Vietnam & Cambodia

Vietnam and Cambodia Itinerary

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

This is an unforgettable tour to a unique and almost undiscovered world.   Unlike other tourist destinations, the landscape, villages, and people are unspoiled.  Vietnam and Cambodia offer exquisite natural scenery and some of the warmest, friendliest people you ever will meet. Vietnam’s culture is interwoven between city life and traditional tribal practices. Despite the scars of its recent history the country possesses a serene environment. And wherever you look, there’s lots and lots of water. Added to the beauty of Vietnam in this tour is the magnificence of the Temples of Angkor and the unique Cambodian culture. This is an exhilarating, thrilling, and breathtaking experience and there is the added option of a magical week in Thailand.

Day 1, Monday Tel Aviv – Bangkok

From Ben Gurion Airport we’ll fly via an intermediate stop en route to Bangkok, our gateway to the mysteries of East Asia.

Day 2, Tuesday Bangkok – Hanoi

We’ll continue our flight from Bangkok and arrive in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam. On the way to our hotel we will enjoy a panoramic tour of the city. Dinner and overnight.

Day 3, Wednesday- Halong Bay

This morning we’ll leave Hanoi and drive along the Red River toward Halong Bay – according to the locals this is where “the dragon descended into the sea.” A beautiful bay, considered one of the natural wonders of the world. Its still waters are dotted with small islands from where lofty rocks rise out of the water creating a unique and unusual waterscape. We’ll take a relaxing cruise on the bay from where we’ll enjoy a water-level view of the lifestyle of the local fishermen. Lunch will be served on board. After the cruise we’ll return to our hotel.

Day 4, Thursday Hanoi

This morning we will return to Hanoi for a day tour of the city. We’ll visit the ancient quarter along Hoan Kiem Lake, which is the focal point of activity in the city, with its narrow streets, lined with the artisans and traders who populate its many shops. We will have a the opportunity to meander about and enjoy its unique qualities.

The compound housing the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh is one of the most important sites in Hanoi, and indicative of the personality cult that is prevalent here. Ho Chi Minh’s home stands alongside the mausoleum, as well as a lotus-flower-shaped museum dedicated to him. Also in the compound also we will see Chùa Một Cột Pagoda, also known as the One Pillar Pagoda, built of wood around a single rock shaft, representing the pristine, sacred stamen of a lotus flower.

We’ll see the Nha Hat Lon opera house, the most convincing representation of the French influence on the architecture of Hanoi.

After dinner, we’ll take the overnight train toward a colorful tribal area of North Vietnam, near the Chinese border. Overnight will be in compartments for two people on the train.

Day 5, Friday Lao Cai – Sapa

Upon our arrival in Sapa we’ll have breakfast. Afterwards we’ll head out to visit the colorful local mountain tribes. We’ll visit a local village such as Ta-Van and the ethnic minority people who live there. In the afternoon we’ll arrive at our hotel to prepare for Shabbat, Shabbat services and dinner.

Women we met

Women we met

Day 6, Shabbat Sapa

After Shabbat services and lunch we’ll take a walking tour to Ham Rong Mountain. We’ll see an orchid flower garden and the village of Cat-Cat. We’ll observe the lifestyle of the local population and talk with some of the residents.

Day 7, Sunday Sapa and environs

After breakfast we’ll head for the village of Bak Ha where there’s a colorful Sunday market every week – the largest of its kind in Northwest Vietnam. We’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of it, the exquisitely dressed women of the Flower Hmong in their brilliant embroidered clothes and the items that are for sale such as fruit and vegetables, as well as donkeys and other animals (!), clothing and local arts and crafts.

The market at Bac Ha

The market at Bac Ha

From the market we’ll make our way back to Sapa. On the way, we’ll tour the valley with its villages, and the rice terraces that ring the surrounding mountains, marveling at the local town-folk and their colorful traditional clothing.

In the evening after dinner, we’ll take the overnight train from Sapa back to Hanoi.

Day 8, Monday Hanoi – Hue

We arrive in Hanoi at 5:00 a.m. Some hotel rooms will be available to us to shower and freshen up before we go out for breakfast, and head to the airport for our flight to Hue in central Vietnam. Hue was Vietnam’s ancient royal capital. We’ll tour the remains of the very beautiful and unique Forbidden City- fashioned after Chinese forbidden cities, but with a distinct Vietnamese style, and the mausoleums of the emperors, and then cruise down the Perfume river. Dinner and overnight in Hue.

Inside the Forbidden City in Hue, Vietnam

Inside the Forbidden City in Hue, Vietnam

Day 9, Tuesday Hue – HoiAn

In the morning we’ll depart Hue for Hoi An. This ancient city, located 45 minutes away from Da Nang, used to be one of the main trading harbors in all of South East Asian. Hoi An’s character and past have been splendidly preserved, and we’ll see many temples, pagodas and small stores on our way through the ancient quarter or this most picturesque town.

We’ll visit the Japanese Covered Bridge. Designed very solidly due to fear of earthquakes, the bridge has remained a symbol of Japanese design – very different from the ornate local Vietnamese or Chinese themes. The bridge houses a small temple, Chua Cau. It’s protected on one end by statues of monkeys and on the other by statues of dogs – both connected to ancient local mythology.

Day 10, Wednesday Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

This morning we’ll fly to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Upon arrival we’ll start our tour of the city. This is the largest city in Vietnam, the heart and soul of the country. It’s a dynamic, bustling city – the country’s commercial, industrial and cultural center. The streets are filled with stores and stalls and caravans selling all kinds of goods and wares – all on the sidewalks. Despite it all, here in the metropolis you can still find islands of ancient culture.

On our tour we’ll see the Notre-Dame Cathedral, built in the 19th century, the Post Office and the Municipal headquarters at the end of Nguyen Hue Road. We’ll see the presidential palace and the many markets spread all over the city. Saigon’s beauty is in its special authenticity, its Vietnamese-ness. It’s visible everywhere and felt throughout the narrow, crowded streets, crammed buildings, multiple marketplaces and hundreds of restaurants.

Day 11, Thursday Vin Long – Mekong Delta

Today we’ll leave Ho Chi Minh City for a day tour of the Mekong delta. We’ll stop along the way to see how the rice paddies are farmed. Upon arrival to Kai Beh; we’ll start off by sailing to the local unique, authentic floating market. We’ll watch the locals trading goods, fruits and various wares as they sail in their small boats. We’ll stop in one of the villages to visit the tropical fruit plantations. We’ll continue sailing through the narrow canals and enjoy the view of the upper Mekong delta. We’ll visit some home-factories that produce coconut candies and puffed rice snacks. When we arrive at the village of Vin Long – the emerald of the area – we’ll be able to feel how life and nature blend together. We’ll enjoy a performance of Vietnamese music in a bonsai garden. In the late afternoon we’ll return to Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 12, Friday Cu Chi Tunnels

The 75 miles of the Cu Chi Tunnels are our main destinations today. Cu Chi means The Land of Flowering Gardens – but it’s not indicative of where we’ll be.

We’ll travel southeast from Ho Chi Minh City to visit the hidden paradise of the Vietcong guerillas and the local villagers among whom they hid. It’s considered one of the main battlefields of the Vietnam War and has been transformed into a major area of tourist interest. Painful, but fascinating!

In the afternoon we’ll return to Ho Chi Minh City to prepare for Shabbat, Shabbat services and dinner.

Day 13, Shabbat Ho Chi Minh City

After Shabbat services and lunch, we’ll take a walking tour of the area around the hotel.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Day 14-16, Sunday-Tuesday, Siem Reap, Angkor

We bid a sad farewell to Vietnam – but we’re headed for a place that’s even more amazing. We’ll fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Upon arrival we’ll go to our hotel for orientation and then head out for our first visit.

The next two days will be devoted to the city and the temples of Angkor. This is the ancient Khmer capital that was swallowed up by the jungle over 750 years ago. The temples, built between 879-1191 when the Khmer empire was at its peak represent one of the most impressive architectural creations of the human race. From the enormous Angkor Palace, the Khmer emperors ruled over an expansive area, stretching from southern Vietnam to Yunan province in China, and as far as the Bay of Bengal in the west. The buildings that stand today in Angkor – more than 100 temples in all – are the remnants of religious buildings of an immense social and administrative society, the other buildings of which – palaces, public buildings and private homes – were built of wood and have completely eroded over the ages. Angkor is a UNESCO heritage site.

We’ll visit many of the temples and the main parts of the city, and take in a sunset to remember forever. After dinner, if possible, we’ll enjoy a traditional dance show.

The next morning we’ll visit the floating village, a half-hour drive along Cambodia’s typical rickety roads. Most the houses are built on stilts near the Tonle Sap Lake. After the visit we’ll return to our hotel and prepare for departure to the airport. After dinner we’ll fly to Bangkok and from there via an intermediate stop, home to Tel Aviv.

Day 17, Wednesday, HOME!
We finish our tour filled with memories of magnificent places and wonderful experiences!

If you are interested in joining me for a tour to Vietnam and Cambodia, write me at drsavta@gmail.com