Vietnam – Street Food & Market tour/last full day

March 1, 2018
We’re off at 0830 for our market and street food tour with Chef Thân. We started our journey to the small permanent market Cho Vuon Chuoi in the 10th quarter. The side streets were lined with vendors and these were refered to as quick markets where people could ride up stop and get what they required for the day without the need to get off their scooter and park. The market was as expected narrow alleys with vendors on both sides selling fruits, vegetables, rice, noodles, and the list was extensive. First stop for a sample was the fresh spring being made by a vendor for the days sales. Rice paper filled with pork, shrimp, lettuce and garlic chives. Along the way we sampled fried bananas and sweet poatoes which were dipped and fried as we waited. I was able to get a great deal of information from the chef about various vegetables and herb and combinations.

A quick stop for an energy drink of tea made with various herb and a sugar cane syrup with gave the drink a taste of a hint of mollassas. Next stop was for breakfast at a woman who made home-made rice cake, similar to too but far more flavorful. She prepared the dish outside her home on a small flatish wok and sauted the rice cake with eggs. It was served with green papaya on top and a chili dipping sause which we added additional chili to. We also had traditional ice coffee with sweetend condensed milk which gave the coffee a chocolate milk like taste.

After the meal Thận ran off and came back with several fruits to small in addition to our cherimoya (custard apple)which resembled an artickoke in appearance. We had small fruits that looked like cherry tomatios but hade a sweet sour taste, lovi-lovi. We also tried Star Apple which has a soft and sticky center and was very flavorful.

Then we were off again this time we stopped for some Vietnamese sweet soup (Che). There are hundreds of variations but this one was made with Longon juice, Lotus root, seaweed, water chestnuts, and longan fruits. Pat and I asked to share, it was very sweet and an experience.

More food, we stopped to watch a woman making steamed rice paper and filling with meat, amd chopped mushrooms and we sampled a plate served with a sauce and lettuce and mung bean sprouts.

Next stop charcol roasted bananas, the bananas are peeled and partically dried in the sun the sopped in salt water and roasted over charcoal. It makes the exterior a bit leathery and the inside soft and creamy.

Wok roastered Peanuts with salt and ask, simply tastes like a reasted peanut. The peatuts are mixed with salt and charcoal ask which acts like and oven so they can be cooked in the wok.

Off to view the flower market Ho Thi Ky

Next stop lunch at Quán Ǎn: Cȏ Liêng, a tiny restaurant frequented by the locals. They served roast pork, minced roasted pork and roasted pork in bettlenut leaves. You use rice paper and lots of lettuce and herbs and dip in a banana flavored sauce. Outstanding! Tham concluded our tour and back to the hotel.

Pool time! We laid around the pool and went in several times to cool off for a few hours to decompress!

Tonight were on the hunt for pizza, and then off to bed.

We went to Nano Italian for dinner of focaccia, fruit mist, pizza with chorizo and a couple glasses of beer; I think you can tell were looking forward to some good western style food.

Wake up time is 0430 tomorrow.

Vietnam – Cooking Class & more

February 28, 2018
Today was our cooking class at Hoa Duc Restaurant. They have a complete kitchen on the 2nd fllor dedicated to the school. We had a young Vietnamese female chef named Tûn. She was young and very sweet. Because we created our own tour with the cooking class and the street market tour we had a private lesson, and while I have taken many of these type class the fact that our was private really benefited Pat who did and excellent job. The items we preparded were:

Saigon Spring Rolls
Lotus Stem Salad with prawns and pork.

We had decided to have a light breakfast of fruit and coffee, of course is had to have a croissant, very close to the good french croissants. Its a good thing we did because the tree courses, although light, were very filling. We learned the in Vietnam the Vietnamese eat their fried spring rolls wraped in lettuce along with Shiso leaves, basil, and lemon mint yo increase their vegetable intake. This was an excellent idea and we will be adopting when we return home.

BBQ Pork for the Rice noodles with BBQ pork and raw vegetables

The lotus stem salad was a first for the both of us. In all my trip the the Asia market in Richmond I have not used lotus stem and I am hoping that they have them. The salad like so many others we have had on the trip were tasty, light and refreshing, but filling.

Next up was Fresh Rice Noodles with marinated BBQ pork and raw vegetables. We marinated the pork in fish sauce and honey with a pinch of black pepper. Then we prepared the sauce and the lettuce and herbs, along with sesame seeds.

We placed the marinated pork on a grill basket a BBQ and grilled over a charcoal fire in the kitchen.

For dessert passion fruit mousse, which we did not make and the chef was quick to point out it was not Vietnamese.

Note: Pat was a trouper and used chop stick upto the last course and then they brought her a fork, and she did not ask for it.

Through the whole 4 hours were serves a light a refreshing ginger tea.

After the class we when for a walk down to the river, now that we have gotten our bearings were finding that we a very convenient to almost everything. We were on the pedestrian mall and heard music and walked towards the water and observed a group of performers practicing for a upcoming show, we do not kwnow when.

We’re theinking about going to Chuck’s Burger tonight because we had such a big lunch and as American’s after 3-weeks we alway crave a burger and Chuck’s is surposed to be the best in Saigon.

Vietnam – Saigon

February 27, 2018


Jade Emperor Pagoda

Built in 1909 in honour of the supreme Taoist god (the Jade Emperor or King of Heaven, Ngoc Hoang), this is one of the most spectacularly atmospheric temples in Ho Chi Minh City, stuffed with statues of phantasmal divinities and grotesque heroes. The pungent smoke of incense (huong) fills the air, obscuring the exquisite woodcarvings. Its roof is encrusted with elaborate tile work, and the temple’s statues, depicting characters from both Buddhist and Taoist lore, are made from reinforced papier mâché.

Inside the main building are two especially fierce and menacing Taoist figures. On the right (as you face the altar) is a 4m-high statue of the general who defeated the Green Dragon (depicted underfoot). On the left is the general who defeated the White Tiger, which is also being stepped on.

Worshippers mass before the ineffable Jade Emperor, who presides – draped in luxurious robes and shrouded in a dense fug of incense smoke – over the main sanctuary. He is flanked by his guardians, the Four Big Diamonds (Tu Dai Kim Cuong), so named because they are said to be as hard as diamonds.

Out the door on the left-hand side of the Jade Emperor’s chamber is another room. The semi-enclosed area to the right (as you enter) is presided over by Thanh Hoang, the Chief of Hell; to the left is his red horse. Other figures here represent the gods who dispense punishments for evil acts and rewards for good deeds. The room also contains the famous Hall of the Ten Hells, carved wooden panels illustrating the varied torments awaiting evil people in each of the Ten Regions of Hell. Women queue up at the seated effigy of the City God, who wears a hat inscribed with Chinese characters that announce ‘At one glance, money is given’. In a mesmerising ritual, worshippers first put money into a box, then rub a piece of red paper against his hand before circling it around a candle flame.

On the other side of the wall is a fascinating little room in which the ceramic figures of 12 women, overrun with children and wearing colourful clothes, sit in two rows of six. Each of the women exemplifies a human characteristic, either good or bad (as in the case of the woman drinking alcohol from a jug). Each figure represents a year in the 12-year Chinese astrological calendar. Presiding over the room is Kim Hoa Thanh Mau, the Chief of All Women. Upstairs is a hall to Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy, opposite a portrait of Dat Ma, the bearded Indian founder of Zen Buddhism.

Fine Arts Museum Ho Chi Minh City

Being one of the largest fine arts centers of Vietnam, Fine Arts Museum is conveniently located near the Ben Thanh Market, at 97A Pho Duc Chinh Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. The building that houses the museum was originally a mansion of a Chinese during colonial time and after – Mr. Hoa, the wealthiest man of Saigon at the time, who also owned other famous buildings in the city such as Majestic Hotel and Tu Du Hospital.

This yellow-white grand colonial-era mansion is a combination of French and Chinese styles which brings about a typical colonial feeling through its marble floors throughout and the spacious, airy rooms. It’s no wonder that the building is considered as a masterpiece itself by most people. As Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City and the country reunited, the building was reformed into a museum in 1987 as the result of a decision of the City’s People’s Committee, though it was not officially opened until 1991.

The Fine Arts Museum is indispensable for those who are keen on Vietnam arts and culture. Although the museum itself is not big and modern enough, its abundant collections can make up for these mistakes. The museum focuses on collecting, keeping, preserving and displaying fine artworks typical of Vietnamese people, especially Ho Chi Minh City and the South. It comprises three floors of exhibition space.

The 1st floor is for domestic and international arts display. The 2nd floor is where to store arts work – both paintings and sculptures of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese artists. Some leading Vietnamese artists of the last 50 years whose paintings are displayed there include: Trinh Cung, Do Quang Em, Diep Minh Chau and Nguyen Gia Tri.

The 3rd floor holds a collection of historic arts ranging from 7th century to early 20th century, featuring Champa and earlier civilizations such as Oc Eo archaeological site in Mekong Delta. The contemporary Blue Space Contemporary Art Centre, located near the entrance, is run by the museum. There’s a warren of galleries in the basement, accessed through the courtyard in the center of the building.

While the guides point out that not much is in english, at least the titles of the painting are in english. While thw collection is small and often dark in nature the pieces do show talent by the artists. Like make other places the tilt is towards communism and tends to make the French, Japan and the US the bad guys. Ir still woth the 30,000 dong or $1.32 US.

museum throug the streets of Siago, andWe walked back from the art we stopped by the cooking school to verify the schedule for tommrow and confirm our “street maket and food tour” which will be given by by Ms. Tham.

We also made reservations at Hoa Tuc Restaurant for dinner at 1900. The menu looks great and its one one the best in the neighborhood. The restaurant specializes in regional cuisine of Central Vietnam. Some of the best seafood dishes in the area are to be enjoyed in a traditional setting with traditional music.

Pat’s still feeling a bit down from the common cold that I past her way compliments of some Britiah tourist next to me on the plane from Hanoi to Siem Reap.

Dinner was excellent. We had Saigon spring roll which we wrapped in lettuce leaves with mint and other herbs. We order two kinds of shrimp, both lightly battered and sautéd. The food wa light so we have room for dessert chocolate ice cream for Pat and grilled bananas with vanilla ice cream.

We met two men at the table next to us from the international mission board, headquartered in Richmond; small world! Sam James worked bor the board for 54 years, they were here in Saigon for a conference.

Ben Thanh Market

Vietnam – Cu Chi Tunnels

February 26, 2018

We’re headed to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.

The 75-mile (121 km)-long complex of tunnels at Củ Chi has been preserved by the government of Vietnam,[3] and turned into a war memorial park with two different tunnel display sites, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. The tunnels are a popular tourist attraction, you can crawl around in the safer parts of the tunnel system. The Ben Duoc site contains part of the original tunnel system, while the Ben Dinh site, closer to Saigon, has tunnel reconstructions and some tunnels have been made larger to accommodate tourists. In both sites low-power lights have been installed in the tunnels to make traveling through them easier, and both sites have displays of the different types of booby traps that were used. Underground conference rooms where campaigns such as the Tết Offensive were planned in 1968 have been restored.

Where is was stationed early in my last stay in country.

October 1967 – Bearcat Base (also known as Bearcat, Camp Martin, Camp Cox or Long Thanh North) is a former U.S. Army base near the city of Biên Hòa in Đồng Nai Province in southern Vietnam.Bearcat was originally a French airfield, later used by the Japanese during World War II. Early in the Vietnam War, the 1st Special Forces established a base there. It was later the base camp for the 9th Infantry Division from January 1967 until the division moved to Đồng Tâm Base Camp near Mỹ Tho in late 1967. The camp was located on Route 15, 16 km southwest of Biên Hòa. The camp took its name from its Special Forces radio call sign.


December 1967 – Đồng Tâm Base Camp was established on the banks of the Mekong 7 km west of Mỹ Tho. Due to lack of available dry land, the base was created by dredging from the river. Dredging work to create the base commenced in August 1966 and involved the reclamation of 600 acres of swampland. The Vietcong attempted to sabotage the base construction sinking the dredgeship Jamaica Bay on 9 January 1967 with the loss of 3 crewmembers.  In January 1967 the 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantrywas deployed to Đồng Tâm to provide base and construction security followed in March by Headquarters, 2nd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division which moved from Bearcat Base. In April the US Navy River Assault Squadron 9 was deployed to Đồng Tâm to support operations. On 1 June 1967, the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF) comprising the 2nd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division and the US Navy River Assault Squadrons 9 and 11 was established at Đồng Tâm. By this time the base occupied 12 square kilometres and included a 500m runway and a loading basin for boats. The name Đồng Tâm meaning “united hearts and minds” or “singleness of mind, in thoughts, and actions” was chosen by the U.S. Commander General William Westmoreland. From June–December 1967 base facilities grew providing improved support and rest and recreation for the MRF. The Vietcong regularly harassed the base with mortar fire.


AO Show

Tonigh we will attend the AO Show at the Siagon Opera House.

Lune Production was established in Saigon, Vietnam, in 2012, under Square Group Investment Holding.

With the vision to be come an excellent entertainment corporation that inspires Vietnamese cultural values to the world, Lune Production focuses on researching, developing, creating, and promoting quality Vietnamese cultural entertainment products. The company has had the honor to work with many internationally renowned artists, known for their talents and integrity. Back to Vietnam with background from established organizations such as Cirque du Soleil, they come together at Lune Production, sharing the passion and dreams of upholding Vietnamese cultural heritage through performances and other forms of arts.

Under Lune Production, Lang Pho Joint Stock Company was founded back in 2012 to specialize in managing and developing Lune Production’s assets.

Ever since, Lune Production’s four key spectacles, naming A O Show, Lang Toi – My Village, Teh Dar and The Mist, have inspired and received much love and critical acclaim from both local and international audience while performing at the Saigon Opera House, Hanoi Opera House, Vietnam Tuong Theater, as well as during the world tour of Lang Toi and A O Show throughout the past few years.

With steady business growth, Lune Production expanded its network to Hanoi, tapping on a market with great potential for cultural products of high quality. The result is Lang Toi – My Village settling in at two of the most notable theaters in Hanoi: Hanoi Opera House and Vietnam Tuong Theater. Performing at these two historic and culturally rich theaters, Lang Toi has grown to become the No. 1 performance in Hanoi on Trip Advisor, getting much love and critical acclaim from both local and international audience visiting the city.

Beside expanding in business scale, Lune Production constantly keeps the commitment on research, creativity and quality of service. This promises an exciting future with more inspiring cultural entertainment products to come.

Vietnam – Gieng Island

February 23, 2018

Catholic Church on Gieng Island

We left the ship at 0840 for the 15 minute sanpan ride to the island, the island is 50 square miles and a population od 50,000 people. We boarded a 6 person tim-tuk and drove to one of the 3 Cathloic churches on the island. As was past local sops and houses it was appearant that thia is a successful island. We toured the church and had a brief Q&A by the Franciscan priest, dressed in street clothes. He is also a physician specialing in leprosey and shin disorders and has been on the island for 40 years. We say our good bye with his blessing and continured by tsk-tuk to a manago orchard to see how the people grow and harves mangos. The mangos that are of high quality are pagged during the growing season to keep them near perfect foe export at a very high price with Japan paying the highest. They are also exported to the US, Canada and Australia.

Our next stop was the Sanpan cottage village where a family have been making sanpans for three generation. The sampan are madefrom Golden oaks which grow on the islan and ate 40-50 foot all buy slender. When on is cut more are planted. The grandfather was dilligently work on bending a lenght of oaks heating over fire for the fibers to be flexible enought to bend with out breaking.

They produce about 15 boats a month, depending on size and sell for about $350 US for a 20 foot boat. They build larger boats for special order and the sanpan we arrived on was built but them and it was about 35 feet in lenget and held 20 people.

Time for lunch but another excursion this afternoon.

Huyhn Thuy Le house

After lunch we were again met by our sampan and boarded from the lower level of the ship. We were wisked off to Sa Dec for a tour of a Chineese villa from the early 1900’s oven by a rich patron
Huyhn Thuy Le, who met and fell in love with a young french girl being educated in Saigon, she was 15-1/2 however claimed to be 17 and he was 32. This is the basis of the French novel L’Amant (the lover) written by Marguerite Duras whch in 1992 was made into a movie “The Lover”.

Chicken Eggs 97 cents per dozen.
The ricefield rat is a medium-sized rat with a grizzed yellow-brown and black pelage. Its belly is gray in the midline with whiter flanks. The tail is uniformly medium brown. They have chisel-like incisor. The ricefield rat is between 304–400 mm long with a tail length of 140–200 mm and a skull length of 37–41 mm. The average weight of Rattus argentiventer is around 97 to 219 g. Female have 12 mammae. Young have an orange-colored tuft in front of each ear.

We then walked through a typical Vietnamese Green Market observing local produce and some meats including beef, chicken, sea food of all types and the infamouse ricefield mouse (rat), which they BBQ. In Vietnam if it has 4-legs or more, moves or swims; they eat it!

Were now back aboard the Mekong Navigator steaming to our next adventure for tomorrow.

Back in Vietnam – Tan Chau

February 22, 2018

This morning we have to clear customers and immigration, at least the boat does I don’t think we paericipate the Pursur has had our passport since boarding.

We enjoy a leisurely morning on board and have nothing scheduled until after lunch.

Hui Nguyen, Our guide for the final leg in Vietnam

We also meet our new Vietnamese guide for the remainder of the voyage. Were looking forward to hearing his talks on the area and the people.

At 1430 we depart via sampan for Tan Chau. We have been anchored here all night off the cost, in the Mecong River. We took a ride in a XE LOI traditional Rickshaw using person power via bicycle and go for a visit to the local rattan factory that produces baskets and mats. Most Vietnamese now sleep on mattresses so it will be interesting to hear about changing markets, probably beach mats in Europe, Asia ans the US.

We took a sanpan to Evergreen Island disembark for an Authentic, cultural interaction and stroll around the island and dive into the daily life of it’s inhabitants. On the island they frow daikon, chilis, sweet potatoes, peanuts, mangos bananas, and corn for animal feed. They also have cattle for working the fields, chickens and ducks for food.

We met a Grandpa San who’s name was “five” because his parents had so many children she could not keep track of thier names. He was a soldier in the ARV army during the war and was wounded in 1973 and returned to his village. After the war he was sent to a Communist reeducation camp for a year but he must have been on good behavior or a good actor becuse he was released in 6 months. I do not think he spoke English but was very interesed in his fellow veterans in the group. I’m sure there was a story there that would have been interesting to explore more.

We visited a Talipia Farm where the family operations make an after expenses income of $30,000 which is a excellent income. They produce two crops of fisk per year, it takes 5 months and grow about 350,000 fish per crop.

Preparing for the trip

We have been busy preparing for our trip to Vietnam in February 2018. We have gone to Passport Health in Richmond for Hapititas A&B shots and Typhoid fever. We also have Malaria pills for our visit to Cambodia. We have researched the issue of mosquitos and will be using Duration to spray our clothes and a repellent with deet, while not ideal, it doest beat the alturnatives and it will only be for a short duration.

Now that were a few years older we have begun to take a bit more precautions with respect to health protection.

The Trip: Note: this is the itinerary for the Uniworld cruise, we have add time to both ends of the trip.  In Hanoi we will be touring Halong Bay via luxury Junk spend on night on board.  In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) we have added a market tour as well as a cooking class.

DAY 1: Hanoi, Vietnam

Arrive at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to your luxury hotel. You will be greeted with a private check-in, welcome drink and information packet at the hotel. An elegant flower arrangement and fruit platter await you in your room. The remainder or your time today is yours to spend at leisure in Vietnam’s charming capital city.

DAY 2: Hanoi

With its tree-lined streets and graceful old architecture, traditional culture and fabulous street food, multifaceted Hanoi is a heady mixture of old and new, timeless and trendy.   The capital of Vietnam, millennium-old Hanoi gracefully mixes the old and new. French Colonial mansions line handsome boulevards, lakes and parks invite lingering, and modern office buildings tell of economic revival.
Atmospheric Hanoi – Spend the day exploring a city some call Asia’s most beautiful. You’ll visit a complex honoring Ho Chi Minh, founder of modern Vietnam, that contains his residence, a museum devoted to his life, and the famous One Pillar Pagoda, which has been built and rebuilt since 1049. Also on the agenda: the Temple of Literature, originally built as a Confucian temple in 1070 AD. Six years later on the same grounds, Vietnam’s first university was founded to educate members of the nobility. Four hundred years later, the university opened its doors to gifted students from throughout the land, teaching them the principles of Confucianism for another 300 years. Today you can experience Confucian tranquility among its beautiful gardens and pavilions. You can see another aspect of Vietnam’s history if you step into one of the dank cells at the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” as Hoa Lo, a French colonial–era prison, was known to the American pilots who were held there as prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Much of the original prison has been demolished, but the remnants are now a museum.   After an included lunch, it’s time to hop aboard an electric car for a tour of colonial Hanoi. The city’s elegant, tree-lined boulevards and weathered colonial buildings are sure to delight you, as are the affable street vendors selling everything from flowers to ice cream off the backs of their bicycles.
Tonight you’ll be treated to a special Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant, featuring live music and an authentic northern Vietnamese dining experience. It’s the perfect combination of delectable fare, warm atmosphere and traditional entertainment—a delightful start for your exciting Southeast Asian adventure.

DAY 3: Hanoi, Fly to Siem Reap

Spend the day exploring Hanoi on your own before flying to Siem Reap. Siem Reap is your base for exploring Angkor Wat, the heart of the ancient Khmer empire. The city has an allure all its own, with sprawling markets, a lively dining scene and enticing street food. The evening is at your leisure. You might want to go out and try some of the local Khmer cuisine or simply relax over dinner on your own at the hotel. Tomorrow you will be journeying deep into the heart of the Angkor temple complex.

DAY 4: Siem Reap

Today is a Bucket List Moment kind of day, as you unleash your inner Indiana Jones and explore the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, a gigantic religious complex that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Regarded as the pinnacle of the dazzling, inventive culture that flourished in medieval Cambodia, it is one of the most spectacular monuments you will ever lay eyes on.   The next two days are devoted to the astonishing Angkor Wat complex.
Angkor Wat and Khmer Noodle House at Preah Dak Village
Angkor Wat and Khmer Noodle House at Preah Dak Village – Put on your walking shoes and prepare to explore one of the wonders of the world: the vast, fascinating and stunning temple complex known as Angkor Wat. Every aspect of Angkor Wat had religious meaning to its builders 900 years ago: the great rectangular moat, the main gate facing the west, the towers topped with stone lotuses, the huge smiling stone heads, the layout of the lanes and buildings. The largest religious monument in the world, magnificent Angkor Wat is the single most recognizable landmark in Cambodia. It is simply breathtaking in both size and scope. Today you’ll get your passes to the site and take a tour of the broad outlines of the complex; tomorrow you’ll explore further.Following your introduction to Angkor Wat, you’ll head off to nearby Preah Dak, a village famous for its num banh chok, the traditional rice noodles that are Cambodia’s unofficial national dish. (Noodles are so intrinsic to Cambodian cuisine that the nation claims China got the recipe for noodles from a Cambodian exile.) Noodle stalls abound in Preah Dak, but the highlight for visitors may be the chance to see the traditional process by which these noodles are made at the Khmer Noodle House. Watch as the rice flour and water are hand-kneaded to form a dough, which is then laboriously pressed through a heavy mill to create the noodles. Preah Dak itself is as almost as traditional as the noodle-making process, as you’ll see as you stroll among the stilt houses: water buffalo graze nearby, water is drawn from wells, and meals are cooked over open fires.
Art School and Artisan Visit by Remork
Climb aboard a remork for a relaxing tour of the streets of Siem Reap, with stops at several artisans’ workshop that will introduce you to Siem Reap’s thriving arts scene. Your first stop is Tlai Tno, an art association where young performers learn the intricate moves of traditional Apsara dance. You’ll also visit Artisans Angkor’s workshops, which promote the resurrection of traditional Khmer crafts: hand-carved sculptures in wood or stone, lacquerwork, silk paintings and silk fabrics—all locally made by hand in the traditional way—are available at the shop.
Today’s lunch will be on your own.   NOTE: Order of sightseeing may change on Days 4 and 5. Temple visits are subject to change due to factors beyond our control.

DAY 5: Siem Reap

Today you will enter the spectacular remnants of Angkor Thom, the royal city. Prepare to be amazed! Built during the heyday of the Khmer dynasty in the 12th century, this extraordinary complex of Hindu and Buddhist monuments was once lost to the world for many years, hidden under dense jungle vines.
South gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Prohm – Today you will enter the spectacular remnants of Angkor Thom, the royal city. Once a huge, square city, Angkor Thom was founded in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII after his people’s previous capital had been overrun by the Chams. You can still see the defensive measures that surrounded the city—in fact, you’ll enter through one, crossing over the moat and passing between the stone figures lining the lane leading to the intricately decorated south gate in the great wall around Angkor Thom. The king’s palace, made of wood, has long since vanished, but the ruins that remain are astonishing, including the pyramidal temple of Bayon, with the enormous carved heads that have become an iconic symbol of the Angkor archaeological area. You’ll also visit the temples of Bantey Srei and Bantey Samre. You’ll have some time for lunch on your own before heading to the amazing “jungle temple” of Ta Prohm. Unlike the other Angkor temples, which have been painstakingly excavated and restored, Ta Prohm has been left almost as it was found. Massive trees grow like magic out of stone walls and roofs, their tentacle-like roots pouring over doorways and stretching across courtyards. This manmade wonder has been reclaimed by the jungle over the course of many centuries, and exploring it is sure to bring out the adventurer in you. From Ta Prohm, you’ll move on to the unfinished temple of Ta Keo. Legend has it that construction on Ta Keo was suspended when the temple was struck by lightning—an event that was considered a bad omen.
Apsara show and dinner
After an exciting day of sightseeing, you’ll indulge in a lavish dinner with an Apsara dance show. Apsara is the traditional Khmer dance form that tells stories and conveys messages using ornate costumes, graceful movements, codified facial expressions, and distinctive hand and foot positions. The many Apsara figures that adorn Angkor and pre-Angkor temples you’ve just visited testify to the dance form’s long and esteemed history.
NOTE: Order of sightseeing may change on Days 5 and 4. Temple visits are subject to change due to factors beyond our control.

DAY 6: Siem Reap, Transfer to Kampong Cham (Embark)

Today, you’ll have free time to explore the Siem Reap, a place name that means, literally, “Defeat of Siam”—which tells you something of its history. It is the gateway to Angkor, the legendary archaeological site. Later check out and transfer via executive motorcoach to Kampong Cham, to embark on the beautiful Mekong Navigator—your elegant home for the next seven nights—and set sail on the beautiful Mekong.

DAY 7: Wat Hanchey, Angkor Ban

Today is a celebration of the Cambodia’s bright future. You’ll meet young children at a local school and friendly villagers in their homes, and have a rare opportunity to receive a special water blessing from Buddhist monks.   The mighty river carries you into the Cambodian countryside today, giving you an opportunity to meet and chat with locals.
Cambodias vibrant cultural life – Be ready to answer questions when you visit a local school—because the children love to practice their English—and deepen your understanding of Cambodia when you meet villagers in their homes. You may encounter more children when you stop at a beautifully situated temple complex on a hilltop. Wat Hanchey has incredible views of the Mekong River—you get a real sense of just how huge the river is as you see it stretch into the distance, looking more like a great lake than a river. The complex itself is a remarkable mixture of the ancient and the new: An eighth-century Angkor temple and a modern Buddhist temple share the area—along with playful gibbons and enormous, colorfully painted concrete statues. Before your departure you’ll receive a traditional water blessing from the local monks—one of the most personal and touching moments you’ll experience on this journey. To mark the end of this special day, and to commemorate your last evening onboard the ship, you’ll be treated to a decadent Cambodian-themed dinner. Take your place in the dining room and enjoy delectable dishes prepared in the style of those once served to Cambodian royalty.

DAY 8: Cruising the Mekong River, Phnom Penh

Once considered the loveliest of Indochina’s French-built cities, Phnom Penh has somehow retained much of its charm despite all the political and cultural turmoil of the 20th century. See how this fascinating city is rediscovering itself with an insightful panoramic tour and time to explore on your own.   Founded in the 15th century, Phnom Penh is the thriving capital of the kingdom of Cambodia. It stands at the juncture of three rivers and is divided into three distinct districts: the French colonial area, a handsome residential district and a rapidly changing Old Town.

DAY 9: Phnom Penh

Today’s featured excursion may be the most profound and memorable experience of your entire journey. You’ll learn about the infamous Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge and visit a former school-turned-prison that is now a genocide museum.
The Killing Fields—tragedy and reconciliation in Cambodia – It’s hard to reconcile the pastoral serenity of the orchards and rice fields surrounding Choeung Ek with the horrific mass executions that took place here during the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge, yet the memorial stupa filled with the skulls of Pol Pot’s victims tells the tale. These were the Killing Fields, where more than 17,000 men, women and children were slaughtered and buried in mass graves. First, however, they were tortured in Security Prison 21 (also known as S-21), a former high school on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which you will also visit today. The guards and staff of the prison were mostly adolescent males—aged 15 to 19—among whom was a young photographer whose job was to document the prisoners. Though many of his photos were destroyed, 6,000 of them remain, displayed on the walls here; as you look at these portraits, you’ll see grief, fear and defiance—and you’ll be heartbroken to learn that out of the thousands held here, only seven survived. Those who were killed at Choeung Ek were just a small fraction of the almost two million Cambodians who died in a three-year period between 1975 and the beginning of 1979.

DAY 10: Cruising the Mekong River, Evergreen Island, Tan Chau

You leave Cambodia behind and cross into Vietnam today, delving into a region where traditional and modern lifestyle elements mingle: Agriculture may still reign supreme, but TV satellite dishes dot rooftops of houses built on stilts. Thousands of boats ply the waters of the Mekong—wooden cargo boats, water taxis, dredges, fishing craft. Traditional and modern elements mingle in this region, but the river rules everything.   More authentic encounters await you today, starting with a cruise through the canals to Evergreen Island, where village houses are built on stilts. Stop at a temple devoted to Vietnam’s homegrown religion, and hop aboard a rickshaw for a ride to a factory that makes handwoven reed baskets.  Later, take a sampan ride through the floating villages lining the banks of the great river.
Daily life on the great delta – In the Mekong Delta, hardworking residents live and labor on the water, harvesting what the delta gives them and turning it into products they can sell to earn a living or food they can eat, wasting nothing. Today you’ll get a taste of this way of life during a sampan tour that carries you through the floating villages that line the banks of the great river to the town of Tan Chau. Stop at a temple devoted to Vietnam’s homegrown religion Cao Dai (a faith that incorporates most major world religions, including Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, as well as a pantheon of saints that range from Joan of Arc to Thomas Jefferson and Victor Hugo); an image of the Divine Eye appears in every temple, and each color that decorates the temple has a specific meaning. Hop aboard a rickshaw for a ride to a factory where you can watch baskets and mats being handwoven from reeds grown on the delta, and check out a floating fish farm. The raising and harvesting of seafood is one of Vietnam’s fastest-growing industries, and you’ll be amazed by the efficiency and ingenuity on display. You may even get a chance to feed the fish. Embark your sampan to cruise through the canals to Evergreen Island, where a rickshaw ride through the village reveals traditional houses built on stilts, an essential precaution during the rainy season, when the Mekong rises and spills into all of the towns that line the river.

DAY 11: Cruising the Mekong River, Gieng Island, Sa Dec

Dip into Vietnam’s colorful and culturally eclectic past in Sac Dec—the former haunt of author Marguerite Duras—and the island of Gieng, which boasts a rather unexpected array of Catholic churches and monasteries.   Two very different destinations await you today: busy Sa Dec and peaceful Gieng Island. Both reflect Vietnam’s multicultural history.
Sampans and colonial romance – Take to Sa Dec’s narrow canals just as the locals do. Children frolic in the water, fishermen ply their trade, and women care for their families. From here, you’ll head into town, where you will walk through a crowded and colorful local market—stands sell everything from snake blood, fresh fish, clothing and flowers to mangosteens— on your way to the romantic, lacelike Huynh Thuy Le House, a late-19th-century home made famous by best-selling French novelist Marguerite Duras. Duras spent her teen years in Sa Dec, and her prize-winning novel, The Lover, is said to be based on her doomed love affair with Huynh Thuy Le, the son of a wealthy Chinese landowner. Sail from bustling Sa Dec to serene Gieng Island to dip into another aspect of Vietnam’s past: The triangle-shaped island is home to a surprising array of 19th-century Catholic churches and monasteries that date to an era when it was the largest Catholic parish in Vietnam. Though the Franciscan monastery and the Providence nunnery have been largely abandoned, stately Gieng Island Church is still in daily use. Some records indicate that the graceful French baroque-style church predates the famous basilica in Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s more likely that it was built in the 1870s. Regardless of origin or the ups and downs the Catholic community has experienced over the years, the church remains a beautiful tribute to the faith of its founders.

DAY 12: Vinh Long, Cai Be

Get set for an authentic slice of daily life along the Mekong with visits to two quintessentially Vietnamese locales, Vinh Long and Cai Be, which you’ll see by trishaw and by sampan. Meet village elders, experience the lively floating market and visit workshops creating products made from rice.   Today’s itinerary features two towns that have been shaped by the Mekong in this agrarian but densely populated region, Vinh Long and Cai Be.
Village life on the Mekong – Chinese herbal-medicine shops, French Colonial houses and Buddhist temples mingle with modern offices on the streets of Vinh Long, the capital of Vinh Long province. The range of buildings hints at the changes that the region has seen. Hop into a trishaw for a ride through these streets, crossing over some of the many canals that lace through the town, on your way to meet some of the village elders, who will tell you about their experiences living life on the delta. Vinh Long is a gateway to some of the region’s most colorful destinations: Step aboard a sampan—the style of this vessel is traditional, but the one you’ll board is much more luxurious than those generally used on these waters—and join the locals thronging the harbor of Cai Be. At the floating market here, merchants advertise their wares by attaching a sample—such as a watermelon, a coconut or a bunch of bananas—to a tall bamboo pole so their potential customers can easily see what they’re selling. It’s a colorful and lively scene, typical of Mekong Delta towns, though few similar villages feature a handsome French Gothic–style cathedral as a background. You’ll sail into the town and land near the An Kiet House, built early in the 19th century for a member of the royal family. Its ornately carved antique screens and furnishings give you an idea of how wealthy Southern Vietnamese families lived. While you’re on solid ground, take a look at another aspect of life of the delta: Vietnam is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of rice, and the Mekong Delta is known as the country’s “rice bowl.” You’ll learn all about this staple food and its importance to the region as you visit a local establishment where workers make everything from rice paper and rice wine to traditional rice candy.

DAY 13: My Tho (Disembark), Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City

Ready for an adventure? Today’s featured excursion provides a fascinating glimpse of the Viet Cong’s vast network of incredibly narrow, booby-trapped tunnels dating from the Vietnam War. If you dare, you can even climb down inside for an up-close look.
Vestiges of war—Cú Chi Tunnels
Explore a fascinating aspect of Vietnam’s long struggle to free itself from Western control. Begun by the Viet Minh on the outskirts of Saigon in 1945, as shelter from French air raids, these tunnels were expanded in the 1960s by the Viet Cong, who extended them for many miles. A network of booby-trapped tunnels led to underground chambers where people lived—in considerable privation, generally—wounds were treated and children were taught. Only a small stretch of this network is open to the public, but if you’re venturesome, you may climb down into a tunnel for an up-close look (and we do mean close—don’t expect to stand upright).

DAY 14: Ho Chi Minh City

As Asia’s “comeback kid,” there’s something so invigorating about Ho Chi Minh City, a busting metropolis with a youthful and innovative energy—and no wonder, given that more than half the population is younger than 35. Embrace the dynamic spirit of the city formerly known as Saigon on today’s panoramic tour.   History melds with the boisterous present in Vietnam’s largest city, where skyscrapers tower over ancient temples and motorbikes putter along picturesque alleys. It was founded in 1690; became the capital of French Cochinchina in the 1860s, when it was known as Saigon; and acquired its modern moniker in 1976, when it was named for Communist leader Ho Chi Minh.
Dynamic Ho Chi Minh City – A landmark in Vietnamese history is the first destination on your panoramic city tour today, as you travel the city’s busy streets, passing elegant French Colonial buildings and bustling shopping centers. On April 30, 1975, a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through the gates of the building now called the Reunification Palace, symbolizing the downfall of the South Vietnamese government and the end of the Vietnam War. It’s a modern structure, commissioned in 1962 by the president of South Vietnam after his own air force tried to kill him by bombing the 19th-century French palace that had stood on the site. As you will see when you step inside, he intended to enjoy living here: It has a cinema and a nightclub—and, not too surprisingly, a spacious bomb shelter. A few blocks away, two monuments from the colonial days still stand: the lofty General Post Office, designed by Gustav Eiffel (of tower fame), and, across the street, twin-towered Notre Dame Cathedral, built entirely with materials shipped from France. Your motorcoach will carry you past other remnants of French colonial glory—the Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theater (also known as the Saigon Opera House, built in 1901 and modeled on Paris’s Petit Palais) and the City Hall (based on the Hôtel de Ville in Paris)—as well as the contemporary American consulate. But the day includes more than sightseeing: Visit a lacquer showroom to learn a bit about the history and cultural significance of a craft that has been practiced in Vietnam for at least 700 years before enjoying lunch on your own. Ho Chi Minh City is famous for the excellence of its food, which reflects, inevitably, a certain French influence combined with the unique flavors of the region. Tonight, you’ll be treated to a special Farewell Dinner with complimentary wine at a local restaurant featuring an exquisitely presented traditional meal and complimentary wine —a fitting finale for such a remarkable adventure.

DAY 15: Depart Ho Chi Minh City

If your cruise/tour package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Tan Son Nhat International Airport for your flight home or continue your tour with an extraordinary Bangkok optional extension program.