18681
Vietnam/Cambodia
The People of the Mekong: Vietnam, Cambodia and Angkor Wat
Dive deep into the ancient cultures of the Mekong, learning about daily village life, grand temples, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and traditional artistry from the people who live here.
Rating (4.8)
Program No. 18681RJ
Length
17 days
Starts at
3,399
Flights start at
850
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17 days
16 nights
34 meals
13 B 11 L 10 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
3
Arrive Hanoi, Check-in Hotel, Welcome Dinner
Hanoi
D
Mercure Hanoi La Gare Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in available 2:00 p.m. Please note that if the group flight arrives after 5:30 PM, we will conduct the orientation the next morning so you can rest from your long journey.

Afternoon: Hotel check-in available 2:00 p.m. Check-in to the hotel and rest and relax. The group flight arrives at 5:45 pm tonight and many participants will be arriving later so orientation will be held the following morning.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a tasty plated 'Welcome Dinner,' plus a complimentary glass of wine, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
4
Orientation, Cooking Class, Old Quarters, Water Puppet Show
Hanoi
B,L,D
Mercure Hanoi La Gare Hotel

Activity note: After breakfast we board a motor coach to transfer to the cooking class (about 2 miles). In the afternoon walking around the Old Quarter, approximately 2 miles on mostly paved and level surfaces.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Convene with our Group Leader to review program orientation. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. In addition to the program theme and logistics, we will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Please be aware that indicated times are approximate and that program activities and schedules could change due to local circumstances such as weather, traffic conditions, etc. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. During free time, the Group Leader will often be available for informal excursions, activities, or meals not included in the program. You are welcome to join if you wish, with any associated costs on your own, or may explore independently. This morning, partake in a hands-on cooking class at Madam Tuyet's. Madame Tuyet became famous both locally and internationally when her Anh Tuyet Restaurant was visited in 2002 by American chef Anthony Bourdain. During class you will visit the local market and learn about Vietnamese ingredients and then proceed to learn how to prepare and cook true northern Vietnamese cuisine.

Lunch: At Madam Tuyet’s, we’ll savor our plated Vietnamese creations. Coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll explore Hanoi's vibrant Old Quarter starting first with a bicycle rickshaw ride near Hoam Kiem Lake and around the Old Quarters. Remnant of a bygone era, The Old Quarter has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jewelry, etc. The street names nowadays still reflect these specializations, although few of them remain exclusively in their original area of commerce. After the ride we’ll continue on foot led by our Group Leader for a closer look at some aspects of the old quarters. Late afternoon, engage in a traditional northern Vietnamese Mua Roi Nuoc performance, or Water Puppet Show, that tells the story of day-to-day living in rural Vietnam and Vietnamese folk tales of harvest, fishing, and festivals.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure, rest and relax after our first day exploring Hanoi.

DAY
5
Lecture, Ba Dinh Square, Museum of Ethnology, Free Afternoon
Hanoi
B,L
Mercure Hanoi La Gare Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; minimal driving time. Walking up to 2 miles total throughout the day; paved walkway at Ba Dinh Square. Wearing shorts, tank tops and hats are not permitted at Ba Dinh Square.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet meal,plus a choice of coffee or tea, water.

Morning: We’ll begin the morning with a presentation at the hotel given by a local expert on the "History of Vietnam." Next, we’ll go on a field trip via motor coach to visit Ba Dinh Square where Ho Chi Minh himself read out the Declaration of Independence in 1945. Inside Ba Dinh Square and led by our Group Leader, we’ll revel at the simplicity of Ho Chi Minh's house. Across the street, we’ll then visit the One Pillar Pagoda, constructed to celebrate the heiress Emperor Ly Thai Tong who dreamt about receiving a son from the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion seated on a lotus flower.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy plated meals, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Our next stop will be to the Museum of Ethnology for an expert-led visit during which we will learn about the life and culture of the 54 ethnic groups that live in Vietnam. Afterwards, the remainder of the afternoon will free to explore on our own.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: We’ll then return to the hotel. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
To Ha Long Bay, Board Junk Boat, Explore Bay
Halong Bay
B,L,D
Bai Tho Junks

Activity note: Driving about 113 miles (181 km); approx. 3.5 hours. Getting on/off a Vietnamese Junk boat; we’ll spend the night aboard the boat. Land excursions require getting in/out of rowboats. Walking about 1/2 mile total throughout the day, including through the cave; rocky and uneven terrain, steps, some railings.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll drive to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and board a traditional Vietnamese Junk for one night. "Ha Long," which means "Bay of Descending Dragons," is a stunning site famous for its scenic ocean karst topography and peaceful horizon. Along the way, we’ll learn from our Group Leader about Northern Vietnamese life.

Lunch: Aboard the boat, we’ll have a buffet meal, plus choice of coffee or tea, with water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: In the early afternoon, we will have the opportunity to visit Vung Vieng fishing village. by rowboat with our Group Leader.

Dinner: Aboard the boat, we’ll have plated meals plus choice of coffee or tea, with water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
7
Thien Canh Son Cave, Transfer to Hanoi, Fly to Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
B,L,D
Grand Hotel Saigon

Activity note: Drive from Halong Bay to Hanoi International Airport is about 113 miles (181 km); approx. 3.5 hours. Walking up to 1 mile throughout the day. Flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is 2 hours.

Breakfast: Aboard the boat, we’ll enjoy a buffet breakfast with the sun rising over the bay.

Morning: After an early snack, the boat dock at Hon Co Island. We’ll get off the boat led by our Group Leader to explore the well-hidden and remarkably beautiful Thien Canh Son Cave before relaxing on the white sandy beaches of the island. As we go, we’ll learn about the topography of Halong Bay and how the cave is a distinct characteristic feature. Mid-morning, we will disembark the Vietnamese Junk and transfer to the airport via motorcoach for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Along the way, we will engage in a presentation given by our Group Leader on Vietnam after the introduction of the open door policy in the mid-1980s.

Lunch: At the airport, we’ll get light meals with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll then board our flight and transfer to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Upon arrival, we’ll travel to our hotel and check-in with some time to relax and freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have plated meals with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Economic Development Lecture, Walking Discovery of Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
B,L
Grand Hotel Saigon

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile total throughout the day; indoors and out, sidewalks and city streets stairs.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a tasty buffet meal, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: At a local university, we’ll begin our day by attending a presentation given by a local professor on "Economic Development in the Mekong Delta," before engaging with university students to learn about higher education in Vietnam.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll set out on a walking field trip to Reunification Hall (the former Presidential Palace), which was built as a modern administrative center. Led by our Group Leader, we will explore this unchanged relic of the 1970s and see the impressive interiors as well as the tanks, bunker, and helicopter on the grounds surrounding it. Then we’ll continue on our walking discovery of Saigon and learn about Vietnamese history through the eyes of the local artists. To finish off the walk around town, we’ll enjoy a drink together at the historical Rex Hotel.

Dinner: On our own to explore the local cuisine. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Cu Chi Tunnels, Free Time
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
B,L
Grand Hotel Saigon

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles at the Cu Chi Tunnels on dirt paths; more dependent on personal preference.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll start the day with our Group Leader by experiencing the Cu Chi Tunnels, an immense network of underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh. As we’ll learn through commentary as we go, the tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped achieve ultimate military success.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most in Saigon. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: On our own to sample the local fare.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
10
Cruise the Mekong Delta, Transfer to Chau Doc
Chau Doc
B,L,D
Victoria Chau Doc Hotel

Activity note: Getting in/out of, standing and sitting in small boats; about 1 hour. Driving approx. 88 miles; about 4 hours, with stops. Walking up to 1 mile total throughout the day.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Setting out from Saigon via motorcoach, we’ll head for the Mekong Delta where we will begin our journey along the Mekong River. En route, we’ll stop in Cai Be and board small boats along the arms of the Mekong River, passing by villages and fruit farms. A local expert will accompany us and provide commentary.

Lunch: At an ancient house, we’ll have plated meals, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Afterwards, we’ll then re-board our motorcoach and continue our drive to Chau Doc. Along the way, we’ll learn from our Group Leader about the changing culture of the Mekong Delta. Chau Doc sits at the junction of a tributary linking the Bassac and Mekong Rivers on the border between Vietnam and southeastern Cambodia. An incredibly friendly and bustling little city, it has a color scheme to match its ambience with bright pastel hues of green, blue and purple adorning many of the newer shopfronts. Upon arrival, we’ll check into our hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel we’ll have plated meals, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Sam Mountain, Agriculture & Development Along Mekong Delta
Chau Doc
B,D
Victoria Chau Doc Hotel

Activity note: Short drive up to the top of Sam Mountain. Walking up to about 1/2 mile over roughly 1 hour; approx. 600 feet in elevation; dirt path to the viewing platform.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: On a field trip to Sam Mountain, we’ll experience the highest elevation of anywhere on the Mekong which provides spectacular views of the region's rice paddies and canal system, as well as the Cambodian border. As we ascend via motorcoach, we’ll stop at a few spots to look at some of the temples including Tay An Pagoda, the Temple of Lady Xu, and the Tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau. We’ll then return to Chau Doc.

Lunch: On our own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: Free time. Enjoy the afternoon relaxing or exploring independently.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out, transfer, and border crossing in the morning.

DAY
12
Border Crossing via Speed Boat, Phnom Penh Discovery
Phnom Penh
B,L,D
Sunway Hotel Phnom Penh

Activity note: Getting on/off speedboat; ride is about 69 miles (111 km); approx. 4 - 5 hours. Be sure to have your passport accessible for border crossing; border formalities can take up to 1 hour depending on how busy the border station is. Walking up to 1 mile total throughout the day, mostly indoors at field trip sites.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we will board a speedboat on the Mekong for transfer to Cambodia. At the Vietnam/Cambodia border, we’ll go through immigration formalities before proceeding to Phnom Penh and checking in at the hotel.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Phnom Penh with bottled water, coffee/tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Known once as the “Paris of the East,” we’ll discover the charming capital city of Phnom Penh. With a local expert, first, we’ll visit the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda and finish 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.

Dinner: At a local restaurant with bottled water, coffee/tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
13
S-21, Choeung Ek Killing Fields Memorial, Free Time
Phnom Penh
B,L
Sunway Hotel Phnom Penh

Activity note: Driving approx. 10 miles total one way; about 1 hour. Walking approx. 2 miles total throughout the day; some stairs at S-21, narrow dirt path at Choeung Ek Killing Fields Memorial. These sites require reverence for real victims of historical events; appropriate dress required, no shorts or tank tops.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: This morning participate in a presentation on the "Current Economic and Political Conditions of Cambodia" led by a local expert. Afterwards, we’ll set out on a field trip with our local expert to S-21, the interrogation center, and Choeung Ek Killing Fields Memorial. Although extremely somber and intensely powerful, seeing these sites will help us to understand some of the horrors, devastation, and legacy left by Pol Pot's regime, The Khmer Rouge, who ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Free time to explore Phnom Penh. Visit one of the local markets, walk the city streets, or simply relax at the hotel.

Dinner: On our own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning to Siem Reap.

DAY
14
Drive to Siem Reap, Silk Farm Visit
Siem Reap
B,L,D
Tara Angkor Hotel

Activity note: Driving approx. 200 miles total throughout the day; from Phnom Penh to Kampong Thom Province is approx. 96 miles; about 2.5 hours. Afternoon drive to Siem Reap is approx. 100 miles; about 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Once checked out, we’ll begin our transfer to Siem Reap, but not before stopping in Kampong Thom for a field trip to a local silk farm. The owner of the farm will show us the process of producing silk all the way from the worms, through the cocoon phase, and to the weaving.

Lunch: At the silk farm, we’ll enjoy plated meals with tea and water included.

Afternoon: We’ll then attend a presentation on the process of creating Cambodian silk where we will learn from the owner of the farm about how the worms produce silk, as well as what the dying and weaving processes are for the fabric. Afterwards, we’ll continue driving to Siem Reap and check into the hotel upon arrival.

Dinner: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee/tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei, Traditional Cambodian Dance
Siem Reap
B,L,D
Tara Angkor Hotel

Activity note: Getting in/out of motorcoach frequently throughout the full day field trip; short drives. Walking up to 1.5 miles total throughout the day; periods of standing and sitting at sites; uneven in places; make sure to wear closed and sturdy shoes. Hot and humid weather.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll begin our introduction to the temples of Angkor with a visit to Ta Prohm led by a local expert. Built at the height of the Khmer Empire by Jayavarman VII as a Buddhist monastery and center of learning, Ta Prohm has a traditional Khmer structure consisting of a series of gradually smaller enclosures, the largest of which is about 1,000 by 650 meters. The sanctuary is centered on the huge, elevated stone face of Prajnaparamita, the personification of perfected wisdom, whose features were modeled after those of the king's mother. Ta Prohm's popularity has soared in recent years along with the rest of the Angkor complex, but especially because of its appearance in the movie "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." Next, we’ll visit Banteay Srei, the Citadel of Women, which is a pink sandstone temple that was built in the latter half of the 10th century by Rajendravarman II and Jayavaraman V.

Lunch: At the home of our hosts, we’ll have plated meals with tea and water included.

Afternoon: For those interested, join the Group Leader for an elective field trip to the Angkor National Museum to gain an overview of the Angkor Temples. You may also use this time for free independent exploration. Back at the hotel later in the afternoon, we’ll watch "The Flute Player," a film about a Cambodian American who escaped Cambodia during the time of The Khmer Rouge and eventually returned to his home country to help revive the Khmer traditional performing arts, some of which we will see later.

Dinner: At a local restaurant with bottled water, coffee/tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At a local Buddhist temple in town, we’ll enjoy an Apsara Dance performance by a group of local artists that are working to preserve traditional Cambodian classical arts. 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.

DAY
16
Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Free Time
Siem Reap
D
Tara Angkor Hotel

Activity note: Early rise and transfer to Angkor Wat to watch sunrise. Driving about 8 miles for the day; approx. 1/2 hour. Walking approx. 2 miles; periods of standing and sitting at sites; hot and humid weather.

Morning: Setting out before dawn with a local expert, we’ll immerse ourselves in the breathtaking beauty of Angkor Wat as it becomes silhouettes in the sky during sunrise. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. As the best-preserved temple at the site, Angkor Wat is the only temple to have remained a significant religious center since it was first built. At the time of its construction, it was built to embody the Hindu tradition – specifically dedicated to the god Vishnu – but gradually shifted to become a primarily Buddhist site as the official religion of the Khmer Empire changed. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. We’ll also explore Angkor Thom, the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. Established in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, at the center of the city is the mesmerizing temple of Bayon. We then return to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast, we explore Angkor Thom, the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. Established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII, at the centre of the city is the mesmerising temple of Bayon.

Lunch: On our own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: Free time to explore Siem Reap independently. Before dinner, we’ll meet at a predetermined time and place to board the motorcoach for group transfer to the restaurant.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a delicious plated "Farewell Dinner' with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Say farewell to new Road Scholar friends and be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
17
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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