HO CHI MINH – BEN TRE – CAN THO – HA TIEN – KEP – KAMPOT – PHNOM PENH – KAMPONG CHAM – KAMPONG THOM – SIEM REAP
This trip offers plenty of time to explore the mighty of Mekong Delta and the local life along its banks in both Vietnam and Cambodia without missing the other highlights & historical sites of these two countries. Furthermore, the overland transfer from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap leads you to the Cambodia countryside where the locals live close to their farmland and fruit orchards. The stops along the way also include two of Cambodia’s most well-known Mekong river cities, Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom.
Welcome at airport by your tour guide on arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), then transfer to your hotel in downtown for check in. Free for the rest of the day after a long journey.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
In the morning, you will visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, which are 70 kilometers North West of Ho Chi Minh City, created since 1948 to assist the Viet Minh to combat the French. This is an underground city with living areas, kitchens, storage, weapon shops, field hospitals, command centers. During the American War the entire area of Cu Chi was designated a fire free zone and was heavily bombarded. From 1988, two sections of the tunnels have been open for visitors. Back to the city at noon.
In the afternoon, you will visit Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Centre Old Post Office and FITO Museum, and Ben Thanh Market.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
After breakfast depart from your hotel for about two-hour pleasant drive southward of Ho Chi Minh City to Ben Tre province, a green land with coconut tree lines, large fruits gardens and amazing rivers and canals.
On arrival in Hung Vuong Pier, hop on a motorized boat on Ben Tre River – one of tributaries of Mekong River while sight-seeing lively activities along river as fishing, water transferring. Our first stop is at brickwork to see how to make bricks traditionally by printing and baking. Continue to visit one of plenty of coconut processing workshops located along canal. Return to the boat and go through natural scissors creeks to a village and see some local houses making sleeping mats and enjoying some fruits.
Take a motorized cart (tuk tuk) or bicycle on shady paths, pass by green rice fields and vegetable plains to be able to touch on really life and find out about tropical culture from peasants.
Lunch is served at a local restaurant. After lunch, we take a rowing-boat along beautiful water palm creek before meeting up the motorized boat and transfer you back to the pier. Then transfer by road to Can Tho – Capital of Mekong Delta.
Overnight in Can Tho.
Enjoy your early breakfast at hotel before departing for Cai Rang floating market.
Take a morning boat cruise along the small and picturesque tributaries to visit Cai Rang-the largest wholesale floating market in the Mekong delta. Market starts at around 5AM and runs until midday. Market is the place of exchanging and trading agricultural product, seasonal fruits, goods and food. You’ll learn that boats identify what they are selling by hanging a sample off the top of a long pole. You’ll also get the opportunity to interact with some of these floating merchants; most commonly this happens when a small boat selling drinks latches onto the tour boat’s side.
After market, boat will slowly take you through the quiet canals, chocked on both sides by greenery. Walk around a village and visit a rice husking mill before cruising back to Ninh Kieu quay. Head on the road to Chau Doc (100km ~ 2.5hrs drive) to visit the flooded forest of Tra Su Bird Sanctuary. It immense 800,000-hectare forest is home to an astounding number of wading birds.
Take a rowing boat between the narrow green cannels to see many kinds of birds. If time is permitted, you will climb up to the fire observation stand. From the top, you can have panorama view of the forest. After that, continue drive another 93km (~2 hours) to Ha Tien border city. Check-in hotel on arrival then take another 30 minutes local tuk tuk ‘Xe Loi’ through the highlights of city.
Overnight in Ha Tien.
After breakfast at hotel, we drive to Ha Tien border checkpoint for crossing the border to Cambodia.
The border crossing procedure is pretty simple here. You first go through the Vietnam Immigration then continue about 10-minute walking to the Cambodia side. Here, you will get the visa on arrival stamped on your passport.
After going through the Cambodia Immigration and Customs, keep proceeding outside of the border checkpoint where the local guide and driver are waiting to take you to Kep province - a tiny, sleepy coastal province known for its crab dishes.
Check-in hotel upon arrival, rest and relax before getting ready for a hike in Kep’s Naitonal Park and admire the sunset on the sea from the view point later this afternoon.
Overnight in Kep.
In the early morning, we take a short walk from hotel to visit Crab market, a seaside seafood market. The market usually starts from 6AM and lasts until 5PM and the busiest trading time is often between 6:30 – 07:30AM when boats returning from the sea. You may try some fresh seafood from many stalls in market. Return to your hotel for breakfast.
Later, drive to visit Nami Ko Phnom Sor Sear primary school (if on school days) where has hundreds of pupils, where we will talk and interact with those kids. The condition of this primary school is quite limited thus all kinds of donation such as: books, papers, pens… are always appreciated. If you are in fit today, we continue walking uphill (about 50 steps up, easy) to visit a nearby ancient monastery.
Continue driving on bumpy village road to La Plantation, the largest pepper farm in Kep. Here, you will get to know about the different types of pepper here and find out why this area is so famous for its pepper. Lunch is at La Plantation’s restaurant to taste typical pepper being grown here.
Driving back to the hotel afterwards and enjoy the remainder afternoon at leisure.
Overnight in Kep.
Leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we set off for a long but present drive to Phnom Penh – the capital city of Cambodia.
Once known as “The Pearl of Asia”, Phnom Penh used to be one of the finest cities in the region. Situated at the junction of Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been Cambodia’s capital for a majority of the last six centuries. Rich in history, the city offers several cultural and historical sites to discover.
This afternoon, we visit the Royal Palace, originally built in 1866s by the grandfather of the current Cambodian King. The palace is a complex of splendid regal buildings with its classic Khmer roofs, ornate gilding, and intricate layout of defensive walls, featuring a great mixture of Khmer architecture and slight French touch. It includes the official residence of the royal family with parts of the massive palace compound, partially opened to the public.
The charming city of Phnom Penh is located at the junction of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. In the late afternoon, observe Phnom Penh from a different perspective when the sunlight fades and the neon lights appear along the river banks. Board a local wooden boat for navigating on the Mekong River. Given good weather, you will be treated to a beautiful sunset off the river, spreading its glow along the river bank where many local Cambodian families and friends socialize. From the boat, you will earn a rare yet great opportunity to see at first-hand the daily activities of the local fishermen.
Return to the pier and transfer back to your hotel.
Pol Pot was a political leader whose communist Khmer Rouge government led Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. During this uncivilized period, the Khmer Rouge tried to force the residences from the cities to work on communal farms in the countryside. To truly understand the country’s history and the people’s mindset, it’s a must to visit the Cheung Ek, a large memorial commemorating the 17,000 victims who were murdered and dumped in mass graves under the reign of Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot. Situated 17km from Phnom Penh town, this site was made famous by the movie “The Killing Fields”. The remnants inside the memorial and the mass graves that dot the area remind you of the suffering of the victims. Together with the educational reminders of the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge regime, this journey provides you an appreciation of the struggle that Cambodian people have faced and their fabulous courage to overcome the suffers and rebuild their country.
Take your time to learn about the turbulent Khmer Rouge years with the visit to Tuol Sleng, a high school turned interrogation prison known as S-21 during the Khmer Rouge era and now a genocide museum dedicated to showcasing the sad story of the thousands of innocent Cambodian people who were tortured on its grounds. Tour the museum, through the narrow corridors and former classrooms of the buildings for an overview of Cambodia’s turbulent past.
Leisure and overnight in Phnom Penh.
This morning, depart Phnom Penh for a scenic drive to Kampong Cham- means “the port of Champa people”. Located along the Mekong river, with its old and new mixture, Kampong Cham is home to many of Cambodia's most splendid cultural. The deep contrast of lush vegetation and the red surface of basaltic soil is an amazing highlight of the journey. En-route stop at the Skun Market, also known as ‘Spider Village’ with the deep-fried tarantula that is the local delicacy. Explore Wat Norkor temple, Cambodia’s oldest temple built in the 6th century which has been well-preserved until now. Wind your way to Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei whose names are translated as the "mountain man" and the "woman from the hill”, that features a meaningful historical story about the relationship between legendary Cambodian men and women.
The remainder of day is at leisure to explore this charming riverside town on your own pace.
Overnight in Kampong Cham.
After breakfast, we set off for the drive to Siem Reap, with a stop at Kampong Thom along the way.
Kampong Thom is known as the heart of agriculture of Cambodia, famed for its farming life and Sambor Prei Kuk temple, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated on the Eastern bank of the Tonle Sap Lake, the central part of Sambor Prei Kuk temple is divided into three main areas. Each area contains a square layout surrounded by a brick wall. We visit the serene temples, atmospherically covered by ancient trees, enjoy the spectacular scenery of this ancient ruin before continuing your journey to Siem Reap.
Arriving in Siem Reap in the late afternoon, checking in and leisure.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Angkor complex is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia as it contains the outstanding remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th Century.
Today, set off to encounter the beautiful temples which are considered as Angkor’s jewel. Transfer from your hotel to Ta Prohm, perhaps most popularly known as The Tomb Raider temple. Built in the late 12th and early 13th Centuries as a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII, this beautiful temple is the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings. The magnificent tree roots have merged over the centuries with the temple’s huge stone blocks, emphasizing a ‘forgotten city’ feeling.
Explore the ancient Angkor Thom, founded by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th Century and was one of the largest Khmer cities and remained the capital until the 17th Century. Get inside the reinforced city of Angkor Thom to admire the mysterious Bayon temple, crowned with the large number of serene faces sculpted on its towers. Also, take this chance to learn more about the intricate carvings of the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King.
Your temple exploration continues as you enter the gate of Angkor Wat, a vast temple complex originally constructed in the early 12th Century by King Suryavarman II. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple. Stroll through the intricate and astonishing bas-reliefs that represent hundreds of fine carvings of Apsara, Hindu mythology as well as key events in its narrative tradition. Be amazed by the sheer size of the temple and learn how the Khmer Empire prospered between the 9th and 13th Century.
In the evening, enjoy a dinner accompanied with the traditional Apsara Dance performance at a local restaurant.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Tonle Sap Lake- the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Apparently, there is a huge connection between the Tonle Sap lake and the Mekong River as the water flows in and out seasonally which is good for maintaining the life of the biosphere inside the lake. The people’s life in and around the lake therefore being very simple as people are mostly living on the water and close to nature.
Today, we drive toward South of Siem Reap to the floating village of Chong Kneas on this great lake. Stop along the way to capture the peaceful countryside scenery or interact with the locals to gain insight into the rural lifestyle. Then, embark on a local wooden boat and set out on a relaxing and insightful cruise exploring the floating villages where more than a thousand families live and make their living. Observe the floating schools, markets, police stations, and the traditional way of living. For the resident of the village, life on the water is the greatest traditional culture that should be preserved before the rapid development of modern society.
Returning back to Siem Reap, enjoy the remainder of day at leisure.
Breakfast and leisure. At a good time, we transfer to the Airport for your departure flight.----------- End of service ----------