In this land, the oriental mysticism blends with modernity and the progress that two countries undergo during these years. It is fascinating and inspiring to see these countries are sometimes traditionally bound folk – exuding faith in the future and hospitably welcoming foreign travelers.
The appetite for life is also reflected in the momentum that is now seriously underway in Vietnam and Cambodia, and which becomes visible to us on our journey through the two countries. Impressions from the big city life in the Hanoi and Phnom Penh metropolises, where we have both planned city sightseeing and experienced local activities such as morning gymnastics, national flag raising and rickshaw tours around the lively streets of the central city blocks.
The program emphasizes variation in the attractions that we must visit along the way. For example, vibrant Asian metropolises, boat trips with overnight stays in the Bay of Halong – with the wings of the past from the French colonial era, from the old days in the quaint trading town of Hoi An, and not least from the visit to the Angkor temples from Khmer people’s heyday.
But the rushing present is passing us everywhere on the journey as the Vietnamese and Cambodians get on & drop off on a motorcycle. We gain insight into their daily lives in the market, in the rice fields, on the rivers and, not least, on the excursions out in the upland and the rural areas – all in the attempt to get all the way around to experience the contradictions with a smile & the ingenuity.
The tour starts in North Vietnam, goes via Central Vietnam and ends in Cambodia. We live in beautiful hotels right in the city center and are part of the city’s vibrant street life as soon as you step out of the hotel.
- Gastronomic experiences from selected restaurants, from street food tours local’s cuisine in Mekong.
- 2 days 1 night boat cruise in the marvelous limestone landscape of Halong Bay.
- From Vietnam to Cambodia via 3 days through the Mekong Delta with stays at the lodge, where few tourists come.
- The major sights include Angkor temples, but also more excursions with local experiences in mind.
- Sightseeing and transfers with various modes of transport: walking, bicycle, rickshaw, motorcycle rickshaw, sampan, boat, junk, speedboat, car and 3 domestic flights.
- On our trips with Halong Bay we only use boats whose sailing route comes to Bai Tu Long or to Lan Ha, where there are not so many cruise boats and tourists
Welcome to Vietnam. Our smiling driver will welcome you at the airport and transfer you to hotel in town for check in. Today you will have a full day free time to relax after a long flight to our far east country and immerse yourself to the local surrounding.
After the whole day relaxing, You are taken on a gastronomic experience at the restaurant Madame Hien. French chef Didier Coulor has been living in Hanoi for almost 2 decades and has studied Vietnamese cuisine thoroughly and subsequently experimented with the many local ingredients and flavors. So you will have a special colonial experience tonight with Vietnamese food with a French twist in his charming restaurant, located in an old colonial style villa.
City tour. We will visit the father of country – Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. He lies embalmed in the glass coffin in memory of the president who fought for Vietnam’s independence against Japan, France and the United States. We pass the Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house, from which the strategies for the fight against South Vietnam were laid. The road passes the One pillar Pagoda and then we visit the serene Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university where hundreds years ago The teachers and officials of the emperor time were trained and graduated here. Today’s students come here just before exams, and pray for a good result. The names of successful students of the past are engraved on memorial plaques placed on top of the shield of figurative turtles.
Lunch at the Koto Restaurant, in which, through an educational course, trains former street children to cook and serve guests. At the end of the apprenticeship, many of the children will end up at other good restaurants in the city.
After lunch, you pass a private living quarters where you find debris from a shot down B52 bomber from the US Christmas bombings in 1972. When the peace talks in North 1972 between North Vietnam and the United States went into hardship – President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger agreed would bomb the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table.
In the early morning, you ride the rickshaw and with the guide through Hanoi’s almost traffic-free streets. In the early twilight you overtake some inhabitants who walk or run off into the fresh morning air. Inside the house walls, the breakfast restaurants scramble to light up the soup kitchens and set the small plastic tables and chairs ready for the first eating of the day. The silence is interrupted in between by the small motorcycles, which are well loaded, are on their way to the market with fresh goods.
You reach Ba Dinh Square at Parliament and the Presidential Palace. Here – before the sun rises – city dwellers jog back and forth in the square just in front of former President Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, while others swing arms and legs, stretching the body well with agility exercises. In a corner, a bunch of women stand up a bit over the years and do joint morning gymnastics with a volunteer instructor who strikes the beat. More local women are coming along, and if you stand up in the crowd, the Vietnamese smile will definitely be drawn. At least you are welcome to join them.
At 6.30 am, a fanfare sounds beyond Ba Dinh Square and people pull away from the square just in front of the mausoleum behind a line painted on the tiles. In stagnant position, the face faces the mausoleum and a high, high flagpole. Then 25-30 white-clad soldiers march into the square and towards the flagpole – one of them carrying the national flag. The rising Flag Ceremony Begins.
Once a few of the soldiers have baked the flag on the leash, Vietnam’s national tune begins to tone out of the speakers, and the red flag with the yellow star in the middle slowly disappears. The red color symbolizes the blood of the country’s martyrs, who have sacrificed life in the struggle for the country’s independence from foreign powers, while the yellow star marks the bright future of the country. The five peaks of the star symbolize the desire for national cohesion between the five general population groups: the farmer, the workers, the intellectuals, the business people and the military.
You continue in the rickshaw to Hoan Kiem lake. The place buzzes with life. Individually and in groups, they stand around the lake and at Ly Thai To Square. The younger city dwellers do aerobics for fast techno-like rhythms, while others, via tai chi’s calm movements, try to get the body and soul in sync.
You drive back to the hotel and have breakfast.
Free to discover the capital on your own until late afternoon, where you will go on a street food tour with a guide. This walk is intended both to take you around the nooks and crannies of the Old Town, and not least to involve you in the Vietnamese colorful food.
Vietnam is known for its tasteful and varied cuisine.
On an easy stroll around the old quarter, you breathe in the atmosphere of the crowd of people and activity. Fruit, kitchen service, clothing, sandals, towels, flowers and plants, clay pots, wicker baskets are brought around and offered in the streets – either strapped on a bicycle, over the shoulder of a bamboo saw or on a pushchair.
In this mood of outdoor atmosphere, the guide will take you past smaller food places and markets. Here you take a closer look at the colorful offerings of the ordinary and exotic foods, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. In the capital and in other major Vietnamese cities, there is a large selection of small restaurants with old food wives who prepare regional or more classic dishes.
Of course, you should not just be told about gastronomy and looking at ingredients, but of course, try the specialties and eat local dishes at various food places. You will thus receive a tour-de-dinner with various meals at several small restaurants – which besides tasteful dishes – most often also emit intimate atmosphere. After “eating your way through the old town”, you say goodbye to the guide.
Pick-up at Hanoi hotel and transfer to Halong city. Boarding a boat, modeled after a classic junction, but built with the amenities that guests – on a 2 day 1 night cruise – can rightly expect with indoor and outdoor living areas, and a private toilet and bath in 2-person cabins.
The ship is from the quay and the boat trip goes between the more than 3000 limestone mountains that shoot up from the water in various formations in this scenic landscape. The cliffs have marvelous formations and both a rough appearance with sharp edges, and a soft expression with the green vegetation which can be fun enough to grow here.
The idea that the creators behind Avartar have got their idea of the film’s sky landscape (with larger and less freely flying rock cliffs) from the rocky landscape of Halong Bay is not remote. Most limestone cliffs have imaginative names according to their shape: the dog island, the turtle island, the fighting roosters island, the man’s main island, etc. Here you will take a myriad of pictures and perhaps you will find a new motif in a limestone mountain.
There is a stop along the way at a large cave with stalagmites and stalactites, and you can also go up on a cliff where you have a beautiful view of the bay. All cleverly disconnected of meals taken in the boat’s restaurant. Remember to stay on the deck at sunset and sunrise. It’s a beautiful sight when the rocks either slowly turn into dark silhouettes around the boat or in the morning as they slowly fade out with the coming of light.
The water chuckles against the boat and overlooks the green-clad limestone mountains. A nice morning, where the fresh ones can jump in the water and go for a little swim or practice Tai Chi on the deck, where an instructor will facilitate an easier game of teaching. If you are not quite into this kind of Asian morning gymnastics, then you can sit down with a cup of coffee or tea in your hand on the dawn of the morning to start out in Halong Bay.
After breakfast you can paddle a kayak trip or get rowed in a small boat into a small cove, and to a floating fishing village – here people have established themselves in small houses on the water, living a simple life where fishing and fishing. breeding is the primary source of income. One can admire that someone has courage in a life that takes place primarily on the water.
Back on the boat, you check out of the cabins. And while you have lunch, sail to the mainland. Pick up at the dock and drive to Hanoi Airport, where there are flights to Hoi An.
At the Danang airport you will meet the driver who will take you to the hotel. Check-in and free.
Once staying in Hoi An, you has come to one of Vietnam’s most charming cities. In the narrow streets of the old quarter, you will still find the classic 1 and 2 storey merchant farms, assembly houses and temples. These were built by local and foreign traders who started to settle and do business here. Back then, between the 16th and 19th century, Hoi An was a lively city where foreign ships sailed to China, Japan, France and Portugal, and traded everything from spices, textiles, ceramics and much more. Restaurants, cafes, galleries, craft shops and tailors are now doing business in this historic setting, creating an incredibly cozy and intimate atmosphere.
Today you decide for yourself.
Are you spending half a day or so with a travel crime in hand at the beach or hotel pool, or are you out for a stroll in the Old Town or / and for a bike ride out into the area? If you prefer to shop and have a little new to the wardrobe, the city’s many small shops and tailors are the right place to go. You have the next 2 days in Hoi An, so there is time to look around, get inspiration and order clothes that can be sewn for the next day, where you have plenty of time to try and maybe straighten a little if the clothes are not fully seated perfect. The gut feeling will guide one towards what one will do on the day off – all possibilities are open.
You are transferred to a place that not far from the hotel to the starting point of the bike ride.
Here you switch to bicycle and pedal ramps in a smaller group. This 6 hour / 9 mile excursion takes place at a leisurely pace, and comes through private living quarters and out into the rural open environment on smaller roads and trails overlooking rice fields, fish ponds and shrimp farms. There is not much motorized traffic here.
You will get an insight into the local daily activities and barns when done at a small boat building and at private homes, where one or two family members are working on woodcuts and incense sticks. Also stop when you pass some of the local colorful life during the cycle ride, e.g. people preparing products and specialties for sale on the market, farm workers digging peanuts or harvesting vegetables, fishermen repairing their nets or a family member drying rice on the patio.
At the last bike stop of the excursion, you come to a traditionally built house and experience how a private family lives. You will be introduced to some of the familiar old customs, some of which continue to be upheld. Among other things. important decisions continue to be discussed at the table in front of the altarpiece with pictures of former family members.
Along the way, one informs the deceased ancestors whose soul resides around the house and gains their acceptance of important family decisions. You have a good lunch in this private setting before sailing back to the starting point of the bike ride, from where you are transported by car back to the hotel.
You are transfered to the airport and fly to Ho Chi Minh City.
In the Arrivals Hall, your guide stands and accompanies you to the waiting car, which will take you to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnel system is over 250 km long and in some places on 3 floors. Here, the Viet Congs (the Vietnamese resistance group against the South Vietnamese regime) hid, and planned surprise attacks on the South Vietnamese army and the Americans. It contained the operating room, kitchens, meeting room and armory. Excavated in rock hard clay soil, claustrophobic, dark and primitive, the tunnels are a structural manifestation of the Vietnamese’s relentless will and struggle for national independence against a military-equipped American Goliath.
The Americans tried to find the tunnel entrances to so-called “search & destroy” operations, but most often ended up with significant manpower losses. They also tried to burn the forest down with napalm, but the fire quickly went out into the humid tropical forest. Then, at last, their soldiers pulled out and declared the area free fire zone, where US bombers were free to drop surplus bombs on their way home from other bombings.
It put a stop to the strategic importance of the Cu Chi area, but by that time the American war had turned. It will be possible to crawl around the tunnels, but it is not necessary to get a good impression of the Cu Chi tunnels. Lunch is on the way.
In the afternoon, you get back in Ho Chi Minh City, named Saigon until the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. That name resonated with the Americans for much of the time, the victorious North Vietnamese communists seemed, and changed the city name in honor of the former president. But the change also came to alert that the happy days in the South – with the many US dollars the US government and their soldiers had spent and kept the South Vietnamese economy up – were over.
However, Ho Chi Minh City has again become an economic growth center and today the country’s most modern city. With the much activity in the streets, old ones being torn down and replaced by something new, bigger and higher, as well as shops that sparkle with their temptations of clothing, electronics and other material goods, then it becomes clear to one that the city’s residents are starting up the consumer train. After hotel check-in and have the last of the afternoon and evening on their own.
But if you want, you can follow the guide to one of the city’s sky-bars. From the top floor of one of the downtown high-rise buildings, you have a spectacular view of the city and its skyline. You will be fascinated by the light sea that buildings and traffic create in this 10 million town after dark, between 6.30pm and 7pm. Sitting under the open sky and with an exotic 25-30 degree light breeze blowing in your hair and overlooking Ho Chi Minh City, you get a near physical feel of the size of the city.
You can easily be struck by the light hoses that lighted lights from cars and motorcycles create on the wide streets, and the metropolitan life that takes place almost 100 meters under one. Drinks are at your own expense and it is welcome to offer the guide a drink.
The guided tour begins at the Reunification Palace, which before the country’s reunification in 1975 was called the Independence Palace. This palace name symbolized precisely the unwillingness of the South Vietnamese Presidents to comply with the 1954 Geneva Agreement for the reunification of North Vietnam and South Vietnam following a planned presidential election in 1956.
South Vietnam’s first President Diem postulated, with the support of the Americans, that the communists in North Vietnam did not abide by the democratic playing field of an election, and refused to conduct the election. The rejection of the Geneva Agreement’s validity and Diem’s self-governing style of leadership were one of the main reasons for the Vietnam War and an unpopular South Vietnam. President Diem’s days ended when he was assassinated by his own military people in 1963. Several of his incompetent successors were capped by senior military generals with political ambitions.
The palace was originally built in French colonial style, as it had housed former French governors. But it was so badly damaged in 1962 from the bombing of a North Vietnamese infiltrated agent in the South Vietnamese Air Force, that a new palace had to be built. The new building was constructed with secret hallways and a bomb-proof basement where the president and his immediate people could rule the country when there were fears of air strikes on the palace. Shortly before the end of the Vietnam War, the site was again bombed, though only with limited damage, and the palace stands as it was completed in 1966.
The tour goes past the old Post Office, which is a beautiful architectural relic of the French colonial era (just like Notre Dame Cathedral located just across the street). The post office was previously the only place from which people in the city could call family abroad.
And in the years following the reunification of North and South Vietnam, the intelligence service has probably listened to the other side of the wall in order to intercept any plans for a counter-revolution backed by exiled Vietnamese.
Later you will see the photo exhibition on the Vietnam War at the famous War Museum, where the pictures – mainly taken by foreign photographers – show and document the harsh reality of the war. Seeing the exhibition leaves one with a lump in the stomach and a despair over the most negative side of humanity.
When you step out of the museum gate, you hit a small mental bucket. Out here, the world goes unnoticed – and the Vietnamese are dropping off on a motorcycle to secure their share of the prosperity the country is experiencing these years. A symbolic reflection that the vast majority of people look ahead and do not dwell on the past.
Lunch is served in a restaurant with a quiet interior. The place is located in a part of the family-owned restaurant’s 3-storey residential complex, and everything from the menu, cutlery, service and decoration to the walls have reference to the family and Vietnam’s parallel history over the past century. After something good in the stomach, you drive to the hotel for free for the rest of the day.
The Mekong Delta is popularly called “Vietnam’s rice bowl”. This lowland area is divided by countless rivers and dozens of different rice varieties are cultivated in the fields. The water from the rivers is essential, for the rice must stand under constant water after germination until just before harvest. Only the harvest yield in the Mekong region contributes to almost half of all the rice produced in Vietnam.
You drive 3½-4 hours (depending on the traffic out of Ho Chi Minh City), where the city and buildings are eventually replaced by open plains and views of rice fields. The car eventually stops at a place that looks just like some trees and shrubs along the road, but a small path leads you through a slightly overgrown patch of wood and into a lodge. The place has a few but spacious bungalows which are shaded under some tall palm trees. The garden around the bungalows is beautifully planted. And from a covered terrace there is a view of one of the Mekong’s tributaries, where smaller fruit boats and sampans periodically pass by.
From the lodge’s location in these beautiful green surroundings, from the relaxing atmosphere and the local activities of the coming days, you quickly get the experience of being in the original Mekong. Far off the beaten track and the modern-day life of the cities.
After welcome, in-room check-in and a good lunch, you are rowed in sampan boat through small channels to a home where they make rice popcorn. Here, one of the family members of the house will showcase the mix of traditional and modern farming methods. With traditional animal husbandry in the backyard, the opportunity to collect the pigs’ leftovers is used to produce biogas used in the stove of the house. You also observe how rice is cooked in a somewhat unconventional way and transformed into rice popcorn, which is given to the children on the next day’s school visit.
A little away from here you pass a smaller Cao Dai Temple. Cao Dai – meaning “the highest place” – blends all the major religions, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism. It is a unique Vietnamese and somewhat quirky religion where Lenin, Victor Hugo, Shakespeare and Jean D’arc are among its saints.
Back at the lodge you put your bikes on, and pedal ramps set off on smaller roads around the countryside. You pass both open plains with rice fields as far as the eye can see, and smaller villages surrounded by dense vegetation and palm trees. If you look over the hedge, you can see the rural people continue to work today and domestic activities in the courtyard in front of the home.
You will probably be overtaken by people on a motorcycle on their way from A to B or strung up with a small truck on the haul where hay or fruits are packed. And if you come across some school kids they will either smile satisfied, say “hello, what is your name” or maybe even try to run a bit with you.
After returning and taking a bath, you will soon become kitchen assistants. The lodge’s maternal grandmother will show you how to cook a couple of local dishes in the restaurant, and give you a couple of quarters if you would like to try Vietnamese cooking in your own kitchen. Later in the evening you visit a war veteran in the neighborhood and hear him tell you a little about that time and play a few shows for you.
You wake up to the light morning dawn of the Mekong Delta and the lodge. If you roll off the curtain and crawl back into your bed, and look out at the lush planting in front of the passing river, you can quickly get the idea that here you would well have a cottage. However, there is just the chin that there are so damn far from home and to the Mekong Delta. Feet over the edge of the bed, in the clothes and then up for breakfast.
For today’s first program point, you can choose to either ride a bike or get up to the local school. The school visit is planned so that the arrival is in the free neighborhood. You will be greeted by some very excited children from 1st – 5th grade, and will soon be surrounded by each and every bunch of schoolchildren who are eager to use their English skills to hear where you are from and what you are called.
The children are dressed in white shirt and dark pants. If you come to school without wearing the required uniform, you run the risk of being sent home by the teacher. Requirements and regularity in schools from the country’s ruling Communist Party on uniform uniforming of students from 1st – 12th grade is also suggested by a peek into the classroom. Above the blackboard in every classroom across the country hangs a picture of the Communist Party founder and the country’s first president, Ho Chi Minh. (If the program days are day 11 a Saturday and day 12 a Sunday, school visits cannot be offered as the children do not attend school Saturday and Sunday).
Later you will see how coconut leaves are used as material for building houses. Both walls and rooftops are in several places made of dried leaves from coconut trees in the almost-never-below-25-degree heat delta. You also get the opportunity to make a torch of dried coconut leaves and resin, which the rural people used to use as a mobile lamp when they were going out after dark.
Late in the morning by car towards the Vietnamese border to Cambodia. You eat private lunch along the way, and here you can get an impression of how a family in a larger provincial town in the Mekong Delta lives and has arranged. The house’s mom makes a well-prepared meal before heading on to Chau Doc.
In sampans you are calmed out to the floating houses located in the middle of the river and have fish farming in the “basement”. A type of reverse chicken cage under the houseboat, where the fish are raised for sale.
The trip comes past a village where the Cham people live. Originally from Indonesia, the Cham’s came to Vietnam and founded the Cham Kingdom in central Vietnam during the period from the 3rd to the 18th centuries. After losing several battles and territories to the Vietnamese in the middle of the last millennium, the Chams today are a minority group living around the country. Among other things. in Chau Doc, where they live on piles. They differ from the Vietnamese in that they are mainly Hindu or Muslim and some of the men wear sarong when they have free time and wander around the home.
Back on the mainland, you will have the opportunity to go up and down the mountain of Sam. From the top there is a beautiful view of the area and you can look over the border to Cambodia. Afterwards check-in at the hotel.
After breakfast, the beautiful boat trip begins on the Ton Le Sap River, where you experience life on or by the river, which is the center of many people’s daily lives. Along the way, the border is crossed. Here you will get a visa to Cambodia before the trip continues to Phnom Penh with arrival over dinner. Your Cambodian guide is waiting on the dock to take you to the lunch spot.
Phnom Penh is a stunningly beautiful city that is still relatively untouched by the more or less pretty high-rise buildings found in other Asian metropolitan cities. With its famous wide boulevards, you will experience a city where the light from above is given free space, and gives the city its special character according to the time of day.
In the 50s, Phnom Penh was known for being the golden city of Asia, where a rich cultural life unfolded – an example is the 50s barbed music created in the city. The music has a very crisp and energetic sound over it.
Today, more and more international cultural figures are also finding their way to Phnom Penh, and today it is a city rich in writers and artists, which has recreated the cultural vibe of the past in the city. In the afternoon, you will get an insight into Cambodia’s recent history when visiting the Toul Sleng Prison Museum.
Here, the Khmer Rouge regime, with Pol Pot, tortured thousands of Cambodians in the period 1975 to 1978. You get the grotesque story of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime’s “social reforms” that closed in a few weeks higher education institutions, hospitals, newspapers and ordered the people of the urban areas out to the countryside, where hard physical labor waited for 12-15 hours a day.
Fair money was abolished, the postal service was discontinued, all contact with the world community ceased and our timing suspended. The year 1975, when Pol Pot took power in Cambodia, was declared year 0. Likewise, Killing Field – the former extermination camp just outside the city – is today visited as a memorial site for the victims. The excursion takes place by motorcycle rickshaw, where you to and from Killing Field drive an interesting route through private living quarters and get a slightly different view of the metropolis.
(If you do not want to see these 2 harsh history places, you can sit down and check-in at the hotel after lunch, and have the afternoon on your own).
History has its mark on dinner as it is taken up at the Foreign Correspondence Club. It was the place where foreign journalists, writers and diplomats hung out until the Red Khmer captured Phnom Penh in 1975 and announced that all non-Cambodians should leave the country. Often, journalists got news of stories here or an off-the-record comment on current topics.
After something good in the stomach you are brought to the hotel. However, a good tip – rather than transfer to the hotel – take a stroll on lively Sisowath Boulevard, which represents the incredibly beautiful promenade with the Ton Le Sap River on one side and the lovely French mansions on the other. Have a drink or evening coffee at one of the cozy rooftop cafes with good views of the boulevard and the river. Walk or take a taxi head to the hotel which is not far from Sisowath Boulevard.
With a rickshaw you drive around on today’s city tour. Phnom Penh is characterized by the French colonial era with wide boulevards and colonial style houses, which charmingly blend with the characteristic temples and modern Cambodian style of modern times.
This morning’s city tour will take you to the Royal Palace area where the king lives. You see Chan Chaya Pavilion and Coronation Hall, where Norodom Sihamoni became king on October 29, 2004 after the former king chose to abdicate.
The 63-year-old Sihamoni is unmarried and has no children, which is quite unusual for royal families in Asia and especially in relation to his father, the old king, who had 14 children with 7 wives and mistresses. In the majestic coronation hall, the throne is inspected, 1-1 size gold-plated statues of Cambodia’s former kings and magnificent ceiling paintings with reference to the country’s mythological history.
In the same area is the Silver Pagoda, where the floor is decorated with over 5,000 silver tiles, each weighing 1 kg. Here also stands the impressive gold Buddha decorated with 9,584 diamonds and other unique art treasures from the Khmer kingdom and other gifts from foreign donors. However, the most curious gift for the royal family stands outside in the courtyard, namely a 2-storey iron building given by Napoleon III and sailed from France.
Speaking of the French imprint in Cambodia’s history, the city center will be revealed to you as you continue in the cycling rickshaw further around the city streets, passing Wat Phnom, the central market and nostalgic architectural relics of the French colonial era. Le Royal hotel, train station and national library.
Similarly, the road is passed by the Independence Monument, erected according to the exit of the French colonists in 1953. By this time Cambodia had been the French colony for 70 years.
Apart from the royal family and senior officials, this period offered difficult living conditions for the general population. Many Cambodian men ended up in the French rubber tree plantations, where they worked from sunrise to sunset and could barely feed the family with what little they earned.
Lunch at Romedeng, a restaurant with a social purpose. Here, young Cambodians from poor communities – including former street children – are trained to work in the future as servants and chefs while securing schooling.
Romedeng, started by two Frenchmen, is famous for its reintroduction of the Khmer cuisine with a twist of French gourmet and elegance. After filling up your stomach, you have time to walk around and discover the capital.
By car to the airport and by plane to the “heart” of Cambodia, to Siem Reap, where Cambodian history begins. You must visit the source of Cambodian self-understanding – the world famous Angkor temple complex. The site is a 30 km² area that contains more than 50 temples erected over a period of almost 600 years.
Many of the temples are unrivaled in their beauty, and are architectural evidence of the greatness of the Khmer people of the 9th – 15th centuries, when the Khmer Empire was one of the most powerful in Southeast Asia. In this heyday, Siem Reap was a kind of capital city and it is believed that there are around 1 million people living here and that the living area is geographically the size of today’s New York.
Together with your guide, visit the temples of Preah Khan, Pre Rup, Banteay Samre and the pink lava stone Banteay Srei. The latter temple holds some of the finest and most decorative reliefs and a building jewel during the Angkor period. Very in line with the above characteristics, Banteay Srei means “Women’s Citadel”.
You also come around the jungle temple of Ta Prohm. A temple where the jungle has kept its grip. Here the trees have broken through the cracks on the stone walls of the temple and grown quite large. And just like the now tree-covered Ta Prohm, that’s how some of the temples looked like when French explorer Henri Mouhot in one of his many expeditions dumped into Siem Reap and rediscovered the Angkor temples in the mid-1860s.
Dinner with Apsara performance on a stage in the restaurant. Apsara is a very graceful, Cambodian folk dance / theater performance with short dance pieces that refer to history, daily life and love romances.
Alternatively, you can choose dinner with subsequent performance in circus acrobatics, where adult athletic gymnasts perform acrobatic numbers in international class.
At a leisurely pace and with the wind as gentle air conditioning in the – front and side – open motorcycle rickshaw, you drive off to see several of the world-renowned Angkor temples (possibility of transport by car / minibus or bike possible at no extra cost, however we need to know if you want a different mode of transport than a motorcycle rickshaw at the time of ordering).
Over a period of over 600 years, the kings of the Khmer kingdom built brick and stone a number of temples to worship Hindu or Buddhist gods. Yet one also easily gets the idea that rulers have wanted to outdo their ancestors and build larger and more magnificent temples to impress the present and be remembered by posterity.
One of these Khmer kings Jayavarman VII started the building of Angkor Thom – a 10 km2 area with a number of temples, including Bayon where in the stones of the temple walls you can see carved and sharpened tales of the Khmer people’s time with wars against Thais, Laotians and Vietnamese. There are also reproductions in the stones of everyday life with hunting, harvesting, board games and other events. Here in the Angkor Thom area also visit the South Gate, Bapoun, Elephant Terrace, Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda temples.
During King Jayavarman VII, the Khmer Empire peaked, infrastructure was developed and the local population experienced prosperity. But his death at the beginning of the 13th century marked the beginning of a standstill and a slow decline. When the Thais attacked Siem Reap in 1351 and again in 1431, making life in the city unsafe, a major migration began, leaving Siem Reap alone with few dogmatic Buddhists and Hindus.
And so it was a poor and forgotten temple kingdom, which the French adventurer Henri Mouhot marvelously encountered in the mid-19th century. And this is precisely the wonder and astonishment of time when you visit Angkor Wat – Southeast Asia’s largest religious edifice and certainly one of the world’s man-made wonders. In addition to Angkor Wat’s magnificence, one is also impressed by how imaginative and detailed the Cambodian culture was in the execution of this huge temple complex.
With temples on the brain and on the camera’s memory card, you can enjoy Cambodia’s best beer, Angkor beer, with good conscience at a downtown restaurant.
The last day of the tour is on your own. Most flights are in the evening so there is time to sniff around. Siem Reap was – until the French in 1884 made Cambodia French colony and part of French Indochina – just a small village. The French eventually settled on the place, which grew into a smaller trading town.
In the old quarter with the characteristic French colonial style houses with a number of cozy restaurants, cafes and the old market. You will be picked up at the hotel and taken to the airport, traveling home from a journey that leaves you with many diverse experiences. And definitely also infected by the energy that these 2 peoples are facing.
Tour price includes:
- + Overnight at mentioned hotels at mentioned room standards with breakfast
- + Meal according program: B = breakfast, L = lunches and D = dinners
- + All transport inclusive domestic flights and airport tax
- + Transport in private air-conditioned car with driver
- + All sights, fees, activities, and entrances mentioned in the program including entrance to Titov Island.
- + English speaking guides on days with sightseeing.
- No guide on transfers hotel/airport/boatpier.
- No private guide, but shared English speaking guide from the boat on Halong Bay.
Tour price excludes:
- - Drinks, tips and other personal expenses
- - Meals not mentioned
- - Travel insurance
- - Early check-in and late check-out at the hotel
- - Visa to Vietnam and Cambodia