Depart the U.S. for Saigon, crossing the international date line and "losing" a day. The next day set out on a walking tour of Saigon’s historic landmarks, including colonial gems such as the Opera House, the former city hall, and Notre Dame Basilica. Stop by the Central Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel; and visit the Reunification Palace, headquarters of the South Vietnamese government during the Vietnam War. If you wish, continue to the War Remnants Museum. Enjoy a free afternoon and evening to explore the city.
Park Hyatt Saigon (B,L,D)
In the morning, tour Saigon’s historic landmarks, which include a rich selection of fine colonial buildings. Visit the grand exteriors of the 1911 Opera House, the former city hall dating from 1908 and the Notre Dame Cathedral, a red-brick edifice with twin spires; and we visit the General Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel. Continue to the Reunification Palace, headquarters of the South Vietnamese Government during the Vietnam War. The breaching of the gates by North Vietnamese tanks symbolically marked the war’s end. If you wish, end at the War Remnants Museum, which gives a strong view of the war through the eyes of the Vietnamese. In the late afternoon, meet with a local expert on Vietnam’s modern history, then gather at an excellent local restaurant for dinner.
In the morning, drive to My Tho, and and enjoya lunch of Mekong specialties. After a stop at the great Vinh Trang pagoda, embark the Jahan for the start of a seven-night voyage, and sail on the Mekong. Join the captain for welcome drinks and dinner aboard the ship.
At the town of Cai Be, see the floating market, where people in boats sell their wares, then visit a rice “factory,” where varieties of rice-based candies are made. Walk along local lanes to see loganberries being processed by the families who live there. From the hamlet of Sadec, take a local boat along a channel off the main river. End the day with a cruise of the Mekong at sunset.
Friendly Tan Chau has one of Vietnam’s most interesting markets, with an astonishing variety of tropical fruits, vegetables, and other goods. We continue to a small floating market on the river and a floating fish farm. In the afternoon, we continue sailing the Mekong.
Enjoy a full day to explore the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Ride a cyclo (bicycle taxi) to the Royal Palace and its opulent Silver Pagoda. Browse the world’s finest collection of Khmer sculpture at the National Museum of Cambodia, and venture into a local market. This afternoon, learn about the reign of the Khmer Rouge on visits to the Choeung Ek “killing fields” and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Back aboard ship, enjoy a dance performance by children from a local orphanage.
In the town of Kampong Tralach, ride local oxcarts through the rice paddies to see an age-old Buddhist temple. Then anchor at the bustling town of Kampong Cham and drive to a village where artisans make traditional pottery for local use. End the day by gliding along the Tonle Sap in local boats and glimpse a unique way of life in the clustered houses and shops that float in midstream.
Sail the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. Meander past interesting traditional homes in Angkor Ban and meet the friendly local residents.
Wat Hanchey is a large temple complex atop a hill overlooking the Mekong, offering outstanding views. Visit the 8th-century temple from the pre-Angkor Chenla period, an Angkor-era temple, some fine contemporary temples, and a school. Also stop at the bustling town of Kampong Cham and visit remarkable Wat Nokor, where a well preserved 11th-century temple forms the heart of a contemporary pagoda that remains in active use.
Disembark the Jahan, at Kampong Cham for the drive to Siem Reap, with a picnic lunch along the way. Spend the next three nights at the outstanding La Résidence d’Angkor, built along the Siem Reap River in traditional Khmer style, with spacious rooms with teak furniture and bamboo screens. Siem Reap is the gateway to the great temple complex of Angkor. This afternoon, visit the evocative temple Ta Prohm. The jungle has been allowed to continue growing here, framing the structures with the twisted roots and branches of ceiba and fig trees. Dinner this evening is at the hotel.
La Residence d’Angkor (B,L,D)
Awaken early to watch the sunrise reveal the magic of Angkor Wat, a 12th-century Khmer temple adorned with elaborate bas-reliefs and sculptures. Explore Ta Prohm, whose shrines remain tangled in the roots and branches of kapok and fig trees, and see the exceptional carvings of the temple of Banteay Srei. Pay a visit to Les Artisans d’Angkor, a school where local youth are trained in age-old Khmer arts.
This morning we take tuk-tuks (motorized taxis) to the great remains of Angkor Thom, seeing the Bayon Temple, known for its dozens of serene stone faces of King Jayavarman VII, and the Terrace of the Elephants. The afternoon is free to explore further, shop or just relax. In the evening, transfer to the airport for your flight home, arriving the following day.