paddy fields. TOTAL BIKING THIS MORNING IS ABOUT 12 MILES
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Teave
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Phnom Penh / Killing Fields / S-21 / Free Time
(Saturday, January 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet on the boat. NO BIKING TODAY
 Morning: This morning will be an intense examination of the recent struggles of Cambodia. A presentation helps to set the context of the depredations of the Khmer Rouge, under whose control thousands of Cambodians were executed for unwarrented crimes. You will visit the the S-21 (Tuol Sleng) Interrogation Center, where Cambodians were tortured and forced to confess to crimes they did not commit. Through the visits, you will hopefully gain a better understanding of the recent tragedy, the scars it left, and how it affects both social and economic development in Cambodia today.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Visit the Royal Palace and the National Museum.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
 Evening: A local group will join you on board for a traditional "ASPARA" show
Accommodations: Toum Teave
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Cross into Vietnam / Chau Doc (Vietnam)
(Sunday, January 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat. TOTAL BIKING THIS MORNING IS ABOUT 18 MILES
 Morning: Today cruise down the Mekong river.
 Lunch: Lunch on board the boat.
 Afternoon: After immigration continue bike from the Cambodia-Vietnam boarder to Chau The entire bike ride is 30km. The road is a quiet sealed country lane lined with houses of Khmer design. Along the way, pass by the locals as they continue on their daily activities of buying and selling produce, going to the market, or relaxing for the day.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Teave
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Chau Doc / Sa Dec
(Monday, January 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet on the boat. TOTAL BIKING TODAY IS ABOUT 8 MILES
 Morning: This morning in Chau Doc, cycle towards Sam Mountain on the edge of Chau Doc along quiet lanes passing rice paddies and locals as they return home from their day’s labor.
 Lunch: Lunch on board the boat.
 Afternoon: Enjoy the afrernoon observing the scenery and life along the river as you cruise towards Sac Dec. In Sa Dec, cycle towards town passing by numerous gardens with a wide array of plants and trees. Stop at one of the local schools and have a chance to chat with some of the children who are happy to practice their English or French. Continue on and visit Kien An Pagoda. Leave your bikes here and wander along the waterfront and see a wide array of local produce for sale – fish, fruit and vegetables, confectionery and cakes, rice and various cereals and more everyday life items.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Teave
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Vinh Long / Cai Be / My Tho / Biking along the Canal
(Tuesday, January 28)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat. TOTAL BIKING TODAY IS ABOUT 18 MILES
 Morning: In Vinh Long start cycling on small concrete paths that wind through the local villages, passing by fruit crops including longan and mangoes. Along the way cross a number of small bridges and try your skills at crossing what has been nicknamed a "monkey bridge" because you need to hold on with both feet as well as both hands.
 Lunch: Lunch on board the boat.
 Afternoon: This afternoon will be your last biking journey before reaching Saigon. While cycling along, listen to the locals greet you and observe them in their daily life tending small plots of land, fishing, traveling to or from the market. Pass by fields which contain dragon fruit plants, lemongrass and a wide variety of other plants and herbs. Stop at Cho Gao market and have a chance to wander around this local market. Visit Vinh Trang Pagoda which was built in 1849 and was renovated in 2002. It is an interesting pagoda and has Grecian style pillars with quite a lot more color than is seen in other pagodas.
 Dinner: Dinner on board the boat.
Accommodations: Toum Teave
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14: City Orientation
(Wednesday, January 29)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at hotel.
 Morning: Enjoy your last morning on the boat as it cruises towards Saigon.
 Lunch: Enjoy Pho, a favorite local dish for lunch.
 Afternoon: After lunch, take a guided walk to visit the main sites in Saigon including the Rex Hotel, the People’s Committee Building which was built as the Hotel D’Ville by the French in 1908, Notre Dame Cathedral and the General Post Office. Continue walking down Le Duan to the Reunification Palace complete with the 2 tanks which battered down the Palace gates on April 30th 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own to pick a cuisine of your choice.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 15: National University / Free time
(Thursday, January 30)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel. NO BIKING TODAY
 Morning: Being the day with a presentation at the National University on the History of Vietnam. Then enjoy tea with university students. This is a great opportunity to meet the students and hear what they have to say about their lives now and what they hope for Vietnam in the future.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Enjoy some free time. Wander the streets of Saigon and find a small café for coffee and sit and watch the locals as they go about their daily life. Or, excercise your photography skills as you try to capture Saigon on camera.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 16: Departure for return flight home
(Friday, January 31)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Depart for Ho Chi Minh International airport.
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

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A Traveller's History of Southeast Asia

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

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Communion, A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam

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Eyewitness Guide Vietnam and Angkor Wat

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Fire in the Lake

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Lonely Planet Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & the Greater Mekong

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Temples of Cambodia, The Heart of Angkor

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The Eaves of Heaven, A Life in Three Wars

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The Gods Drink Whiskey

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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

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The Road of Lost Innocence

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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

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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

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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

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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.

What’s included in this Road Scholar program?

Except for the occasional meal on some programs, Road Scholar programs are all-inclusive. That means there are no extra “options,” no passing the hat for tips and no surprises. From lectures and field trips to gratuities and accommodations – the price you pay up front is the price you pay.

Specifically, this program includes:

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