Vietnam and Angkor Wat
December 5-21, 2013

Immerse yourself in the local culture of South East Asia and discover the spectacular sights, delectable cuisine and rich history of Vietnam and Cambodia, on an unforgettable 16 day journey from Hanoi to Siem Reap.

From energetic cities to serene countryside, unique waterways to impressive temples and pagodas, the charm of Vietnam is legendary, as is the hospitality of those who call it home. In the north, the graceful capital of Hanoi, the mountainscapes of Sapa and the glittering beauty of Ha Long Bay await. On the central coast, Hue and Hoi An hold ancient appeal. Down south, bustling markets play out against a contrasting backdrop of French colonial architecture and skyscrapers in Saigon.

In Cambodia, a world of iconic landmarks and ethereal beauty is waiting to be discovered. Once the Paris of the East, Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda have retained their magnificence despite the region’s war-ravaged past. In Siem Reap, it’s easy to lose yourself in ancient history at Angkor Archaeological Park when wandering the many famous temples, scrambling over their stepped walls for a closer look.

Along with exploring new cultures, one of the great joys of travel is the discovery of new cuisines. Those unfamiliar with Vietnamese food are in for a treat, as the national cuisine is flavorful, colorful and extremely healthy.

Northern Vietnam has long been influenced by its proximity to China. As the only part of the country that experiences four seasons, many dishes are only available on a seasonal basis. Overall, the food tends to be milder and lighter than that found in the rest of Vietnam.

The pundits claim that central Vietnamese cuisine is the most culturally authentic food in the country. Heavily influenced by the imperial court cuisine of Hue, the food is generally spicy and well-seasoned.

Southern cuisine is the most varied of the three. Rich in vegetables, rice and seafood, it has incorporated French, Cambodian and Thai influences into a style that is distinctively its own. It is generally more heavily seasoned, tropical and spicier yet sweeter than northern food.

Being geographically located in the tropical zone, Vietnam is truly a heaven when it comes to fruits. One who first comes to the country will be amazed at the countless number of colorful fruits sold at a very reasonable price in every street and market all year round.

Southern Vietnam is the largest fruit granary of the whole country, since the region’s weather is warm with long hours of sunshine, high average temperature and humidity year round. So before you leave the country, make sure to try the mangosteen, cherimoya, lychee, rambutans, longan, dragon fruit, sapodilla, jackfruit and maybe the durian.

HighlightsGeneral ItineraryFlight InfoCancellation Policy

Hanoi
Imagine a city where the exotic chic of old Asia blends with the dynamic face of new Asia. Where the medieval and modern co-exist. A city with a blend of Parisian grace and Asian pace, an architectural museum piece evolving in harmony with its history, rather than bulldozing through like many of the region’s capitals. Hanoi is where imagination becomes reality.

A mass of motorbikes swarms through the tangled web of streets that is the Old Quarter, a cauldron of commerce for almost 1000 years and still the best place to check the pulse of this resurgent city. Hawkers in conical hats ply their wares, locals sip coffee and bia hoi (beer) watching life (and plenty of tourists) pass them by. Witness synchronised t’ai chi at dawn on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake while goateed grandfathers tug at their wisps over the next chess move. See the bold and beautiful dine at designer restaurants and cut the latest moves on the dance floor. Hanoi has it all: the ancient history, a colonial legacy and a modern outlook. There is no better place to untangle the paradox that is modern Vietnam.

Sapa
The Queen of the Mountains, Sapa sits regally overlooking a beautiful valley, lofty mountains towering over the town on all sides. Welcome to the destination in northwest Vietnam, gateway to another world of mysterious minority cultures and luscious landscapes. The spectacular scenery that surrounds Sapa includes cascading rice terraces that spill down the mountains like a patchwork quilt. The mountains are often shrouded in mist that rolls back and forth along the peaks, offering tantalising glimpses of what lies in wait on a clear day. The valleys and villages around Sapa are home to a host of hill-tribe people who wander in to town to buy, sell and trade.

Sapa would be of considerably less interest without the H’mong and Dzao people, the largest ethnic groups in the region. The billowing red headdresses of the Red Dzao are visible all over town, a surreal sight amid the accelerating development. The H’mong are more numerous and canny traders. Their villages may look medieval but most will have a mobile phone and an email address to stay in touch. Traditionally, they were the poorest of the poor, but have rapidly learnt the spirit of free enterprise. Most of the Montagnards have had little formal education and are illiterate, yet all the youngsters have a good command of English, French and a handful of other languages.

Ha Long Bay
Majestic and mysterious, inspiring and imperious: words alone cannot do justice to the natural wonder that is Halong Bay. Imagine 3000 or more incredible islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and you have a vision of breathtaking beauty. Halong Bay is pure art, a priceless collection of unfinished sculptures hewn from the hand of nature.

In 1994 it was designated a World Heri­tage site. Visitors can’t help but compare the magical, mystical landscape of limestone islets to Guilin in China and Krabi in southern Thailand, but in reality Halong Bay is more spectacular. These tiny islands are dotted with beaches and grottoes created by wind and waves, and have sparsely forested slopes ringing with birdsong. Beyond the breathtaking vistas on a boat cruise through the bay, visitors to Halong come to explore the caves – some of which are beautifully illuminated for the benefit of tourists – and to hike in Cat Ba National Park. There are few real beaches in Halong Bay, but Lan Ha Bay (off the coast of Cat Ba Island) has more than 100 sandy strips.

Hue
If art and architecture matter more to you than beaches and beer, Hué will be high on your Vietnam must-visit list. The capital of the Nguyen emperors, Hué is packed with temples, tombs, palaces and pagodas – or at least the remains of those that successive armies didn’t manage to completely destroy. Foodies won’t want to miss the fussy degustation-style Imperial cuisine for which this city is rightly famous.

On the banks of the enigmatically named Perfume River, the peculiar light of this historic place imbues photographs with a hazy, purple tinge. Hue's complex history has earned it a reputation as a political, cultural and religious centre, but nowadays, visitors to contemporary Hue will find a city that only dimly reflects on its past, and only does so as a begrudging nod to its western visitors. Like Halong Bay to the north, the complex of tombs, pagodas and palaces throughout Hue and its surrounds has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. But to the Vietnamese psyche, shaped by centuries of war and struggle, tempered by nearly forty years of communist rule, this heritage is largely irrelevant and completely disconnected from the present. The overwhelming sense one gets from the city, on even the most casual visit, is of an unstoppable forward drive, and of a people constantly looking to the future.

Hoi An
A highlight of any trip to Vietnam, Hoi An is a town oozing charm and history, having largely escaped the destruction of successive wars. Once a sleepy riverside village, it’s now quite definitely a tourist town – with hotels, restaurants, bars, tailors and souvenir shops dominating the old centre. Despite this air of irreality, Hoi An’s charisma pervades.

Known as Faifo to Western traders, from the 17th to 19th centuries it was one of Southeast Asia’s major international ports. Vietnamese ships and sailors based here sailed all around Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Perhaps more than any other place in Viet­nam, Hoi An retains a sense of history that envelops you as you explore it. This is especially true on ‘Hoi An Legendary Night’. Every month on the full moon, motorbikes are banned from the Old Town, which is transformed into a magical land of silk lanterns, traditional food, song and dance, and games in the streets. There’s plenty to do in Hoi An. Emphatically the most enchanting place along the coast, this is one spot worth lingering in.

Ho Chi Minh
Fasten your seatbelts as Ho Chi Minh City is a metropolis on the move – and we’re not just talking about the motorbikes that throng the streets. Saigon, as it’s known to all but city officials, is Vietnam at its most dizzying: a high-octane city of commerce and culture that has driven the whole country forward with its limitless energy. It is a living organism that breathes life and vitality into all who settle here, and visitors cannot help but be hauled along for the ride.

Saigon is a name so evocative that it conjures up a thousand jumbled images. Wander through timeless alleys to ancient pagodas or teeming markets, past ramshackle wooden shops selling silk, spices and baskets, before fast-forwarding into the future beneath sleek skyscrapers or at designer malls, gourmet restaurants and minimalist bars. The ghosts of the past live on in the churches, temples, former GI hotels and government buildings that one generation ago witnessed a city in turmoil, but the real beauty of Saigon’s urban collage is that these two worlds blend so seamlessly into one.

Siem Reap
Back in the 1960s, Siem Reap (see-em ree-ep) was the place to be in Southeast Asia and saw a steady stream of the rich and famous. After three decades of slumber, it’s well and truly back and one of the most popular destinations on the planet right now. The life-support system for the temples of Angkor, Cambodia’s eighth wonder of the world, Siem Reap was always destined for great things, but few people saw them coming this thick and this fast. It has reinvented itself as the epicentre of the new Cambodia, with more guesthouses and hotels than temples, world-class wining and dining and sumptuous spas.

At its heart, Siem Reap is still a little charmer, with old French shop-houses, shady tree-lined boulevards and a slow-flowing river. But it is expanding at breakneck speed with new houses and apartments, hotels and resorts sprouting like mushrooms in the surrounding countryside. The tourist tide has arrived and locals are riding the wave. Not only is this great news for the long-suffering Khmers, but it has transformed the town into a pulsating place for visitors. Forget the naysayers who mutter into their beers about Siem Reap in the ‘old days’, now is the time to be here, although you may curse your luck when stuck behind a jam of tour buses on the way back from the temples.

Make Reservation
Land package: $1,875
Round-trip airfare: $1,254
Departing from Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Trip Includes
Double occupancy accommodations; group transfers provided by private a/c coach bus; 14 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 5 dinners and a few happy hours; roundtrip train ride between Hanoi and Sapa; overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay; flight from Hanoi to Hue; flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh; flight from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap; entrance fees per itinerary, and English speaking guides. (Note: optional tours, travel visas to Vietnam and Cambodia, and gratuities are not included)
Have a Question?
Send an e-mail to the organizers.
Ron Domash
Assistant Coordinator
Trent Nguyen
Assistant Coordinator
John Corcoran
Reservationist
38 Participants
Adam
Al
Ali
c2
Carly
Clerisse
Coco
Dalia (+1)
David
David
David
elayne
Elia
Flower
james
Jennifer
Jennifer
John
John Corcoran
khai (+1)
Laura
Lynda
Mandy
Margaret
melissa
Mirabel
Peter (+1)
Priti
Ron Domash
Sam
Tatyana
toan
Tony
Trent Nguyen
William